Coronavirus: Weddings During Social Distancing? Join The Waiting Game…
If your wedding is planned for 2020, it is understandable to be worried about whether it could or should go ahead. We recently heard that the government has set out its plan to return society to business as usual. This will be a slow process. We anticipate that small weddings will be able to legally take place from 1st of June and venues will be able to reopen to a limited capacity from as early as 4th of July 2020. This is completely dependant on the UK’s COVID Alert Level; determined by the R rate and the number of infections.
There is still a lot of speculation currently about whether weddings will be limited, or allowed, but for now it is all just speculation. It is really painful, but we all have to join the waiting game. In the meantime, we’re working hard with venues and suppliers to help them prepare so that weddings will be possible again at the first opportunity. We don’t want anyone to postpone unnecessarily. (Updated 11/5/20).
While we wait for the government briefings to give more clarity on the situation, we’ve answered the difficult questions to help with your decision making process. In order to help guide you through these tough questions, we’ve also created a video. Sit back and watch our video or read our responses to these questions below.
Can my wedding go ahead?
During the current ‘lockdown’, the UK government is preventing any weddings from taking place. This is due to a change on 1st of June 2020.
Weddings were taking place in early March when ‘social distancing’ had already been introduced. There is no reason to think that won’t be the case again when ‘lockdown’ restrictions are eased. Most May and June weddings have already been postponed amid concerns that the lockdown might be extended. With the announcement that social distancing measures will be in place for a considerable time beyond 1st June, couples with weddings later this year, as well as venues and suppliers, are facing a new reality.
Will the actual legal marriage take place?
While we can anticipate that weddings will be able to take place legally again on the 1st of June, we must remember the impact of COVID-19 on registrars and churches. For civil ceremonies and civil partnerships, you will be limited by the availability of registrars as their main priority is registering deaths and births. To get a marriage license you will need to give a registrar your notice to marry at least 29 days before your wedding. It’s important to remember that every registration district works differently; check online to see if yours is taking appointments to give notice by phone, and whether they will be able to carry out your ceremony as planned.
It is unlikely to be any easier to have a statutory marriage in a register office as appointments are very limited and availability is dictated by the availability of the registrars.
For church weddings, you may need to apply for a Special License from the Archbishop if churches are closed and your Banns can’t be read, or you haven’t reached the habitual attendance requirements.
If your legal marriage can’t go ahead, consider using a celebrant for a symbolic ceremony where you exchange rings and vows. Complete the legal formalities when register offices are fully open and have more availability.
Will guests want our wedding to go ahead?
If you have already sent out invitations, you’ve probably noticed that guests have been slow to reply to your RSVP. This doesn’t mean that they don’t intend to come! They are as unsure as you on how to handle the current situation and, like you, are waiting until things become clearer. If they don’t intend to come, they will usually tell you straight away.
If there is one thing that is certain after weeks of lockdown, it is that your family and friends will be delighted to have the opportunity to get together and celebrate!
Will our venue want our wedding to go ahead?
No venue wants to put anyone at unnecessary risk and your venue won’t open until they are happy that they have all the measures in place to keep you, your guests, and their team as safe as is reasonable. Once they know they can do that, they will be keen on your wedding to go ahead and will work with you to make any adjustments needed. For example, reducing guest numbers, moving to a larger function room, having more of an outdoor focus, or adding a marquee extension.
How do you feel about it?
Weddings are social events. During social distancing, there are certain parts of your wedding that won’t be able to go ahead as you have planned. This is incredibly hard for you both. Whether or not you continue as planned or you postpone will depend on several factors, but ultimately has to be your decision. This will be dictated by what is important to you.
There will be guests who can’t be there, in particular vulnerable or elderly relatives, as well as guests coming from abroad. By then they may be allowed to attend, but might not feel comfortable doing so. Speak to them. They almost certainly won’t want you to delay your special day just because they can’t be there and will get great pleasure from knowing that it went ahead as planned.
If your wedding is all about having a party with 100+ guests and dancing, social distancing may involve too many compromises to your original plans. You could go ahead with an intimate wedding and postpone the large celebration until social distancing measures have been lifted.
