What Are The Rules On Weddings In The UK?
The latest guidelines for weddings and gatherings during the Coronavirus pandemic, from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We’ll update this feature as and when things change, as the measures in place are subject to periodic review.
Latest: 14/10/2020 – Northern Ireland has announced a four-week long “Circuit Breaker” to curb the spread of COVID-19. From Friday 16th October, Weddings will be reduced to 25 people for both ceremony and reception. From Monday 19th October, wedding receptions will not be allowed to take place. Learn more about this and other restrictions in the Northern Irish Executive’s recent press release.
View the rules relating to weddings in:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in charge of England’s COVID Policy
The policy on weddings in England is that ‘COVID-Secure’ ceremonies and receptions can go ahead with a 15 person limit. The introduction of a 3 tier system to curb the spread in areas with rising cases only affects weddings if they fall into a “Very High” area. Then, wedding receptions are prohibited.
The government has highlighted several factors that determine whether a wedding ceremony is COVID-Secure. These include guidance on the following:
- The marriage ceremony or civil partnership formation
- Singing, chanting and the use of musical instruments
- Social distancing measures
- Washing/ablution rituals
- Handling objects and communal resources
- Post-ceremony receptions
Ensuring your wedding ceremony and reception are COVID secure helps to keep your loved ones safe as well as the staff at the venue and any other people who are working at your event. COVID safety is imperative, this is enforceable by law, and any venue or organiser of an event that breaks these rules and regulations will be subject to substantial fines.
The policy on gatherings in England accounts for groups meeting both indoors and outdoors. 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.
Outdoor gatherings are less restricted, although the guidance still recommends social distancing measures are adhered to. Those meeting socially outdoors must do so in groups of no more than 6 people from different households. Groups of more than 6 from the same household or support bubble may still gather. Remember, if your area is in COVID alert tiers 2 or 3, the rules on gatherings will differ from the rest of the country.
‘Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups provided they comply with the law. This can include weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals’
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is in charge of Scotland’s COVID Policy
The policy on weddings in Scotland is stricter than the one for those in England. Scotland has entered ‘Phase 3’ of its roadmap, in which it allows wedding ceremonies of up to 20 people to go ahead, again adhering to COVID-Secure guidelines. The responsibility of ensuring that these measures are implemented correctly belongs to the venue/business hosting the event. Included in that limit of 20 are the couple, as well as guests and any staff who are not employed by the venue, such as a photographer or musicians. It does not include the celebrant.
The government is also recommending that couples explore the possibility of livestreaming and other remote attendance options with their venue. The hope is that this can help to protect vulnerable guests, for example, those who are shielding. If the couple does hire someone for this, that person will also count towards the maximum attendance total.
As per the official government guidance, up to 20 people can attend a wedding reception taking place in hospitality premises, such as a hotel. This number includes the couple, guests and third-party suppliers (such as a photographer), but does not include venue staff or third-party catering staff. The venue must be able to safely accommodate those attending with physical distancing in place.
‘For the purposes of a marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration, the number of attendees should ideally be kept to a minimum as far as possible. This will lower the risk of spreading the virus. However, we recognise the importance of marriage and civil partnership in people’s lives and to society.’
Public gatherings inside or outside are still prohibited but the following are amongst the exceptions:
- where a gathering is of people from up to five households (outdoors) or three households (indoors). If someone from one of those households requires a carer, from another household, to assist them for their health and wellbeing, that carer is also permitted to attend
- for a wedding ceremony or civil partnership registration, which can take place outdoors and indoors, such as in a registration office or hospitality venue. We are advising that no more than 20 people (including the couple, the celebrant or registrar, the witnesses and guests) should attend. This applies only to ceremonies and registrations– other gatherings associated with them, such as wedding receptions, are still subject to the rules that apply set out above for all other indoor and outdoor gatherings
- To attend a place of worship, though numbers should be limited to ensure physical distancing of 2 metres can be adhered to at all times
From the 2nd of November, Scotland will introduce a 5 tier system. In Level 0, weddings of up to 50 (both ceremony and reception) can take place. In Levels 2, 3 and 4, weddings of up to 20 are permitted (again both ceremony and reception. However, in Level 4, the highest tier, weddings will be strictly restricted. This will mean only ceremonies can take place with no more than 5 people (6 where an interpreter is required).
First Minister Mark Drakeford is in charge of Wales’ COVID Policy
Latest: 19/10/2020 – Mark Drakeford, the First Minister for Wales, has announced that the country will go into a “firebreak” lockdown from 18:00 Friday 23rd October 2020. Non-essential shops are being asked to close and places of worship will be closed for normal services, except for funerals and wedding ceremonies. Gatherings people not in a single household (both indoors and outdoors) will be banned.
Wales’ policy on weddings has followed a similar pattern to that of England and Scotland, in that the gradual easing on restrictions is ongoing, following a total ban during lockdown. At present, ceremonies can go ahead, up to a maximum number of 30. The permitted numbers will vary depending on an assessment conducted by the venue, working out their capacity and the available space to allow different households to maintain 2m social distancing.
Licensed wedding venues are allowed to host events, provided they adhere to the protocols which are in place. Register Offices and places of worship have been allowed to host wedding ceremonies for longer than these venues, and continue to be so, however it is up to the individual place of worship to decide whether they wish to open for this purpose.
Of course, if you have symptoms or are supposed to be self-isolating, you cannot attend weddings. Those allowed to attend include:
- Those who are organising the event or are a participant in the ceremony.
- Those who have been invited to the event
- Anyone who is a carer for someone allowed to attend
- Those attending in order to raise a lawful impediment to the marriage or civil partnership. (This ensures the ceremony is compliant with relevant law)
‘Those who are part of an extremely vulnerable or shielding group can attend if they choose to do so but should take additional precautions as directed by those managing the venue’
The above resource also includes guidelines on singing and chanting, musical accompaniment, hygiene and food and drink during ceremonies, in a similar fashion to the guidance offered for England.
As for receptions, the current rules allow for COVID-19 safe wedding receptions to take place for up to 30 people. This applies to both outdoor and indoor receptions at the current time. It is allowed to conduct a reception at a venue which has not held the wedding ceremony itself. However, both the reception and the ceremony must take place on the same day.
Gatherings of up to 30 people are allowed, as long as social (or ‘physical’) distancing is observed between members of different households. Gathering indoors is prohibited at present, except for in the very select circumstances which include:
- To attend marriage or civil partnership ceremonies, if invited
- To attend a place of worship
- A reception for up to 30 people can take place outdoors or indoors.
Anyone gathering for these purposes is being urged to maintain social distancing, observe recommended hygiene practices and wear face coverings where appropriate.
First Minister Arlene Foster is in charge of Northern Ireland’s COVID Policy (image credit: Evening Standard)
On October 14th, the Northern Ireland government announced that wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships would be limited to 25 people with no receptions from 19 October. Venues providing the post-ceremony or partnership celebration this weekend may remain open for this purpose but may not provide other services for people who are not part of the wedding or partnership party and this will be limited to 25.
Since September 22nd, households are no longer allowed to mix indoors in private homes. Gatherings indoors or outdoors, not in private dwellings, of up to 15 people are permitted. Face coverings are highly recommended, and it is being made clear that outdoor gatherings are still preferable. Household “bubbling” is being limited to 10 people from 2 households from Friday 16th October.
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