White Paper: Covid-Safety at Weddings for Venues, Couples and Event Professionals
The Guides for Brides White Paper on wedding safety for venues, event professionals and couples hosting a wedding.
England has moved into Step 4 as of the 19th of July 2021. This means that all legal restrictions on weddings and related events have been removed and replaced with guidance.
There is an expectation that couples and guests will take a responsible approach to Covid safety, but ultimately it is down to wedding venues and businesses to identify risks and take reasonable steps to reduce them, just as with any other risks.
Whilst the couple’s focus will be just on their own wedding day, venues and suppliers will likely have multiple events every week between now and the end of the year and any decisions and risk mitigations should take the bigger picture into consideration.
Over the past year we have worked with health and safety advisors, BEIS advisors, Public Health England, industry associations and other event sectors, as well as multiple venues and businesses in order to establish risk-reducing methods to help keep the wedding industry open. This is a culmination of that information.
This paper aims to assist businesses and couples to put best-practice in place to stop the spread of Covid-19 at their wedding ceremony, reception and associated cultural events.
The aim is to create a safe and trusted environment between all parties at the event.
There are significant implications if the couple or a member of their immediate family test positive for Covid in the days before the wedding.
They should be encouraged to avoid exposure. Steps for couples might include:
- Holding Hen and Stag events more than 2 weeks before the wedding
- Avoiding unnecessary contact with those they don’t usually mix with.
- Working from home, if permitted, for the 2 weeks before the wedding.
Businesses owners will need to take all possible precautions to reduce the risk that they or key members of staff are required to self isolate and this may include declining higher risk bookings.
The venue and couple should work together to ensure all attending suppliers and guests are provided with information relevant to Covid-safety at the event in the days before the wedding.
- This information should include the venue’s Covid-safety guidelines and any additional information specific to the event (i.e. whether the bar is only accepting card payments or if the event has been moved outdoors).
- Signage should be used around the venue to provide attendees with reminders of the Covid-safety policies.
- It is recommended that the venue and couple discuss anything that could affect the risk assessment, for example if a large proportion of the guests have been double vaccinated or conversely if guests are travelling from a higher risk postcode.
As 33% of infected cases show no symptoms so it is best practice for all those attending to be taking a lateral flow test on the morning of the wedding.
Lateral flow tests are considered over 90% accurate on the days that you are at your most infectious.
- Guests should be encouraged to test and report their test results so the venue has a record for their risk assessment, if needed. This can be done at the door using the NHS Covid Status App or in advance using software such as Trusted Trace.
- Anyone with a positive test or those that have been told by NHS Track and Trace to self-isolate can not attend the wedding.
- The venue has discretion on how to keep staff and attendees safe so can set their own policy on requiring attendees to be vaccinated and / or tested if it forms part of their risk assessment.
Venues and businesses have a duty of care to their teams and clients to ensure that they are doing all they can to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Covid-19 measures and mitigations will need to be included in risk assessments to meet the government safety requirements.
- Use the government-recommended risk assessment as a starting point but adjust it to fit your venue / wedding business.
- The risk assessment should be adjusted for every wedding depending on the activities planned, the numbers attending and the risk profile (if known) of those attending.
- If your risk assessment relies on the assumption that others have completed a risk assessment too, ensure they share that risk assessment with you.
Ensuring Good Personal Hygiene
Venues and couples should work together to ensure personal hygiene is able to be maintained throughout the event.
- All working and attending as guests at the wedding or associated event should be encouraged to wash or sanitise their hands regularly and especially before food and drink is served.
- Venues should ensure that santising and hand washing stations are clearly marked and easily accessible to all attending.
- Couples and the bridal party should encourage guests to take part in these practices at the event.
- Venues should encourage all working at the event to take part in these practices.
Looking After Vulnerable Guests
Couples should be able to identify those who may be more vulnerable to Covid-19, such as elderly guests, those with health conditions or those who may have been shielding. Venues and couples should work together to ensure the safety of these guests.
- Venues should consider offering a quiet space for those who would like to avoid mixing.
- Couples should check their seating plans to ensure vulnerable guests are seated in a location suitable for them.
- The venue or the couple should consider supplying guests with colour-coded wristbands or identifiable badges to help communicate their feelings about mixing to others. A traffic-light system with red / amber / green bands or ribbons is becoming universally understood.
- Encourage live-streaming and remote participation to allow those who cannot attend due to shielding and self-isolation requirements to be able to watch the proceedings from the safety of their homes.
Protecting key members of staff should be a priority so that the business can continue to operate.
- Where there are sufficient staff to do so, teams should work as self-contained ‘bubbles’ so that only the affected team will need to self isolate if there is an outbreak.
- All businesses should have a contingency plan if key members of staff or multiple teams are required to self-isolate. You will need to be able to put the plan into action without the need to break isolation laws in order to do so.
- Encourage staff to take all possible precautions, including wearing masks, even if not required by law.
Air flow plays an important role in reducing transmission of Covid from one person to another. Any indoor spaces should be as well-ventilated as possible.
- Where parts of the wedding can take place outdoors, consider doing so as transmission risk is greatly reduced outdoors.
- If an activity is taking place indoors, have windows and doors open wherever possible to maximise air flow.
- Avoid using air conditioning systems that recirculate internal air. Those that filter in the air from outside are much safer.
- Where internal air is recirculated, the risk profile of others in the same building should be considered when calculating overall risk.
Collecting Contact Details for Test and Trace
NHS Test and Trace is vital to controlling the spread of the virus. There is no longer a legal requirement for visitors to ‘check in’ but having an effective way to collect and store attendees’ contact details will help you and / or NHS contact tracers to inform anyone if they may have been exposed to the virus.
- Encourage guests to use the NHS QR code to check in at the venue. If you display the QR code you must now supply a GDPR-compliant alternative for those not wanting to use the App.
- Solutions such as Trusted Trace are a GDPR-compliant way to put you in direct contact with all the guests so they can notify you if they test positive straight after the event and so that you can notify staff and guests if there has been a risk of exposure.
- Couples should keep a copy of their seating plan(s) to identify guests that may have been in close contact with each other and to assist NHS Test and Trace where necessary.
- As there is no longer the legal requirement to collect details, it is not worth the risk of keeping pen and paper records. They are difficult to store and dispose of securely which can lead to a breach of GDPR laws and significant fines.
Fostering an Atmosphere of Respect
Just as some more vulnerable guests may not yet be ready to mix with others, wedding businesses servicing a high-number of weddings over the coming months may need to put extra mitigations in place to protect key people in their business.
It’s important that others respect those choices, even if they are no longer legal requirements.
- Encourage open communication between staff, couples and guests to ensure that those who would prefer to take additional measures can do so.
- Face coverings, maintaining social distancing and avoiding physical contact are all examples of such measures which someone might take to reduce risk.
- Encourage others to respect these decisions, so you can help everyone in attendance make the wedding as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Wedding venue staff and wedding suppliers have a duty of care to their staff and clients to reduce risks. They are legally obliged to take any reasonable steps to reduce the risk of Covid. These steps will be different for every business and should be respected, regardless of your own attitude and approach to risk.