Corona Wedding Restrictions: Are outdoor weddings the answer to the corona virus pandemic?

A couple of years ago, outdoor weddings were a niche, and a small one at that.
I squeezed myself into it simply because I love them. This year, we are finding our little niche under a magnifying glass. The pandemic has changed the perception of what a wedding should or could look like.

Suddenly the dining room of an aristocratic family home is not the (only) perfect wedding venue anymore. The venue’s woodlands have become just as good a place to get married, if not a better place. Or have they?

Well, let’s take a look at the law.


Can you get legally married outdoors in England and Wales?

Yes, but…there are requirements. And with the marriage law being form the early 19th century, it’s, not very representative of us today.

Unless you get married in a church or a registry office, a wedding venue needs to be licensed. That means they need to have been approved by the registry office to conduct legal weddings, indoors or outdoors.

If you want to get married outdoors, there also needs to be some sort of permanent structure which the registrar and the couple need to be under. This structure is either a building like a stately home, or something as small as a band stand where just the two of you and the registrar fit in.


What are the alternative ways of getting married?

The Humanist Society mounted a High Court challenge to legalise humanist wedding ceremonies in England and Wales. In July 2020, the case was dismissed.
The reason for the dismissal is rather encouraging though: The court recognises that the present law is discriminatory, but they will not rule on individual cases since the Law Commission is currently leading a consultation on a wider wholesale reform of marriage law.

So at the moment, it is just the priest and the registrar who can marry you legally, but it might change.


What is the Law Commission’s consultation on reform of the law of marriage?

In 2014, the government asked the Law Commission to look at the laws regulating where couples can get married. The findings were published in 2015.
Where are they up to now? Well, lots of crap has gone down since 2015, but the review has not disappeared. It’s called the Wedding Project and the pre-consultation phase opened on 3rd September 2020.
The consultation is looking into where weddings can take place and who can conduct them.

If we are lucky, celebrants of many faiths or none will be able to legally marry you in future.

But don’t start planning you garden wedding just yet, the Wedding Project is expected to last two years, meaning we will not even know the recommendations until 2022. And then the law has to be written, scrutinised and voted through parliament…

If you want to follow the progress of the Wedding Project yourself, go to the Law Commission website and search for weddings.


How can you get married outdoors now?

If you don’t feel like waiting for the Law Commission’s findings and subsequent changes to the law, you can either get married in a licensed venue, or you can nip down to the registry office to do the legal bit and then have a ceremony with your guests in an outdoor location of your choice another day.

The beauty of doing it the latter way is, that the ceremony you share with your family and friends can be exactly what you want it to be, in the location you want it to be.


Will restrictions for outdoor weddings be lifted before restrictions for indoor weddings?

Just a sec, let me get my crystal ball… indeed, it would be speculation to make a statement about it at the time of writing.
However, from what we have seen during the easing of lockdown with being allowed to meet out of doors first and in larger numbers than indoors, it is a fair guess that outdoor weddings might be allowed to happen with a larger numbers of guests than indoor weddings at any given time.

For your wedding planning, however, keep in mind that this is an unprecedented situation and the government is making the rules as the situation develops, so I wouldn’t count on anything.


Is an outdoor wedding the answer for my corona wedding planning?

It might be tempting to think so, but let’s remind ourselves of the inescapable truth of the British weather.

Rain and wind can alter an indoor wedding, but it can totally ruin an outdoor one. The reality is, even when you plan an outdoor wedding, you might not be able to hold it outdoors.

Rain at a wedding planned to be largely indoors might move the drinks reception from the terrace into the bar, while an outdoor wedding suddenly will get turned into an indoor wedding as everything has to happen inside of a building or a marquee…with all the restrictions that might bring that didn’t apply to an outdoor wedding.

If you are tempted to plan an outdoor wedding for practical reasons like hoping there will be fewer restrictions if Covid-19 is still around on your wedding day, then I cannot recommend it.
It simply will not turn out to be your wedding if you base it on practical considerations alone.

If the pandemic has just brought outdoor weddings onto your radar and you simply love the idea of getting married and celebrating in nature, and you are happy to take a chance on the weather, go for it!


If you would like to learn more about the challenges an outdoor wedding might bring and how to face them, take a look at my other blogs, for example A REAL LIFE EXAMPLE ABOUT A RAINY DAY WEDDING and HOW TO PREPARE FOR AN OUTDOOR WEDDING or get in touch. 
I have gathered plenty experience of the weather roulette and would love to talk outdoor weddings with you.



07505 289 285
Photography by Nadina Bee

Specialist Outdoor Wedding Photographer
from Guildford, covering Surrey, Hampshire, Sussex, Berkshire and the rest of the UK.

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