Prince Harry and MeghanInterview with Oprah Winfreyis undoubtedly historic. One of the many revelations that confused some was the revelation that they held a private wedding ceremony in their gardens at Kensington Palace three days before the public ceremony on May 19, 2018. With the Archbishop of Canterbury in attendance and Nur Harry and Meghan, they committed themselves to marriage in a ceremony that was private and meaningful to them.
When did they actually get married and what is the meaning of two ceremonies? Being royals certainly has implications for the law on weddings, but double ceremonies aren’t just for them. Many couples in England and Wales do this every year.
For example, those who live their lives according to a certain belief or belief system often have a prescribed manner of getting married that is not recognized by English law. These couples may be forced to perform two ceremonies, one recognized by their faith and another recognized by the law. This includes, but is not limited to, humanists, Muslims, pagans, and Hindus.
Many others, similar to Harry and Meghan, but perhaps without the same profile, also want a ceremony that is meaningful to them personally. In such cases, they can even hire one of over 1,000 independent celebrities in the UK who can tailor the service to the couple’s needs.
Under normal circumstances, Anglican weddings require the publication of bans (a notice of the proposed wedding) or a license, two witnesses, and must be held on the premises of the Church of England. For royals, however, it is expressly provided that the Marriage Act 1949 has no control over laws or customs relating to the marriage of members of the royal family. Over time, there have been various laws and customs binding the kings, including the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 which, among other things, stipulates that royal marriages require the consent of the monarch – that is still in force today for the first six members of the royal family in the line of succession.
The royal exemption from current marriage legislation comes from the Clandestine Marriages Act of 1753 and effectively means that royal marriages are subject to the law as it stood before that law – known as the canon law of the Church of England. On this basis, one could perhaps argue that the secluded private garden ceremony could be considered mandatory. However, there is an important difference between a mandatory exchange of vows and a legal marriage. Their legal marriage was the one that was publicly celebrated with a special marriage license from the faculty office at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor on May 19, 2018.
Legal regulations aside, it seems that for Meghan and Harry, the private ceremony was the one that mattered to them personally. For many who perform double ceremonies, the personally meaningful element can actually be the most important part of their wedding process. For example, a Muslim couple would look at their religion in general Nikah Ceremony as a sign of their marriage and this is often celebrated with many friends and family members present who follow prescribed religious norms. A subsequent civil marriage in which this happens is often more restrained and is viewed as procedural for purposes of legal recognition.
Mixed faith couples, on the other hand, can hold two religious ceremonies representing the couple’s different faiths. One of these can be a legally binding marriage, provided it is conducted in accordance with the law. Aside from the specific rules governing Anglican, Jewish, and Quaker weddings, the latter two of which are exempt from venue restrictions, religious weddings must be held in a registered place of worship in order to be legally recognized.
The decisive factor, however, is that not all recognized places of worship, and certainly not all places of worship, are registered for marriage.
Change the law
If you are reading this and wondering why the system for getting married is so complex, you are certainly not alone. Preliminary proposals Proposed by the Law Commission of England and Wales, they pave the way for an easier way of getting married without the need for a double ceremony. After consultation on these proposals, it will make recommendations for reform later this year.
We are Companies Research into how people get married in England and Wales, with an emphasis on those who have a double ceremony or have opted for a single meaningful ceremony that is not legally recognized. This research will help understand why people get married differently so that any reforms in the Wedding Law can reflect the way people get married today.
For some, legal recognition isn’t what makes a wedding ceremony useful. And while many may argue when Meghan and Harry were indeed married, the ceremony three days before the one the rest of us saw might be the one that mattered most to them.