Which Wedding Venues can open for Ceremonies and Receptions in England?
Since the Covid Roadmap announcement on 22nd February 2021, the government has published guidance for wedding ceremonies, wedding receptions and the reopening of hospitality.
However, the contradictions and inconsistencies between the documents have raised many questions regarding weddings during Step 2, provisionally between 12th April and 17th May, which we will try to address here. This article will be updated as further guidance is released. Last updated 31/3/21.
The information in this document is our current understanding of the guidance, based on our own interpretation and the opinions of others within the industry. The guidance and any dates are subject to change. However, we hope this gives a reasonable and unbiased opinion which will assist in any conversations with couples, Registrars or the Local Authority.
We have included links to the most relevant government guidance and we encourage venues to satisfy themselves that they are working inside the guidance. Wording from the guidance is shown in blue.
Where can you get married from 29th March?
Guidance was updated on Friday 26th March to increase the number of places weddings can take place in from Monday 29th March.
The new guidance reads as follows:
‘Wedding or civil partnership ceremonies can take place in licensed venues that are not expressly required to close under the COVID-19 Regulations. This includes, for example:
Church of England churches or chapels, and certified Places of Worship that have been registered for the solemnisation of marriage (“registered buildings”)
Naval, military or air force chapels
Approved premises for civil marriages and civil partnerships (that is, places approved by the local authority of the area in which the premises are situated) not required to close. This may include venues such as community centres and town/village halls
They can also take place in other venues which are not explicitly closed in law. This includes purpose-built wedding venues where that is its sole purpose, and it does not also function as a hospitality venue or visitor attraction, for example.
From 29 March, this will include some licensed buildings or rooms within a larger, closed visitor attraction or hospitality venue, for example a stand-alone venue in the grounds of a heritage attraction, where the licenced venue itself where the ceremony will take place doesn’t function as part of the visitor attraction or hospitality venue. In these cases, there would need to be direct access to the wedding venue without going through a closed part of the larger site. This does not generally include rooms or spaces within indoor visitor attractions (for example a room within a museum) unless they can be accessed directly from the street, or open outdoor areas of the venue.
From Step 2, ceremonies may also take place in venues which are permitted to open for the purposes of providing unrestricted services. This includes holiday accommodation, including hotels (in a room approved for the solemnisation of marriage and formation of a civil partnership).”
Where can you get married from 12th April?
As a result of pressure from the UK Weddings Taskforce, the government announced a U-Turn on their publication of confusing guidance and have agreed that certain “closed” venues could open for the purpose of hosting a wedding ceremony from Step 2.
In addition to places of worship, register offices and public buildings already the following venues can host weddings in Step 2:
conference centres and exhibition halls
holiday accommodation, including hotels (in a room approved for marriage and civil partnerships)
any purpose-built wedding venue (where that is its sole purpose, and it is not also a hospitality venue or visitor attraction)
In some cases, visitor attractions may be used (if licensed) if the part of the venue used to hold the ceremony is used solely for that purpose and is not ordinarily open to the public (for example a building used for wedding ceremonies within the grounds of a botanical garden). This does not generally include rooms or spaces within indoor visitor attractions (for example a room within a museum) unless they can be accessed directly from the street, or open outdoor areas of the venue.
Does this only apply to legal weddings or can we have a blessing, humanist or belief ceremony?
All types of wedding ceremonies can take place from 12th April including “alternative wedding ceremonies”; ceremonies that do not take place in accordance with wedding law in England and Wales, whether religious, belief based, blessings or other forms of non-statutory ceremony such as humanist. This also includes ceremonies carried out by independent celebrants.
Can you have a wedding reception at any wedding venue from 12th April?
The receptions guidance was updated on 26th March for Step 2.
“Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are permitted for up to 15 people, in COVID-secure venues that are permitted to open, or where a broader exemption applies.
Receptions and celebrations can take place outside with up to 15 people. This should be in the form of a sit- down meal. They may take place in any COVID-secure outdoor venue that is permitted to open.
