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 Update – 12th April: The ceremonies guidance for England has been updated to state wedding receptions in private gardens for up to 30 people can take place from Step 3 (provisionally 17th May). We are still awaiting the full reception guidance to be updated for Steps 3 and 4. Read our advice for planning your covid-safe wedding in a private garden.
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 limited to 25 people. This number includes children under 12 and the officiant. 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. Wedding venues in Wales reopened for ceremonies on the 1st of March, in line with these rules. The government announced outdoor receptions will be able to recommence for up to 30 from April 26th.
- In England, wedding ceremonies of up to 15 people are now allowed. Anyone working is not included in these numbers. A reception following the event is permitted for up to 15 people outdoors in COVID-secure venues. Read the official government guidance for more information.
- For Scotland, during the national lockdown wedding ceremonies may go ahead but will be limited to a maximum of 5 people (6 if an interpreter is required). 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.
- England – Up to 6 people or 2 households can meet outside.
- Scotland – From January 5th, mainland Scotland is in lockdown, so you must stay at home except where absolutely necessary.
- Wales – 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.
- Northern Ireland – In Northern Ireland, households are not allowed to mix indoors in private homes. Certain exemptions apply and these can be found here.
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.
Currently, England is in step 2 of the government’s four steps to easing England’s lockdown. So, wedding ceremonies of up to 15 people in all circumstances are now allowed. Anyone working is not included in these numbers. An outdoor reception of 15 people following the event is now permitted.
The Prime Minister has outlined the government’s roadmap for moving out of the national lockdown in England. The roadmap for England consists of four different steps, with each step only to be introduced if it meets certain requirements based on the data. From 12th April, the number of people able to attend weddings has risen to 15. Then, from 17th May, up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings. Finally, from 21st June, it is hoped that all restrictions on the number of people attending a wedding will be lifted.
Read our article on weddings post-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 do bear in mind, celebrant ceremonies may be restricted to the gathering guidelines depending on where you are based.
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 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 can take place outside with up to 15 people. This should be in the form of a sit-down meal. To see when they may be allowed again in other areas of the UK, please see our article on weddings post-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. Large occasions such as Asian weddings will not be permitted until we are in the final steps of exiting lockdown (currently for England this is anticipated to be the 21st June).
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?
For those planning on marrying abroad, it is likely your plans will be affected until at least the 17th May 2021 (England) when the government is currently due to review its policy on international travel. 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.
Also, wedding events should only take place in COVID-secure venues at this time. So, 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 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 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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