Coronavirus: Current News on Weddings in the UK
We have all been awaiting the government’s latest announcement on when we can celebrate marriage again. In Northern Ireland, outdoor weddings with up to 10 people attending can now take place. In Wales, small weddings can take place as long as everyone has socially distanced and no large celebrations occur. In Scotland, weddings will be allowed from the 29th of June with minimal witnesses and for England, weddings are only going to be able to take place from the 4th of July.
This article is regularly being updated as new news comes in.
Latest (8/7/2020): Weddings and civil partnerships in Wales have been given government guidelines. The update says that the size of the wedding will also depend on the venue’s capacity and how many people they can safely accommodate in the room. Large and traditional receptions are still on hold, but the Welsh government has acknowledged that couples will be eager to celebrate. This can be done as long as it is a celebration outside and no more than 2 households attend and are socially distanced.
This article answers the following questions:
- What are the likely numbers that will be allowed for weddings?
- How soon will Registrars be doing weddings?
- When will church weddings be able to go ahead?
- Can I postpone or cancel if my venue can’t host the number of guests I invited?
- Should I get a part refund from my venue if I can only invite half my guests?
- Should I get a part refund from my caterers if I’ve reduced my guest list?
Are weddings currently allowed anywhere in the UK?
Here is what we know about weddings so far in the UK by country:
- Northern Ireland were the first to announce weddings will take place from the 8th of June. Events will take place outdoors and there will be no more than 10 people in attendance. Couples will soon be allowed to marry indoors with gathering of up to 30 people outdoors now also approved.
- Wales is allowing wedding ceremonies to take place in places of worship, registry office, and approved venues, the number of people who can attend will be dependant on the venue’s capacity and the ability to social distance within a room. No large celebrations are allowed to take place after.
- In England, Boris Johnson announced that on the 4th of July that services will be able to take place in places of worship, including weddings and civil partnerships of up to 30 people. This exception is for the ceremony only and the government have been clear that any reception or celebration must adhere to current guidelines for social gathering.
- For Scotland, weddings were allowed to take place outdoors from the 29th of June. There should be minimal attendees to the ceremony which likely means the couple, officiant and minimum required witnesses will be able to attend.
Why are the regulations different in different parts of the UK?
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.
In order for weddings to be legally recognised in Wales and England, they must happen in a permanent structure that has been approved for marriage, although there is speculation that this is about to change. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, you can be legally married outdoors, hence their restrictions to weddings being outdoor events only.
Non-essential shops such as bridal boutiques, menswear, jewellers and florists opened in England from 15th June and in Wales from 22nd June, making wedding planning a little easier.
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, only 6 people are allowed to gather together in an outdoor space and can be from different households. They must observe social distancing and are advised to keep a two-metre distance between those in different households. From the 4th of July, two households of any size will be allowed to meet inside and outside (including staying over) as long as social distancing is adhered to.
In Scotland, 8 people can gather as long as no more than 2 households are involved and the gathering is outdoors following social distancing guidelines.
In Wales, two households may gather in an outdoor space as long as they follow the social distancing recommendations in place. The previous 5 mile travel restriction has now been lifted. Wales has also introduced an extended household rule, where two households may form a single household, meaning social distancing will no longer be needed between this group.
In Northern Ireland, up to 30 people may gather outdoors.
What are the likely numbers that will be allowed for weddings?
While there is still some uncertainty at the moment for some areas of the UK as to how many people make up a ‘small wedding’ we can anticipate that it will either be 10 in line with Northern Ireland, or it will be the “minimum viable number”, in line with the rules immediately before lockdown. This is 5 for a church wedding or 6 for a civil ceremony or civil partnership, to include the officiant(s), the couple and two witnesses.
On the 4th of July, when weddings and civil partnerships return in England, ceremonies are restricted to 30 people. The reception afterwards can take place if it adheres to the social distancing guidelines: no more than 6 people from different households socially distanced outside or two households of any size meeting inside or outside.
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 this week.
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. They have a significant backlog of births needing to be registered as these also require a face to face meeting. Some registrars will be shielding or self-isolating. There is also a requirement for them to work from home if possible and minimise their time in their offices. 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.
We can anticipate that they will only be able to offer a limited number of weddings during July, if any. This will again vary from one district to another. On the 29th of June, 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. That way you can celebrate the wedding now and complete the legalities later.
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.
When will church weddings be able to go ahead?
For weddings to be able to take place in church, two things need to happen. Firstly, the government needs to permit gatherings of reasonable numbers indoors. The actual size of wedding and the number of guests you can invite may depend on the size of the church and the ability of guests to observe social distancing. Churches are permitted to open for private worship from mid-June. At the moment Engand and Wales have allowed weddings to take place in places of worship. For Wales, small ceremonies are permitted from the 22nd of June and in England, weddings of up to 30 people can take place from the 4th of July inside a church or other place of worship.
