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.
Latest Updates (04/01/21)
SCOTLAND: Scotland will go into a level 4 national lockdown from January 5th 2020 at midnight. Wedding ceremonies and civil partnership registrations can take place with a maximum capacity of 5 people (including the couple, the witnesses and the person conducting the ceremony, 6 if an interpreter is required), provided the venue’s capacity allows for 2 metre physical distancing. More information about what is and is not allowed during Scotland’s National Lockdown can be found here.
ENGLAND: The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced another lockdown for England due to the “frustrating and alarming” speed of spread for the new variant of Covid-19. The lockdown will be imposed from midnight tonight and become law from Wednesday. It is unknown as to how long the lockdown will be in place for at this tough level, however, the PM expressed an aim for a gradual lifting of the restrictions in early to mid-March. The message that you must stay at home has been renewed and those in the extremely vulnerable category are being asked to shield again. The country returns to weddings in exceptional circumstances (or “Deathbed Weddings”) only.
RECENT NEWS: Boris Johnson acknowledges the wedding industry and reassures couples and businesses about weddings in the Spring and Summer of 2021.
“If you’re thinking about the summer, I think you’ll be alright… it is my strong hope and belief that by the summer, one way or the other, whether delivered by vaccination (which I hope will be delivered by Easter) or by lateral flow testing, it will be a different world.” – Boris Johnson
Watch the video with Lara’s question and the Prime Minister’s answer below:
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 partnerships ceremonies are limited to 25 people. This number includes children under 12 and the celebrant. Receptions are not permitted.
- 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. Under the current Alert Level 4, receptions must not take place.
- In England, weddings in England must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not included but should only take place in exceptional circumstances. Prior to this, weddings could go ahead again with up to 15 people present for ceremonies in tiers 1, 2 and 3. Receptions were only permitted in tiers 1 and 2. Read more about Weddings and England’s 4-tier system.
- For Scotland, during the national lockdown wedding ceremonies may go ahead but will be limited to a maximum of 5 (or 6 if an interpreter is required) people. Prior to this, the number of people who could attend a wedding was dependent on which protective level you and your venue reside in, the number ranged from 15 – 50. See Scotland’s 5 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.
From January 6th, England is in lockdown, so you must stay at home except where absolutely necessary.
From January 5th, mainland Scotland is in lockdown, so you must stay at home except where absolutely necessary.
Wales is currently at Alert Level 4, so you are advised to stay at home and only meet the people you live with or your support bubble indoors or outdoors
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 January 4th, the government announced that England would be entering a lockdown on January 6th. So, weddings are allowed with strict limits on attendance, and must only take place in COVID-19 secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances. Weddings must only take place with up to 6 people but anyone working is not included in this number. However, weddings should only take place in exceptional circumstances.
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. 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 able to perform the ceremony within current guidelines.
Please note, the above information may be affected by national lockdown restrictions, always check with your registrar for the most up-to-date information about giving notice of marriage during this time.
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.
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 a Sunday service, 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.
Due to lockdown in England, receptions are currently not permitted. Receptions are also not currently allowed in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
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 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 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, 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?
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 to be able to accommodate social distancing measures and mean that you can 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. 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.
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. 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 beginning of 2021.
- 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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