The best way to
Make sure you pin down a few essential issues
before you get carried away with the wedding,
advises Fiona Connah
A wedding day is a momentous day in anybody’s life. It
takes a lot of planning, organisation and thought.
Hopefully it is one of the best days of your life.
There are many decisions to be made and every
couple prioritises different things. For some people it’s
the food and the company that is most important, for
other people it’s the clothes or the venue. But for every
couple on their wedding day, whether they are aware of
it or not, essentially what is happening is that the nature
of their relationship is changing.
Before getting married, even as a cohabiting couple,
there is essentially nothing that really binds a couple
together other than their feelings for each other. You can
make plans together, go on holiday – but unless you enter
into a specific contract, when you purchase a property for
example, you can separate and move on without any
overarching legal framework affecting your life.
On the day you marry you are entering into a
marriage contract and from that day on your
relationship is, to some extent (whether you know it or
not) affected by many different pieces of legislation.
While it is important, and fun, to focus on the
wedding day, it is essential to remember that there is
hopefully a long and happy marriage to follow. So it is
important that before you marry you give some
consideration to legal matters.
If you do not make a will, for example, then your
assets upon death are distributed according to the
intestacy rules. These may or may not reflect what you
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actually want. If you want to ensure that your spouse, or
indeed anybody else, receives the assets upon your
death that you would like them to receive, it is essential
that you have a will.
Were your relationship to break down at any time in
the future and as a couple you were to disagree as to
how the assets are to be divided, then the role of the
Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 could have a strong
impact on the division of your property. This can
potentially be avoided by entering into a pre-nuptial
agreement. Both myself and my colleague Hannah can
help to negotiate and then draft pre-nuptial
agreements, but it is important to deal with this type of
agreement early on in the planning of a wedding and
not to wait until the last minute!
While legal issues are probably not the most
romantic of things to consider before a marriage, in my
experience if you can discuss and think about practical
issues thoroughly then this will only serve to strengthen
Tackling legal issues directly will bring certainty, and
with certainty comes peace of mind – a great way to
start a marriage.
Fiona Connah is a partner and head of the Family
Department at QS Howlett Clarke’s Southwick Office,
West Sussex. Howlett Clarke also has an office in the
heart of Brighton.