Coronavirus: Latest Government Guidelines for Weddings in England
Here, we have summarised the most important details of the latest government guidelines for weddings and civil ceremonies in England during COVID-19.
England is currently in lockdown, although the government plans to lift restrictions on December the 2nd. Weddings are not permitted at all during the lockdown in England unless in the very exceptional circumstances of a deathbed wedding.
England will return to the three tier system when the lockdown is over. Further detail has arrived on which parts of the country will go into which of the three tiers of. You can see which tier each area is in here.
The government has published its COVID-19 Winter Plan, which outlines the new restrictions. 15 people will be able to attend a wedding in all tiers, but weddings in tier 3 will not be allowed to have a reception following the ceremony. Read our summary of the 3 tier system updates here.
A summary of the current government guidance
England is currently under lockdown restrictions, which are set to be lifted on December the 2nd. Weddings are not permitted at all during the lockdown in England unless in the very exceptional circumstances of a deathbed wedding.
The government announcement on the 26th of November outlined the new restrictions, as well as which tier each region of the country would be placed in. It states that 15 people will be able to attend a wedding in all tiers, but weddings in tier 3 will not be allowed to have a reception following the ceremony. Read our summary of the 3 tier system updates here.
A summary of the previous guidance
Before the lockdown, these were the the rules for weddings in England. We can expect that some of these rules may carry over.
On September 22nd, the government announced that both wedding ceremonies and receptions would be limited to 15 people as part of a stricter new set of guidelines.
Ceremonies will be strongly advised to go ahead only where they can be done in a COVID-19 secure environment, following government COVID-secure ceremony guidelines. The COVID-secure reception guidelines set out how this can be done safely within social distancing guidelines, to minimise the risk of exposure to infection for everyone.
Venues are under no obligation to open. Officiants need to be happy that it is safe to proceed at that venue.
When weddings resume, no more than 15 people should attend and there should be enough space for a social distancing of 2 metres, or 1 metre with risk mitigation where 2 metres isn’t viable. This maximum number includes all those at the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses, and guests. Anyone working on the day does not count as part of the limit. The same limits apply to the ceremony as to the reception.
A venue may decide that their licensed spaces are not appropriate to fit 15 people with social distancing measures in place. This may mean your venue will set a lower number that they feel is safe for all.
Before lockdown, the government reduced the number of people who can gather in private homes in England to 6 people. This is both for indoor and outdoor gatherings and can be enforced by police through a fining system. The fines will start at £100 and double for each further offense to a maximum of £3200. Under lockdown, no indoor gatherings are permitted, and outdoor gatherings are limited to one person from outside your ‘bubble’.
You also need to take into consideration any local lockdown restrictions that may affect where you live or where your venue is located.
Guidance for holding wedding receptions for 15 in England
The government published guidance for COVID-secure receptions, which includes the following measures:
- Receptions can only take place at COVID-secure venues. They can’t take place in private houses or gardens, for example in a marquee.
- Numbers will be limited by the venue size, allowing for social distancing measures. There can be a maximum of 15 including the bride and groom, children and any suppliers, but not including the venue staff or catering staff.
- All attendees, especially people from separate households, should follow social distancing guidelines. Coordinate your venue’s available space and your guest list to ensure 2 metre spacing is possible.
- Guests and suppliers/venue staff are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings where social distancing may be difficult and where they come into contact with people they do not normally meet.
- Windows and doors should be open to allow maximum air circulation. Air conditioning, with recirculated air, is discouraged.
- Marquees in the grounds of wedding venues should have sides rolled up to maximise ventilation, including during set up and clearing away.
- Venue managers should record the names and contact details of all persons visiting the venues and keep a written record for at least 21 days. Our Track and Trace system is an ideal solution for this.
- Wherever possible staff should serve all food and drinks to minimise customer self-service, and guests should remain seated.
- Seating arrangements should follow social distancing guidance, meaning that at most two households (including any support bubbles) are seated together and social distancing is maintained between these groups. Outdoor table service is also preferable.
- Dancing should not be permitted.
- Those activities that are watched by attendees, such as cake cutting, should take place with social distancing being maintained at all times and the number of guests involved limited wherever possible, with people remaining in their households.
- Activities that involve objects being thrown such as confetti or bouquet toss, or passed from person to person, should be avoided to reduce the likelihood of transmission.
- For live music or other acts, outdoor performances are always preferable and should be within performing arts guidelines. Where any indoor performances are planned they should be limited in size, implement strict social distancing rules, only take place where high rates of air flow can be maintained, should use amplification systems to create volume rather than natural voices and should discourage vocal responses or audiences joining in. A solo or small number of performers is preferable and all should be socially distanced. Those planning the wedding should consider how the performers will impact the total size of the wedding party so that it doesn’t exceed 15.
Guidance for holding wedding ceremonies for 15 in England
The government’s advice “strongly encourages” the following measures:
- Face coverings are required, with the exception of the couple and the officiants.
- Social distancing should be observed.
- Ceremonies should be kept as short as possible and limited to what is required to make your marriage 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. If absolutely required, 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, people from different households can maintain social distancing between one another. Where contact is required, precautions should be put in place to minimise contact and reduce the timeframe.
- 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.
- 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.
Track and Trace
There is now a requirement that venues should keep an accurate, temporary record of visitors for 21 days. This should cover all guests and suppliers attending the wedding venue on the day or in connection with the wedding.
Our Track and Trace fully complies with the government requirements, is 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. Anyone responsible for people attending a wedding can use this system. Please encourage your venue to use it in order to keep your guests and their data secure.
Remote participation at your venue
Unfortunately, individuals who are required to self-isolate cannot attend the ceremony. Also, 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 ease.
For the latest coronavirus news, read our latest updates.
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