Coronavirus: Current News on Weddings in the UK
Here we have a summary of all the current regulations and guidance for weddings in the UK. We have noted the differences between each nation and the latest update is always posted near the top and dated. This article is regularly being updated as the latest news comes in.
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Latest: 29/10/2020 – Sturgeon announces which areas of Scotland will enter which tier. Find out more in our article dedicated to weddings and Scotlands 5 tier system.
SCOTLAND: Nicola Sturgeon has announced that Scotland will be introducing a new 5-tier system to prevent the need for a full, national lockdown. This system will come into force from 2nd November.
Weddings are considered under the Life Events section in Scotland’s Strategic Framework document (screenshot below). At Level 0, ceremonies and receptions are permitted with up to 50 people in attendance. Levels 1, 2 and 3 restricted wedding ceremonies and receptions to a maximum of 20 people, and in Level 4 (closest to full lockdown) only ceremonies can go ahead with up to 5 people (6 where an interpreter is permitted).
WALES: The Welsh “Firebreak” lockdown will came into force at 6pm on 23rd October 2020. During this time, wedding receptions are not permitted but the ceremonies can go ahead in registry offices and places of worship. More information can be found in the Welsh Government’s FAQs about the short lockdown.
England’s 3 tier system came into force Wednesday 14th October 2020. Weddings within areas identified as Tiers 1 and 2 are still able to take place (both ceremony and reception) under the current restrictions of 15 people. If you are in a Tier 3 area, wedding ceremonies can still go ahead, but receptions are prohibited. Read more about the 3 tier system and weddings.
This article answers the following questions:
- What are the likely numbers that will be allowed for weddings?
- What are the different regulations across the UK?
- Will numbers be restricted for the wedding reception?
- How soon will Registrars be doing weddings?
- When will church weddings be able to go ahead?
Are weddings currently allowed anywhere in the UK?
Here is what we know about weddings so far in the UK by country:
- Northern Ireland couples are allowed to marry indoors. 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.
- Wales’ government guidelines say that the size of the wedding will depend on the venue’s capacity and how many people they can safely accommodate in the room. Receptions in Wales can be indoors or outdoors for up to 30 guests. From Friday 23rd October at 18:00, only wedding ceremonies will be permitted in Wales for the period of the “firebreak” lockdown. During this time, receptions will be banned and only places of worship and register offices will be allowed to host a wedding ceremony. These ceremonies will be limited by the covid-safe capacity of the venue.
- In England, Boris Johnson announced wedding ceremonies and receptions with a 15-person limit. However, local lockdowns and restrictions may further affect wedding restrictions.
- For Scotland, indoor weddings are allowed to take place with up to 20 people present. Wedding receptions are still subject to social distancing rules, which limit gatherings to three households and up to eight people indoors, and five households and up to 15 people outdoors. Scotland’s 5 tier system will come into place on the 2nd of November.
You also need to take into consideration any local lockdown restrictions that may affect where you live or where your venue is located. Also, check whether your wedding takes place in an area labeled “Medium”, “High” or “Very High”.
Current restrictions on the number of people who can gather differ in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Inevitably this number will help dictate appropriate numbers for weddings, which will need to be within that restriction. However, marriage laws also differ between countries and that has an influence on what is and isn’t currently possible.
How many people can gather in the UK at the moment?
The rules on public gatherings differ for each country within the United Kingdom.
In England, people are able to meet in groups of a maximum of 6 people. This rule is for both indoor and outdoor gatherings but weddings are one of the exemptions where this rule wouldn’t apply. Weddings are currently limited to 15 people. These rules will vary depending on your location’s Covid risk level.
In Scotland, people cannot meet inside private homes. Under 12s are not included in this rule of 6 and social distancing rules still apply. Thankfully, this does not affect the number of people who can gather at a wedding. Check your local regulations and bear in mind the 5 tier system will come into force on the 2nd November.
In Wales, four households are able to join together to form an extended household but the rule of 6 will now apply for indoor gatherings (apart from children under 11 who are exempt from this rule); this means that all 6 people must all belong to the same extended household group when gathering. From Friday 23rd October, during the “firebreak” lockdown, households will be banned from mixing unless a single-person household. These people will be allowed to mix with only one other household.
In Northern Ireland, no more than 6 people from 2 households may gather in a private garden. Children under the age of 12 are exempt. Bubbling has also been limited to 10 people.
Will any social events or gatherings of more than six people be allowed?
Where local restrictions are not in place, gatherings of more than six people will be allowed. Always check your nation and local government guidance before planning these events. Here are the exemptions in England’s Tier 1:
- If your household larger than 6
- If your support bubble is larger than 6 people
- Schools, education and training settings
- Children’s playgroups and youth clubs
- Legal commitments, such as jury duty
- Support groups, such as for addiction or abuse
- Protests and political events (these must be compliant with safety guidelines)
- Playing sport – both professionally and for leisure
- Weddings, funerals and important religious events such as christenings and bar mitzvahs.