If your wedding is more about being with close family and friends, spending time together to celebrate with a meal and entertainment, then you may be able to go ahead. If you can accommodate social distancing measures, your family and friends will be delighted to have the opportunity to get together.
Perhaps, like many couples, your primary focus is that the two of you just want to be married, you will probably be comfortable adapting plans in whatever way you need to in order to make that work.
Will our “on the day” suppliers be happy to be there?
Speak to your photographer, videographer, wedding planner, musicians, and anyone else who’ll be there on the day to check they are happy with the plans. Most will be more than happy to be back doing what they love. If, however, they are shielding, they will discuss with you whether they should refer you to a colleague or refund your deposit.
What if we decide to postpone
Postponing to next year doesn’t guarantee that your wedding won’t still be affected by some degree of social distancing.
Speak to your venue if you are thinking about postponing; there may be additional charges, especially if you are postponing to a peak date. If you move to a date any of your suppliers aren’t available, you are likely to lose your deposit.
Couples that have postponed have been describing feeling hugely disappointed and deflated, with all the excitement of their wedding evaporating. The solution, perhaps, is to go ahead with the wedding as planned in whatever form that can take. Nearer the time, you can make a decision on whether to defer the party until a later date.
Before making the decision, you may want to read more about postponements.
Will guest numbers be restricted?
While we don’t have an exact answer yet, we can assume there may be restrictions on the size of the wedding. Legally it must be a minimum of 5 people including the two witnesses. This could be the restrictions in place from 1st June 2020. There is speculation that weddings may be limited to 50 guests when venues are hopefully able to reopen from 4th July.
Your venue or catering contract is probably for a minimum number of guests. Most will be happy for you to upgrade your menu or drinks package if you are reducing the number of guests. Add courses, switch Prosecco for Champagne and treat your guests to a feast to remember. Restaurants have been closed so your guests will really appreciate a fabulous meal.
When should we send out invitations?
It is customary to send invitations 8 weeks before the wedding, but at the moment it is hard for anyone to plan that far ahead. Keep in touch with your guests. Let them know your plans. That way they’ll keep the date free but won’t feel under pressure to make a decision until nearer the time.
Will I have my dress in time?
Speak to your bridal boutique. They may have your dress in stock already and can arrange for you to collect it as soon as the lockdown ends. If it isn’t yet in stock, they will be in touch with the manufacturers and will ensure there is a back-up plan. Dress fittings and alterations may be more of a challenge than normal during social distancing, so should be minimised. Keep fittings to a minimum by leaving them to as close to the wedding date as your boutique advises.
Will we have the flowers we planned?
There are some limitations in the supply chain for flowers. If there has ever been a time to buy British and support local growers using seasonal flowers, this is it. Your florist will be used to working with what is available. You’ll get the best outcome if you can give them guidance on what you like, but then leave it with them to create something amazing.
Can I arrive by wedding car?
As social distancing isn’t possible in the close confines of a car, your wedding car company may be unable to take you to your wedding. If it is important that you arrive in style, you might need to rethink your transport options; a vintage bus, horse-drawn carriage, or stretch limousine may all allow for the distancing required between you and the driver.
Should we be making adjustments to the day?
Definitely! This is your chance to rewrite the etiquette book.
- Formal receiving lines won’t happen – this is great news for many!
- The group photo may need re-thinking; set up a background wall or photobooth and make a giant collage of individual photos instead.
- You’ll need to allow for more space between tables. This may mean spilling out into additional function rooms or on to the lawn.
- You’ll need to have less guests on each table; your chance to get creative with table decorations. If you have an outdoor venue, get rid of table plans and give guests hampers, picnic rugs and picnic tables.
- Move the speeches and cake cutting to the end of the drinks reception. This way, elderly guests can enjoy the ceremony, drinks reception, cake cutting and speeches from a distance. They can then choose to leave before everyone gathers together for the meal.
- Swap the dance floor for after-dinner entertainment or encourage guests outside with a firework display.
- Be innovative by live-streaming, so those that can’t be there can join via video link.
It’s not going to be the wedding you originally planned, but being different doesn’t mean it can’t be just as good, or better. It is your wedding day, it will be special no matter what, simply because it happened no matter what.
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