Legally bound – Your guide to wedding law

Legally bound – Your guide to wedding law

Everyone hopes married life together will be happy ever after Sadly, the statistics reveal all too clearly that this is not always the case. Things can and do go wrong, before and after the big day, ending in messy legal wrangles that take their toll on relationships. Ipswich-based Blocks Solicitors, outline some of the legal issues that couples need to be aware of. Remember, if in doubt, consult your solicitor.

Before the big day

I would like to marry in a church. Am I under a legal obligation to attend church in the run up to the wedding?

No, there are no legal requirements relating to your attendance. A Church of England marriage can be solemnised by the publication of banns of marriage. Banns must be published on three consecutive Sundays, after which the couple is free to marry at any time within three months. When the banns are read, the congregation is asked whether they know of any reason why the marriage cannot go ahead. It might therefore be sensible to attend to make sure you deal with any objections. Your minister might require you to attend, but this will be at his or her discretion. You should check before you book the church.

My partner has already been married and is now divorced. Can we be married in a church?

There is no legal reason why you cannot be married in a church. Much will depend on your religion and is often down to the discretion of the minister of the parish.

How do I know if a venue is legally OK for marriages to take place there?

Marriages may only take place at authorized venues. These include register offices, local authority approved premises, for example some stately homes, castles and hotels, churches or chapels of the Churches of England and Wales and other churches that have been registered by the Registrar General for marriage, including naval, air force and military chapels. You can ask at the Register Office for the area in which you’re interested for a list of approved venues.

On your wedding day

What can I do if the venue double books me and/or lets me down at the last minute?

The first thing you should do is look at the terms and conditions of the contract you have with the

venue. If they seek to exclude liability for cancellation, then you should consult your solicitor for advice. Such terms might be deemed unfair and might not be legally binding if they are unreasonable.

Broadly speaking, the venue is likely to be in breach of contract and you should be entitled to claim compensation that will put you in the position you would have been in had your wedding gone ahead at the venue. This will be a claim for the losses incurred by you in changing venue. You should keep receipts of these losses as evidence of your claim.

What if the venue fails to provide a service I am happy with? Do I have any comeback?

Once again, you need to check the terms and condition of the contract and consult your

solicitor if you’re not sure about anything. Where the supplier acts in the course of a business, the law states that it is implicit in the contract that goods supplied will be of satisfactory quality and reasonably fit for their purpose, and that services provided will be carried out with reasonable care and skill.

So, if the food is not up to standard and the service is equally poor, you might be able to bring a claim against the venue for breach of contract, and you should be able to claim compensation.

The photographer spent all day taking my photographs, but then lost all the pictures, so I have no record of my special day.

The photographer has failed to carry out his or her duties with reasonable care and skill and you should have a claim against him or her. You might also be able to make a claim for additional damages — for disappointment based on your loss of expectation. In other words, you expected to have photographs of the most important day of your life, but ended up with nothing.

What if I have to cancel the whole event due to sickness or some other reason. What rights do I have, and what should I do?

It’s usually possible to take out insurance to cover you for events beyond your control.

What redress you have rests on the terms and conditions of the contract Normally, you would have a contract with a supplier to carry out a service or provide goods on the wedding day. If you breach the contract by reneging on the terms — for example cancelling at the last minute — you’re likely to be liable for compensating the supplier. This involves putting the supplier in the position he or she would have been in had the wedding gone ahead and usually means the contract price.

Wedding cancellations are not uncommon and many wedding service providers incorporate cancellation provisions in their terms and conditions. The sensible thing is to read them before entering into a contract

After the wedding

Do I need to make changes to our home ownership documentation? I have “cohabited” with my partner for some time and we share a house. Does being married make a big difference?

No, not really. If both your names are on the deeds and the house is in joint names marriage will make no difference to your situation. If not, you might wish to consider changing things. You should notify the Land Registry of your change of name, if your property tide is registered in your name.

Who am I legally obliged to tell about my changed marital status?

You are legally obliged to inform, among others, the Inland Revenue, Passport Office, Department of Social Security, bank or building society, credit companies, the electoral roll, the DVLA and the Land Registry. This is not an exhaustive list — you’ll probably also want to notify your doctor, dentist and employer and any clubs you belong to.

How do I go about formally changing my surname — including for my passport, in time for the honeymoon?

Normally you send a letter with a photocopy of your marriage certificate and your new signature. The short space of time is unlikely to allow sufficient time for the passport office to change your name on your passport before leaving on honeymoon. You can travel using your existing passport in your maiden name provided that the travel documents are booked in your maiden name too. You should take your marriage certificate with you in case you have any problems.

Can I keep my maiden name? If so, how do I go about ensuring that I maintain my surname even in marriage?

You are under no legal obligation to change your name and it should remain unchanged unless you notify the relevant bodies otherwise. When giving notification of your change in marital status you may wish to clarify that you intend to keep your maiden name.

My partner and I have children together. Now that we are getting married, do we need to do anything to take into account that change of status?

If any of your children were born before December I, 2003, your partner, as the father, does not automatically have parental responsibility for those children. Parental responsibility is the legal term for all the rights, duties, powers, responsibility and authority that by law the parent of a child has in relation to the child and his or her property When you marry, your partner will automatically be granted parental responsibility. If any your children were born after December I, 2003 and both parents registered the birth of the child together, your partner, as the father, will already have parental responsibility and nothing will change. If you have any questions you should consult a solicitor.

Would this be a good time to make a will and if so, who do I consult?

Generally speaking, any wills made by the parties to a marriage are made null and void by the marriage itself. There are exceptions, such as a will made in expectation of marriage, which if correctly drafted, will not be nullified. It’s important, therefore, that newly wed couples make new wills. If there’s no will in place, the matter will be dealt with under the intestacy rules. Despite popular belief, this does not mean that if one spouse dies, the survivor necessarily inherits all his or her spouse’s estate. It depends on, for example, the value of the deceased’s estate, the way in which assets are owned and whether there are any other beneficiaries who are entitled under the intestacy rules such as, children. In the case of second or subsequent marriages there is often more to consider such as provision for children of a previous relationship. You should consult your solicitor for appropriate advice.

Printed with kind permission of Suffolk B&G Autumn/Winter 2005.