If you live in a household of more than six, you can gather in public or private without worrying. However, you will not be able to join with anyone outside of your household while the “rule of 6” is in place. Weddings, funerals and very important or special religious ceremonies can go ahead with up to 15 people attending, in groups of six or less. Post-ceremony celebrations are limited only to weddings or civil partnerships which can have a maximum of 15 people in attendance in England. The “rule of 6” may apply to the number of people who can sit around a table at the reception.
What are the likely numbers that will be allowed for weddings?
On September 22nd, the government announced that weddings and civil partnerships in England will be restricted to 15 people. This limit came into effect on September 28th.
How soon will Registrars be doing weddings?
Although the General Register Office oversees all the UK Registrars, each local authority works independently so there are huge variations in the experiences couples are reporting from one district to the next. Some aren’t expecting to carry out any weddings before later in autumn. Others, including Westminster Registrars, have already made their buildings fully COVID-compliant and are waiting for inspections.
Once it has been confirmed that registry offices are COVID-secure, they will be able to start face to face meetings, including enabling couples to give Notice of Marriage. Remember that they will be doing this alongside their other important work registering births and deaths. Most will be prioritising those weddings due to take place in the next few months and completing as much paperwork as possible electronically before the face to face meeting.
The Government released guidance stating that weddings would be able to take place in approved venues in England as well as places of worship and register offices. This is so that they can easily inspect these buildings to ensure they are all at the same high level of COVID-security and that the registrars, the couple and their guests won’t be put at risk.
If you are wanting to have your wedding in the near future but your registrar has said they will be unavailable to officiate, we recommend speaking to a celebrant. While these ceremonies are not legally binding, they will arrange a beautiful, symbolic ceremony. Please do bear in mind, independent celebrant ceremonies are restricted to gathering guidelines in England and Wales and are not legally-binding ceremonies. Humanist celebrants are ab;e to perform the ceremony within current guidelines.
Do I need to give Notice of Marriage again if it has expired?
If you have had to now postpone your civil ceremony or civil partnership and your Notice has expired, you will need to give Notice of Marriage again and pay the fee of £30 per person a second time.
This needs to be done at least 29 days prior to the marriage ceremony and will expire after 1 year.
Churches were permitted to open for private worship from mid-June. England and Wales have allowed weddings to take place in places of worship but their guest numbers will be restricted by the current regulations. The Church of England was one of the first to restrict weddings to their legal limit (the vicar, couple and two witnesses).
Similarly to the Notice of Marriage, you will need to have your Banns read prior to being married. While churches are largely closed, you may need to apply for a Special Marriage Licence from the Archbishop if your Banns can’t be read at your church or if you haven’t reached the habitual attendance requirements.
Wedding ceremonies and receptions in England are currently limited to 15 people. There will, inevitably, be a number of elements that will be challenging while social distancing measures are in place. This could include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Large gatherings of friends and family from different households, especially if the gathering is indoors
- Some transport options, as vehicles will need to be COVID secure
- Traditional reception lines, as well as hugging and kissing as a greeting to members of other households, will all be on hold
- There may be restrictions on live singers and wind and brass musicians such as saxophonists, to reduce the airborne spread.
- Elderly, vulnerable and overseas guests may not be able to attend
Wedding ceremonies and receptions in England are currently limited to 15 people. Small indoor and outdoor receptions in Wales are allowed (receptions will not be permitted during the “firebreak” lockdown scheduled for 23rd October to 9th November). Any wedding reception must take place in a COVID secure venue. Wedding receptions in Scotland are still subject to social distancing rules, which limit gatherings to three households and up to eight people indoors, and five households and up to 15 people outdoors.
Every UK country has stated that all social distancing guidelines and may have local restrictions in place for certain areas. All of these restrictions must be adhered to when gathering.
What happens if local lockdowns or restrictions affect my wedding?
The government will place restrictions on specific counties or regions if there is a localised outbreak. This will mean that that area will go into another lockdown or have tougher restrictions imposed to stop the outbreak from spreading further, quite possibly at short notice.
This may mean that guests and suppliers from outside that area are unable to attend the wedding or the lockdown may prevent the wedding from going ahead in that area while weddings are permitted in other areas. This will depend on the level of lockdown within the area. For example, in Englang you will be restricted to just a wedding ceremony if you are in a “Very High” or Tier 3 area.
Speak to your suppliers and venue to discuss their contingency plans as this situation could lead to you losing suppliers at the last minute due to restrictions or even having to postpone the wedding in the days prior to the day.
What is a typical sized wedding in the UK overall?
A typical wedding in the UK has 79 guests. Over two-thirds of weddings in the UK are between 50 and 100 day guests. 17% of weddings are over 100 guests. Before the coronavirus pandemic, only 3% of weddings had less than 20 people attending.
What is the typical size of an Asian wedding in the UK?
