It is a long time since all brides were expected to wear white. But the government is insisting that they must at least wear something, after ministers ruled out lifting the ban on nude weddings. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling today rejected the idea of allowing naturist weddings, saying he had ‘absolutely no intention’ of allowing naked couples to tie the knot. It was suggested last week that couples may be allowed to get married naked in naturist weddings under a rethink of marriage law.
Ministers launched a consultation on staging ‘non-relgious’ marriages, which was seen as a move to give humanist ceremonies legal status. But among those expressing a view was British Naturism, which campaigns on behalf of thousands of members ‘against the ever-changing environment that constantly throws up new threats to our freedom’.
In response Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation joked: ‘Some of these ideas are just silly. I hope there will be guidance for the best man at a nude wedding on where to keep the ring.’
The wedding law review is expected to look at sweeping reforms which could allow weddings in the open air, in people’s homes and gardens or with the couple and guests in the nude.
But Mr Grayling today insisted that wedding parties had to keep their clothes on. He insisted that he had not ordered a review into naked weddings, despite coming under pressure from British Naturism.
He told BBC One’s Sunday Politics: ‘There’s a difference between somebody expressing an interest and it actually happening. 'At the moment we are looking at the issue of humanist marriage, but it’s something that’s being reviewed by the marriage law commission.’
He added: 'No nude marriage right now as far as I’m concerned.’ Presenter Andrew Neil joked: ‘I’m sure they’ll be appalled. Mind you, the weather’s quite cold out there at the moment.’
The paper last week by the Ministry of Justice confirmed that among groups that have expressed an interest in changing the wedding laws is British Naturism. It said naturists could qualify to conduct weddings if the rules were changed.
At the moment wedding law allows couples to have a traditional wedding in church, under rules set by the Church of England and other churches with the right to conduct the ceremonies, or a civil wedding in a register office or ‘approved premises’. Approved premises, which include stately homes, hotels and sports ground entertainment suites, have proved highly popular since they were introduced in the 1990s.
Only Jews and Quakers are allowed to marry in their own homes, under laws from 1753 which released them from the requirement to be married by the Church of England.
Tony Blair’s government tried to introduce a law to allow people to get married anywhere they liked in 2000, but dropped the idea in the face of the complications involved.
The 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act said ministers would review whether ‘non-religious belief organisations’, like humanists, should also be able to conduct weddings.
The consultation response from the Ministry of Justice last week said that humanists were anxious to hold weddings in the open air or at places couples find ‘meaningful’, which could mean a preferred holiday beach, the place where they met, a place where a parent’s ashes were scattered, or even a football pitch.
But it said that there was a risk that criminal gangs running sham or forced marriages would move in, and that ‘inappropriate’ organisations could win the right to run marriages.
‘There was a risk that any group, including those with a cult following, could potentially qualify if they could show their purpose as the advancement of beliefs and the ethics associated with those beliefs, or could successfully have it determined that they were being discriminated against if excluded from conducting legal ceremonies,’ the paper said.
It added: ‘The groups identified as a risk included political organisations, Jedi Knights, Hell’s Angels, radicalised groups and criminal gangs involved in forced marriage.’ One critic of reform, it said, feared that pressure groups would try to conduct marriages to raise funds for their cause.
The Ministry of Justice paper said that the Government law reform advisers, the Law Commission, will be asked to ‘begin as soon as possible a broader review of the law concerning marriage ceremonies.
‘An independent review should be able to examine all the issues arising from the consultation alongside all other relevant matters. The Government will start to work with the Commission in January to consider the scope of such a review.’