No more weddings to be held at Stormont

By Martina Purdy
BBC NI Political Correspondent

image captionWeddings already agreed will still take place

The Northern Ireland Assembly has banned wedding ceremonies at Stormont in future.

The decision, which was taken in March, was not immediately announced but is contained in minutes subsequently published.

It has also emerged that the assembly initiated a review of wedding receptions to introduce a more flexible policy and to ensure there was no cost to the taxpayer.

Weddings already agreed will still take place.

That means Anna Lo, the Alliance assembly member for South Belfast, will be able to have her ceremony at Stormont next month, followed by a reception.

But she is likely to be the last member to be married at Stormont.

It was her application that was the catalyst for the decision to end weddings on the estate and at Parliament Buildings because the policy only allowed for Christian services.

When the assembly commission checked practice at the Scottish Parliament and Wales, it found neither Cardiff or Holyrood allowed wedding ceremonies.

And the Stormont commission subsequently decided to preclude wedding ceremonies also, as this wasn't the primary function of the assembly.

An assembly spokesperson told the BBC there were no plans to reinstate weddings.

But they added that the policy remains under consideration on a number of issues.

A revised policy allows wedding or civil partnership receptions to be booked by MLAs, staff and all members of the public provided the time and date doesn't interfere with core assembly business.

She added: "The party booking the reception will be expected to meet the full cost of the event including the cost of security provision and an administration cost of £500 per booking."

The policy was reviewed after it emerged the taxpayer was picking up part of the bill for wedding receptions.

In the first year of the assembly more than £6,000 was paid by the public purse for two receptions.

This was due to the security cost of keeping the building open.

Another change is that members of the public will be able to apply to have their reception at Stormont.

In the past only members, former members, staff and their close relatives could apply to use the premises.