Virtual Conference – The Solemnization of Matrimony: past, present and future

20 March 2021, 10:00 - 16:00 GMT



The Ecclesiastical Law Society will meet virtually on 20 March 2021 for its Annual Conference which will consider issues concerning the solemnization of marriage. These will include the covenantal and contractual nature of marriage from an historical perspective; the proposals for reform emerging from the Law Commission’s ongoing review of marriage law in its Weddings Project; and shortcomings in the current law of marriage, together with proposed solutions.

Free to Members; £5 for non-members.


Professor of Law at the University of Exeter and currently working on the Law Commission's Weddings project.

The laws regulating how and where couples can get married – as opposed to who they can marry – are widely recognised as being in need of reform. The basic structure of the current law dates back to the Marriage Act 1836, and many elements – the requirements for Anglican weddings and differential treatment of Jewish and Quaker weddings – have a still longer history. Despite its longevity, many of the current requirements have their origins in past panics, tactical compromises, or quick fix- es. While the laws enacted in 1836 were shaped by their his- torical context, even then the legal framework did not fit with how couples wanted to marry. This paper traces the history of marriage law reform to explain how we ended up with a set of laws that are highly restrictive, inconsistent, and complex, and why reform is needed.


Professor of Law at Reading University and Law Commissioner.

In Getting Married: A Consultation Paper on Weddings Law, the Law Commission set out provisional proposals for a comprehensive reform of the law regulating how and where couples can get married. The Consultation Paper builds on the Law Commission’s 2015 Scoping Paper, and the provisional proposals consider the legal process governing weddings from preliminaries to registration. The provisional proposals are designed to provide couples with greater choice within a simpler legal framework, better reflecting the wishes and needs of today’s society. This paper sets out the Law Commission’s pro- posed scheme and the principles that underpin it and identifies and discusses key issues that have emerged in the public consultation.


Professor of Law at Cardiff University. His research interrogates the relationship between law and the humanities, with particular expertise in Law and Religion and Legal History.

This paper takes a step back to outline three shortcomings with the current law on marriage: (1) the unregistered religious marriage issue whereby religious weddings take place that do not comply with the Marriage Act and so are not legally binding; (2) the number of weddings conducted by humanist and independent celebrants that do not come under the Marriage Act and so cannot be legally binding on their own; and (3) the increasing numbers of cohabiting couples. These three problems overlap: in all three, the concern is that there are no State law remedies available if the relationship breaks down. This paper, drawing on Professor Sandberg's forthcoming book on the subject, explores the common solutions that are needed which would deal with all three problems.


Bookings can be using the form below. A detailed timetable will be provided nearer the time. The necessary Zoom links will be provided 24 hours before the Conference.

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Ticket Type Price Spaces
Ticket for ELS members £0.00
Ticket for non-members £5.00

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