Licensing of Premises

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Licensing of Premises for Solemnisation of Civil Marriages Objective Our client owns a large yacht. He wishes to use it for profit-making ventures. To this end, he seeks advice as to the possibility of it becoming a venue for wedding ceremonies for what he describes as “discerning couples”. If this is possible in principle, he wishes to be advised as to two possible scenarios: first, its use as a venue for this purpose by a particular individual who wishes to arrange a forthcoming ceremony; second, its potential use in the future by such couples. Conclusion Mr Roche will be able to secure the licensing of his boat by the local authority provided that he is prepared to fulfil certain detailed requirements in order to obtain such licensing and observe various conditions as to the manner in which ceremonies are performed and the use of the building is regulated. The detailed requirements to which he would be subject are set out below but before proceeding our client should be aware of certain primary issues. The relevant regulations would require his boat to be permanently moored which might conflict with any other profit-making ventures which he has planned for the vessel. Licensing would be a long term commitment: it would not be possible, for example, simply to license for the anticipated wedding of his friend – the premises would have to be available for other such couples thereafter. He should also be aware that any such ceremonies conducted on his boat would have to be open to members of the public. Report Section 1(2) of the Marriage Act 1994 amends the provisions of the Marriage Act 1949 to allow for the making of Regulations by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to allow for and to regulate the approval of premises by local authorities of premises for the solemnisation of marriages. The relevant provisions are contained in The Marriages (Approved Premises) Regulations 1995[1] which came into force on 1st April 1995. The fact that our client proposes the use of a boat is not necessarily an impediment. “Premises” are defined by Reg. 2(1) as “a permanently immovable structure comprising at least a room, or any boat or other vessel which is permanently moored” [emphasis supplied]. Our client should be aware, therefore, that compliance with this stipulation and the consequent licensing of his boat for such use may severely restrict his ability to use it for other money-making ventures such as , for example, charter trips. Our client does not at this stage require detailed guidance as to the application procedure but this may be found when required in the main body of the Regulations (regs.3-13). It is sufficient for present purposes to observe that the grant of such licences and their subsequent supervision are the responsibility of the local authority in whose area (in this instance) the boat is permanently moored. Mr Roche should be aware in particular of the content of each of the two Schedules to the Regulations. The first sets out certain “requirements” for the grant of approval and the second various “conditions” which are to be attached to such a grant, if made. The salient requirements of which he should be aware are:

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  • The premises must be of appropriate construction, in good repair and a “seemly and dignified venue” in which to conduct such ceremonies. (In this regard, there may well be scope for a degree of subjectivity on the part of the local authority and the current naming of our client‘s vessel as ‘The Randy Rodent‘ may have to be reconsidered);
  • The premises must be regularly available to the public for use for the solemnisation of marriages (particular care should be taken to note this requirement since our client will doubtless be aware of the recent fiasco surrounding the eleventh-hour relocation of the ‘Charles and Camilla‘ wedding on the ground that this requirement would not be fulfilled);
  • All necessary fire precautions and applicable Fire Regulations must be observed;
  • There must be no recent or current connection of the premises with the practice of religion;
  • The particular room (cabin?) in which the ceremonies are to be performed must form a distinct part of the premises and be separate from any other activities on board at the time of the ceremony;
  • Our client will have to act as or deputise to an appropriate “responsible person” to supervise the vessel for an hour before and then during the ceremony to ensure compliance with these conditions;
  • No food and drink may be sold or consumed in the “marriage cabin” during the ceremony and for at least an hour before;
  • As the “responsible person”, our client must ensure that the ceremony is entirely secular in nature. This may seem straightforward but Mr Roche should be warned that under present legislation the use of such apparently innocuous music as Cat Stevens’ “Morning has Broken” or even Robbie Williams’ “Angels” is prohibited. (This apparently absurd anomaly is however currently the subject of attempt to revise the Regulations.);
  • Public access to any ceremony of marriage so conducted will have to be allowed.

Commencement As stated, the Marriages (Approved Premises) Regulations 1995 came into force on 1st April 1995. References Research was conducted by accessing Halsbury’s Laws Direct (Lexis/Nexis). The search term “marriage” is of itself too wide. However “marriage ceremony” yields some 46 hits which can be quickly reviewed by title alone in order to locate: MATRIMONIAL LAW 2. MARRIAGE (3) MARRIAGE (iv) Celebration in England and Wales E. MARRIAGES ON APPROVED PREMISES Paras. 103 et seq contain references to the Marriage Act 1994 and The Marriages (Approved Premises) Regulations 1995 which can be accessed at A general internet search using the keywords “approval/ceremonies/ civil/marriages” produces inter alia news reports upon the proposed relaxation upon the ban on religious music etc. Updating The commencement and current validity of the legislation was verified by use of the Halsbury’s Laws Direct ‘Is it in Force?’ facility. In any event, the secondary legislation bears its own commencement date. 1


[1] SI 1995/510

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Licensing of Premises. (2017, Jun 26). Retrieved November 29, 2022 , from

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