Outdoor venues may be partially sheltered, such as marquees, but cannot be enclosed or substantially enclosed. For example, at least 50% of the wall area of the marquee must be open for it to be considered outdoors.”
Although it still isn’t absolutely clear, we assume receptions will be permitted in the “closed” venues that are now being permitted to open specifically for holding wedding ceremonies.
Receptions must not take place in private gardens or public outdoor spaces, other than within social contact limits: in a group of 6, or 2 households.
What is permitted at wedding receptions during Step 2?
Receptions are a seated meal only, with drinks being ordered and consumed while seated, to avoid anyone gathering at the bar.
Guests will need to follow social distancing and be seated in tables of 6 people or 2 households. Tables should be 2m apart, or 1m if there is a screen between.
Speeches and the first dance are permitted, but guests can’t join the dancing. You can also have performers to entertain guests.
There is no requirement for the reception to immediately follow a wedding ceremony, just to “mark the occasion of the marriage or civil partnership”.
Can weddings or receptions take place in marquees from 12th April?
Weddings and receptions are not allowed in marquees on private land during Step 2. We have been assured that the guidance for Step 3, from 17th May, will address marquee weddings at home and on private land as it is still unclear as to whether these weddings and receptions can take place at that stage.
Wedding receptions, where they are permitted to take place, can’t take place indoors during Step 2. So, it is assumed that these will need to be in well-ventilated marquees at this time of year .
When can wedding showrounds take place?
It would seem logical to us that wedding showrounds can recommence in all venues from 12th April in line with all non-essential retail businesses opening and all other showroom based businesses such as car dealerships, kitchen showrooms and bathroom showrooms opening.
However the DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) have suggested that showrounds can’t take place in closed venues which means that most wedding venues are unable to offer showrounds before 17th May, in venues that are closed.
But are venues still closed if they are allowed to open for a ceremony? Is there any logic in a venue being able to open for a wedding ceremony but not an appointment-only showround? There are questions around whether the venue might be classed as open on a day they are hosting a wedding. Questions around whether their licensed rooms are classed as open and whether their grounds are open. In reality, the answers are likely to be different for every venue.
There are far more answers than questions, which is leading to the worst possible scenario; venues feeling they may be breaking the law if they offer showrounds, or feeling they are missing out if they don’t. If in doubt, your EHO may be able to give an indication of their stance which might help you make the right decision for your venue.
Our video looks at the current situation as we see it.
Unfortunately, the exception allowing venue site visits from 29th March is very specifically for arranging business events.
Can venues have Open Days and Wedding Fairs in Step 2?
We would strongly advise against planning Open Days or Wedding Fairs during Step 2 as we can’t find any guidance that might support these activities taking place.
Does the number of 15 at weddings include suppliers?
Suppliers, venue staff and officiants are excluded from the numbers. For smaller weddings, some couples are using friends or family members as the photographer, florist or cake supplier. However, these would need to be counted within the 15 if they are interacting as guests in addition to supplying a service.
Does the number 15 at weddings include babies and children aged under 5?
Children and babies of all ages need to be included within the numbers.
How can you be sure that a particular wedding or reception will be permitted?
Most venues should be able to find the information they need by reading the guidance below, but there are inevitably some unusual situations that aren’t covered by the guidance. Before speaking to the local EHO (Environmental Health Officer) for a final decision, it can be helpful, to understand everything that may support your intentions so that you can set out a clear proposal.
We, and so many others, have made it really clear to the government that we all just want clear guidance for a safe reopening, as the video below sets out.
For those getting married, the best person to advise you on whether or not your wedding can go ahead is the venue itself. They have the final discretion on confirming they are happy that it is completely safe to go ahead and will know how many can be accommodated with social distancing in place, as that may be less than 15.
Registrars will be able to confirm with couples that they are happy to go ahead in a particular venue or setting but they won’t necessarily be aware of the venue’s licenses and restrictions.
Our team is dedicated to bringing you the latest information regarding weddings and coronavirus. Read the latest information as we have it and find links to the official guidance for each UK nation in our article about weddings post-lockdown in 2021.
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.