Legal Age of Marriage to rise to 18 in England and Wales – What it means 

On 27th February 2023 the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Age Act 2022 entered into force. This means that 16 and 17-year-olds will no longer be allowed to marry or enter into civil partnerships, even with parental consent.  

The change further sees any offenders who have been found arranging child marriages face a seven-year jail sentence.  

An important note is that the introduction of this Legislation will not invalidate any marriages between 16–17-year-olds that have previously been entered into.  


Why has the change been made?  

Last year the National Honour Based Abuse helpline supported 64 cases of child marriage, a seemingly small number compared to those unsupported. The change in legislation is to highlight the issue of forced marriages which can have detrimental and lasting effects if children are involved.  

Likewise, the government’s Forced Marriage Unit during the year of 2021 offered advice and support in 118 cases involving children under the age of 18. The change supports the Government’s commitment with the United Nations to end child marriages by 2030. It also wishes to identify and report further child marriages to afford greater protection to those effected by forced marriage.  

Many campaigners for the change argued that allowing 16–17-year-olds to marry with parental consent was a loophole being exploited to force and coerce children into marriage. 

We are a progressive society and what could have been deemed the social norm in the past is ever changing. The law must follow and represent the views and opinions of society in order to provide adequate protection. The average age for marriage in 2019 according to the Office for National Statistics was 34 for men and 32 for women.  

Based around this statistic, it is clear that the change in legislation will not have an overly significant impact on the number of marriages taking place in England and Wales, therefore still upkeeping the sanctity of marriage. It will, however, protect the minority who may be at risk of forced, child marriages.  


The bigger picture.  

This change has brought about a consideration of marriage law in general. The Law Commission is in the process of reviewing the procedure broadly, in order to reflect the change in societal opinion. The Law Commission is set to evaluate whether marriages can take place in many more venues, for example on a ship, or even in the comfort of your own home.  


For more information on the new legal marriage age, get in touch with Head of Family, Emma Palmer, at 

By Jessica Craige. 

Contact us, we are here to help

If you need any advice or support related to this topic, please contact our expert team who will be happy to help.