Government guidelines announced for venues reopening from 4th July
The government has announced the latest guidelines for weddings and civil ceremonies in England and we have summarised the details most relevant to wedding venues here, along with additional information currently particularly relevant to wedding venues.
The government guidance is designed to assist people planning to get married or form a civil partnership in England, and venues that host such ceremonies, to prepare for small ceremonies that will be allowed to restart on 4 July 2020. This means that approved venues will be able to host ceremonies and they will not be restricted to register offices and places of worship.
It sets out how this can be done safely and in line with social distancing guidelines, in order to minimise the risk of exposure to infection for all involved, including those who work at the venues.
Ceremonies are strongly advised to go ahead only where they can be done in a COVID-19 secure environment. Venues are under no obligation to open. Officiants need to be happy that it is safe to proceed at that venue.
No more than 30 people should attend and there should be enough space for a social distancing of 2 metres, or 1 metre with risk mitigation. This maximum number includes all those at the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses, officiants, guests and staff who are not employed by the venue, such as photographers, security or caterers. It does not include staff employed by the venue.
Any receptions that typically follow or accompany marriages or civil partnerships are strongly advised not to take place at this time. Small celebrations should only take place if following social distancing guidelines. For example, in groups of up to two households indoors, or up to 6 people from different households outdoors. The government is working with the industry on how receptions could take place safely in the future.
Track and Trace
There is now a requirement that the venue manager should keep an accurate temporary record of visitors for 21 days. This should cover all guests and suppliers attending the wedding.
Our Track and Trace fully complies with the government requirements and is fully GDPR compliant and secure. It’s available free of charge and is simple to use. It has been approved by the government’s Crown Commercial Service as a solution to use during COVID-19, so for complete peace of mind this should be the chosen solution for your venue, assuming it suits your needs.
Guidance for holding ceremonies
The government’s advice “strongly encourages” the following measures:
Ceremonies should be kept as short as possible, limited to the parts of the ceremonies required for the marriage to be legally binding.
No food or drink should be consumed as a part of the event unless required for the purposes of solemnisation.
Hands should be washed before and after the exchanging of rings. The rings should be handled by as few people as possible.
People should avoid singing, shouting, raising voices, or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets from a raised or projected voice.
Spoken responses during marriages or civil partnerships should not be in a raised voice.
Singing, chanting, shouting and instruments that are blown into should be specifically avoided. Where required for the marriage or civil partnership, one individual can be permitted to sing or chant, ideally behind a plexiglass screen to protect guests.
Avoid face-to-face seating.
Adapt ceremonies to remove practices that bring people into contact with each other so that people from different households can maintain social distancing between one another. Where contact is required for the marriage or civil partnership to be legally binding, precautions should be put in place to minimise contact and reduce the timeframe as much as possible.
Guests should avoid touching property belonging to others.
Any pre-requisite washing rituals should be carried out prior to arrival.
Venue managers should take steps to prevent visitors from touching or kissing devotional and other objects that are handled communally.
Single-use order of service sheets can be provided as long as they are removed by the attendee.
Items owned by individuals for use in the ceremony, such as a prayer mat, religious text or a pen for the signing of the register should be removed after the ceremony.
Consider using protective screens and face coverings.
Reduce the number of people in enclosed spaces and improve ventilation.
Close non-essential social spaces and remove non-essential soft furnishings.
If anyone becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 at your venue they should go home and be advised to follow the stay at home guidance. Call 999 if they are seriously ill.
Remote participation at your venue
Individuals who are required to self-isolate cannot attend the ceremony. Individuals who are vulnerable should follow the government’s advice on shielding.
However, the government is encouraging them to participate remotely. We have developed a secure Live Streaming platform to enable remote participation to take place with minimal effort for the venue.
What else is happening for wedding venues?
Our collaborative approach with various agencies is working well.
If you have business interruption insurance, ask again if you have a claim, even if they turned you down previously. We have heard that several major insurers have reviewed their stance and are paying significant claims, but most people aren’t aware.
Discussions are progressing well on a possible reduction to 5% VAT for hospitality to encourage spending in this sector. This is yet to be confirmed but looks likely.
In the next few days, there will be an announcement that interest on business mortgages must be treated the same as on personal mortgages with a payment holiday on the interests element, not just the capital. If this applies to you, the banks are already aware so it is worth applying now before the rush of applications.
The CMA have advised us that they consider consumer confidence and trust to be essential in the economic recovery. They will expect wedding venues to offer transparent and flexible contracts for anyone booking now, taking the current uncertainty into consideration. This feels like another blow to venues, however, it will help a faster recovery if couples have the confidence to pay deposits. For those that haven’t already signed up to our “Book with Confidence” pledge, this will help demonstrate your CMA compliance.
We are working closely with consumer rights experts to help venues with some challenging contractual queries. We have a private Facebook Group to enable us to pass sensitive information to venues in a secure way. We’d like to invite you to join the group. If you are not already registered with us as a venue, you will need to be recommended by another venue.
My pledge to the venues we represent
We will continue to work hard to do all we can to protect the revenue and reputations of the venues we represent, while developing tools and software to save you time, money and stress at such a difficult time.
As ever, if there is anything I personally can do you help your venue, please email me on email@example.com or call 01235 770078.
About the author
Written by: Alison Hargreaves
Alison founded Guides for Brides in 1995 and has been advising brides and businesses ever since. She has an unrivalled knowledge of the wedding industry and is part of an international network of wedding professionals and entrepreneurs. Alison frequently appears on podcasts and expert panels as well as judging various wedding awards.