The Church of England was one of the first to restrict weddings to their legal limit (the vicar, couple and two witnesses).
Do I still need to have my Banns read for a church wedding?
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.
Is there anything we won’t be able to do under the new restrictions?
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. We know that no singing will be permitted as part of a wedding ceremony in England for the time being.
- Dance floors may be discouraged, especially indoors and where space is limited
- Elderly, vulnerable and overseas guests may not be able to attend
- “Vertical drinking” in a bar area might not be permitted, with guests served at their tables instead.
Will numbers be restricted for the wedding reception?
Currently, no large wedding receptions are permitted. Every UK country has stated that all social distancing guidelines must be adhered to when gathering. So, a small wedding reception or celebration can happen as long as gatherings are restricted to no more than what each country has specified. For example, a celebration of 6 people outside adhering to social distancing would be permitted in England.
The hope is that the government will restrict numbers based on the total venue capacity in the near future, meaning that if a venue can hold 200 guests and the capacity is restricted to 50%, 100 guests will be allowed to attend. This number would include suppliers such as venue staff, caterers, the wedding planner and photographer. Although this may be restrictive, most venues would like clear guidance from the government on permitted safe numbers.
However, it is more likely that the government will leave it to the venue to decide how many guests can attend while still being able to follow social distancing rules. There is also a possibility that an upper limit number will be given to gatherings, not matter the venue capacity, this number will need to be acknowledged.
What happens if regional restrictions affect my wedding?
We anticipate that 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 to stop the outbreak 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 going ahead in that area while weddings are permitted in other areas.
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 Indian wedding in the UK?
The average Indian wedding in the UK is approximately 400 guests, with some celebrations reaching over 600 guests. It is anticipated that large occasions such as Indian weddings will not be permitted until we are safely into COVID Alert Levels 1 and 2.
While this is disappointing, many venues that host large, Indian weddings will have the capacity to accommodate these larger events. So, if you have chosen a venue that can accommodate 500 and the government restricts gathering based on percentage capacity; you may still be able to have your Big Fat Indian Wedding, just with a slightly smaller guest list.
However, it is important to note that there is the possibility that the government will place an upper limit on the size of gatherings which could pose a second hurdle for this. A final hurdle can be seen in the form of overseas guests being unable to make the trip or unable to accommodate for the quarantine time needed when they arrive in the country.
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.
Jewish weddings require a minimum of 5 people: the Rabbi, the couple and two witnesses who are required to read and sign the ketubah.
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?
Venues can increase the space available 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 2020 weddings are able to accommodate regulations. 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.
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.
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.
Can I postpone or cancel if my venue can’t host the number of guests I invited?
Some venue contracts may specify the total number of guests you can have. The exact wording will dictate whether you would have any grounds to ask for a refund if they can no longer offer that number. If so, it is more likely that couples will use this as a negotiation point in order to postpone their wedding if it is going to be too small to be viable, rather than to request a refund.
Remember, it isn’t the venue’s fault (nor your’s!) that there is a pandemic, so it is best to work together to find a solution that works for you both.
Should I get a part refund from my venue if I can only invite half my guests?
If you have hired a venue for the day, it is the use of the venue, the facilities and the date that you have booked. Most couples would not expect the venue to refund anything; they have still provided everything as agreed and there is no saving to them from your reduced guest numbers.
If your venue is also doing the catering it may be slightly different as they may have had some savings on the cost of ingredients and the hire of linen, crockery, cutlery and chairs. Instead of offering refunds where there has been a saving, which will only be if there is a very significant reduction in guest numbers, venues are offering upgrades such as drinks packages and extended hire times, giving the remaining guests an even better experience.
Should I get a part refund from my caterers if I’ve reduced my guest list?
There has to be a large decrease in the number of guests for there to be any savings for the caterers as most of their costs are in staff and equipment, not ingredients, and those won’t change significantly if there are less guests. Caterers will also have higher costs in complying with all the new regulations and will be working hard to avoid passing these costs on to their couples. If you feel that you are paying more than you should be for your reduced numbers, talk to your caterers about whether they can upgrade your menu or add something else to your package, rather than asking for a part refund. It is a win-win as you’ll have a more superior package and the caterers won’t lose out.
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. It is likely that they will be delighted that they can give up their place without feeling guilty. You may find there are plenty of other guests who’d be happy to stay at home and reduce their risk too.
It is totally acceptable to ask families with small children to leave their children at home as they’ll find it hardest to observe social distancing from other guests; it is quite likely that the parents will stay at home with them, reducing the guest list further.
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 livestream. Most venues will be able to offer this service to watch on guidesforbrides.co.uk
- 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 afterwards
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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