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. The Government websites are the best place for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.
Latest: 7th August – Most Covid-19 regulations are lifted in Wales. This removes the legal limit on how many people can meet or attend a wedding. However, the rules on face coverings in indoor public places remains with the exception of hospitality venues and all venues open to the public must carry out a coronavirus risk assessment.
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 in the UK?
Here is what we know about weddings in each UK nation:
- Northern Ireland’s guidelines state that marriages and civil partnership ceremonies are not subject to specific number limits. The number of permitted attendees depends on the Covid-safe capacity of the venue, which is determined by a risk assessment. As of May 24th, receptions are now allowed to take place. Again, the maximum permitted numbers depends on the venue’s Covid-safe capacity. The updated rules also state that:
- Other than the ‘top table’ all tables are restricted to a maximum of 10. Children under 12 are excluded from table numbers.
- Dancing is not permitted, the only exception to this is the couple’s ‘first dance’. Live music is not permitted, and ambient music must be at a level that permits normal conversation.
- A person responsible for a hospitality business must take reasonable measures to ensure that social distancing measures are maintained at all times to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
- Face coverings must be worn if you leave your table (to access toilet facilities/in public areas), unless exempt.
- In Wales, as of the 7th August, guest numbers at weddings are no longer restricted. This is part of the lifting of almost all covid restrictions. Read more.
- In England, wedding ceremonies have no guest limit from July 19th. Anyone working is not included in these numbers. A reception following the event will be permitted indoors at COVID-secure venues, or outdoors, including private gardens. Read the official government guidance for more information.
- In Scotland, all of the country is in COVID protection level 0 from July 19th. Under this tier, Up to 200 people can attend weddings and funerals. This limit is set to be removed on the 9th of August. See our guide to the Scottish tier system for more information.
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.
- England – From July 19th, there are no limits on how many people can meet and the 1m-plus guidance has been removed.
- Scotland – From July 19th, all of Scotland is in Level 0, meaning that you will be able meet in groups of up to 8 people from 4 different households in private homes, 10 people from 4 households in indoor public settings, or 15 people from 15 different households outdoors. For more information, read our guide to Scotland’s tier system.
- Wales – From August 7th, Wales is in Alert Level 0, which means that the legal limits on numbers of people who can gather have been removed. Face coverings are still required in most indoor settings with the exception of hospitality venues.
- Northern Ireland – In Northern Ireland, in public settings, up to 500 people can now gather outdoors, and indoor gatherings are limited only by the venue’s Covid-safe capacity. The restrictions for private settings such as gardens or homes are still tighter, with up to 6 people or two households able to meet in a private home and up to 15 people or three households able to meet in a private garden.
Will any social events or gatherings of more than six people be allowed?
During lockdown and other COVID-restrictions across the UK, weddings and funerals are one of the main exemptions for gathering over the usual limit. Please ensure you are following your national and local restrictions when planning an event or gathering.
On July 19th, Step 4 was introduced, so all legal restrictions on the number of people attending a wedding have been lifted.
Read our article on Weddings After Lockdown in 2021 which links to the wedding guidance for each UK country and summarises what we currently know about each UK nation’s unlocking plans and what they mean for weddings.
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. Others, including Westminster Registrars, have already made their buildings fully COVID-compliant.
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.
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 in England and Wales, they will arrange a beautiful, symbolic ceremony and you can have the legally binding ceremony as soon as possible after.
Please note, always check with your registrar for the most up-to-date information about giving notice of marriage and having your ceremony during this time.
Image by Raj Passy Photography courtesy of Sonal Dave
Do I need to give Notice of Marriage again if it has expired?
If you have had to 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.
The Church of England was one of the first to restrict weddings to their legal limit (the vicar, couple and two witnesses) back in March 2020. However, please check with your registrar or vicar for the most up-to-date information in your area on whether weddings are allowed in places of worship under current restrictions.
Similarly to the Notice of Marriage, you will need to have your Banns read prior to being married. If your church is closed and you cannot attend services, you may need to apply for a Special Marriage Licence from the Archbishop. This is only relevant if your Banns can’t be read at your church in time for your wedding or if you haven’t reached the habitual attendance requirements.
In England, receptions and celebrations no longer have a guest limit, either indoors at a covid-safe venue, or outdoors including private gardens. You can find more information about what is and isn’t allowed at a reception here. To see when they may be allowed again in other areas of the UK, please see our article on Weddings After Lockdown in 2021 which summarises what we currently know and links to the official guidance.
Image by Samuel George Photography from Real Wedding of Faye and James
What happens if lockdowns or local restrictions affect my wedding?
All will depend on the level of lockdown within the 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 celebration.
What is the average number of people who attend a wedding in the UK?
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.
For some communities in the UK, the average number of guests attending a wedding is vastly different to this average, so there cannot be a “one size fits all” solution when it comes to restarting weddings post-pandemic. Below we have included a few examples.
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.
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 your Asian wedding during the pandemic, here are some key considerations for you.
Image by Gagan Photography from Komal and Rajan’s Real Wedding.
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 travelling abroad to celebrate their union, 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 destination weddings will largely be put on hold until the vaccine is widely available across the globe. Restrictions on numbers attending will be dependent on that country’s current regulations.
It is expected that due to COVID restrictions causing so much disruption to destination wedding plans, many couples will move their wedding back to the UK, taking advantage of some of our fabulous staycation destinations.
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 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, extending the space available does not mean that more than the restricted number of people can attend the wedding, it will just mean enhancing the venue’s socially distanced capacity to help ensure the venue is COVID secure.
Can you have more wedding guests if you use a marquee?
Installing a marquee does not mean that you can have more than the government-imposed limit for your wedding. However, it will extend the space available for socially distanced capacity and therefore will be able to accommodate social distancing measures. This could mean that you will be able to reach the upper limit of guest numbers for your wedding if your venue is too small to accommodate.
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.
Can I have a marquee wedding at home?
Please check your UK Nations latest government guidance as weddings at home may be restricted by the gathering limitations.
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 guest 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 if they can. 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, especially while many international borders remain closed and guest number restrictions are in place.
- 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
- Live stream the wedding so they can be a part of the most important moments.
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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