Public asked for views on 'belief' marriages and marriages of people under 18

The public are being asked if the minimum marriage age should be raised to 18 and if 'belief' marriages should be put on an equal legal footing to religious marriages.

Monday, 15th November 2021, 11:31 am
Updated Monday, 15th November 2021, 11:32 am
A consultation on local Marriage Laws has been launched.
A consultation on local Marriage Laws has been launched.

The Department of Finance has launched a fresh public consultation on changing two aspects of local Marriage Law.

The consultation is seeking feedback on changing marriage laws to include belief marriage. This means belief marriages, such as those overseen by humanist celebrants, and which are currently subject to temporary arrangements, would have an equal legal footing with religious marriage.

In total, 702 belief marriages have been conducted in the north since April 2020.

The Department is also asking the public for their views on raising the minimum age at which people can legally marry or enter into a civil partnership.

Views are sought on raising the current minimum age from 16, with parental consent, to 18. There have been recent calls from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to raise the age to 18 in jurisdictions which currently allow child marriage.

In total there were 323 marriages between 2015 and 2019 where one of both participants have been aged under 18.

The consultation will run until February 18, 2022. If you would like to participate and help shape future government policy in this area, visit for more information.