The average Asian wedding in the UK has approximately 300 guests with some celebrations reaching well over 600 guests. It is anticipated that large occasions such as Asian weddings will not be permitted until we are safely into COVID Alert Levels 1 and 2. Approximately 90% of Asian weddings were postponed at the start of the pandemic but some couples are going ahead with their plans, significantly downsizing their events to fit the restrictions in place now their religious ceremony has been considered in the government guidelines. If you are planning an Asian wedding during the pandemic, here are some key considerations for you.
What is the typical size of a Jewish wedding in the UK?
Jewish weddings tend to be slightly larger than average UK weddings, with 120-180 guests being more typical. Jewish weddings can take place anywhere as long as the Chuppah is present and you are being married beneath it. This means that the wedding can take place at both indoor and outdoor venues.
What is the typical size of a destination wedding?
The size of a destination wedding is completely dependent on the budget of the couple. Some have grand affairs with many friends and family, other couples tend to go for the micro-wedding size of fewer than 20 guests.
With Coronavirus closing borders across the world and causing governments to enforce quarantine restrictions upon arrival, we can anticipate that destination weddings will largely be put on hold until there is a vaccine available. Restrictions on numbers attending will be dependent on that country’s current regulations.
What can venues do to help increase the number of guests that can attend?
Some venues may in usual circumstances be able to accommodate the numbers laid out by the government restrictions; however, when social distancing is in place, this number is significantly reduced in order for the venue to be COVID secure. For example, if the venue’s usual capacity is 40, COVID restrictions may mean they can now only accommodate 10.
Venues can increase the space available for social distancing by installing a marquee, but it will depend on the outdoor space they have available. We know many venues are already investigating the possibility of having marquees installed for an extended period of time to ensure their remaining 2020 and early 2021 weddings are able to accommodate regulations and government limits.
However, this can require planning permission from the local authority and added insurance and electricity costs adding to their overall running costs. For some venues, this change will not be financially viable and their only choice will be to postpone your day.
Remember, weddings in England are limited to 15 people for a ceremony and a reception (classed as a sit-down meal). Extending the space available does not mean that more than this number of people can attend the wedding, it will just mean more space for social distancing restrictions and help ensure the venue is COVID secure.
Can you have more wedding guests if you use a marquee?
Marquees give a lot more flexibility as they can be expanded to accommodate additional guests, as long as you have space. Remember to leave enough space for a larger catering tent to allow for social distancing for the caterers and waiters. You’ll need to establish who is responsible for ensuring the correct risk assessments are carried out and followed; if your marquee is part of a larger venue, the venue staff will probably take responsibility. Otherwise, it could be your caterers, your wedding planner, or you. It is important to establish that in advance, especially during a time that liability insurance is unlikely to settle claims if someone catches coronavirus as a result of the wrong measures being followed at your wedding.
Again, hiring a marquee does not mean that your wedding can have more than the government-imposed limit, it simply means there will be more space for social distancing and give smaller venues the ability to accommodate the limits whist being COVID-secure. Also, wedding events should only take place in COVID-secure venues at this time, unfortunately, you cannot hire a marquee to have a wedding in a private home or garden. Any celebrations taking place in private homes or gardens are limited to your usual gathering restrictions (i.e. Rule of 6).
Are we responsible for working out guest numbers for a village hall or community centre wedding venue?
If you have hired a venue, you may be responsible for the risk assessments, ensuring safe practices are followed and calculating how many guests can be invited. However, your venue should be able to help you with this.
What’s the best way to reduce our guest list?
You will have spent a long time working out who to invite and everyone is on your guest list for a good reason. So, it is not easy to think about how to reduce the list now, especially if you have already sent out invitations.
Remember that everyone you invited cares about you and won’t want you to be worrying unnecessarily. You have shown them how much you care by inviting them in the first place. They will understand the regulations and that you have had to reduce your numbers but will know how much you wanted them to be there.
Start by contacting guests who are overseas, vulnerable or shielding. Also, it is totally acceptable to ask families with small children to leave their children at home. Once you have reduced the list as much as you can, sit down with each other to discuss who really needs to be there, just as you did to put together your original list.
How can we involve our uninvited wedding guests?
Think of ways that you can involve the guests that should have been there on the day, whether they can’t attend due to travel or shielding, or had to be removed from the guest list. Attending events remotely will be a common occurrence for the rest of 2020.
- Invite them to watch a live stream. We can offer this service for one-time use at £35 in partnership with Zoom
- Share your order of service with them
- Let them know the menu so they can cook and eat the same meal from home
- Order slices of cake or cupcakes to send your uninvited guests a treat to arrive on the wedding day
- Have a professional photographer and if possible a professional videographer there on the day to share the moments with missing guests afterward.
A wedding is about two people. It is great you’ll be able to have others there to celebrate with you, but don’t let worries over who can’t be there spoil the day for either of you.
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