LONDON, United Kingdom - The British government said Sunday it will permit outdoor non-religious wedding ceremonies in England and Wales for the first time, boosting a sector hard-hit by the pandemic.
Up to now, England and Wales have only allowed Jewish and Quaker weddings outdoors, while others have to marry in a room or a fixed permanent structure. Scotland does allow outdoor weddings.
Justice Minister Robert Buckland told Sky News the reform gave "greater flexibility" for weddings to "have more guests in a safe way".
Under the new rules, from July 1 people in England and Wales will be able to have non-religious weddings and civil partnership ceremonies outside or "under a partially covered structure" at approved venues such as hotels, the Ministry of Justice said.
The rules are temporary, running to April next year, though the government said it would consult on whether to make them permanent.
It called this a "boost to the wedding sector", allowing all aspects of weddings to take place outdoors for the first time.
The rule change provides more flexibility "especially during the pandemic," the government said, although its commitment to change the rules predates the virus.
Wedding organizers and owners of venues have complained that restrictions on celebrations during the pandemic have made their businesses unviable.
Wedding planner Sarah Haywood, spokeswoman for the UK Wedding Taskforce campaign group, tweeted: "Some good news! Let's keep it coming".
The government said it was considering further broadening the rules on weddings including allowing a wider range of locations and for weddings to be held remotely "in a national emergency".
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who himself got married in May, delivered welcome news to couples this month when he scrapped a 30-guest limit on weddings, with permitted numbers now dependent on the size of premises. However guests are still not allowed to dance at weddings.
© Agence France-Presse