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. In England, from the 28th of September, the limit for wedding ceremonies and receptions in England will be 15 people. The rules differ for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
On October 12th, the Prime Minister announced in Parliament that due to the second wave of coronavirus in the UK, he will be introducing a 3 tier system in England to curb the spread in areas with rising cases. Read more about these alert levels and how they may affect your wedding.
Can my wedding go ahead?
During the current ‘lockdown’, the UK government is limiting weddings. Please read our Coronavirus news for the most up-to-date information on this.
Most weddings during the lockdown and early post-lockdown periods were postponed to later in 2020 or into 2021. With the announcement that social distancing measures will be in place for a considerable time into 2021, couples with weddings later this year, as well as venues and suppliers, are facing a new reality.
You also need to take into consideration any local lockdown restrictions that may affect where you live or where your venue is located. Also, check whether your wedding takes place in an area labeled “Medium”, “High” or “Very High”.
Will the actual legal marriage take place?
The simple answer is yes, couples in England can get married through a legally binding ceremony. However, 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, so check your local registration district before making firm plans.
It is unlikely to be any easier to have a statutory marriage in a registry office as appointments are very limited. For church weddings, you may need to apply for a Special Licence from the Archbishop if churches are closed and your Banns can’t be read, or you haven’t reached the habitual attendance requirements.
However, if you and your partner have been putting off the idea of tying the knot for whatever reason, now is definitely the time. Weddings of limited numbers will be going ahead, meaning those who have put off getting married will be able to enjoy an intimate micro-wedding with their very closest friends and family without the usual pressures.
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 when they are allowed to do so.
Do you need to cut down your guest list to fit social distancing restrictions? Take a look at our guide to downsizing your wedding guest list.
Will our venue want our wedding to go ahead?
No venue wants to put anyone at unnecessary risk. So, 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 safe. Once they can do that legally and safely, 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 to increase space for social distancing.
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 this 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 may prefer to keep their distance from a larger group, as well as guests coming from abroad. 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. This is referred to as a sequel wedding.
Weddings in England are currently limited to 15 people. So, if your wedding is about being with close family and friends, spending time together to celebrate with a meal, then you are still 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. However, make sure you are hosting your event in a COVID-secure venue. Otherwise, you will have to adhere to the current ‘rule of six’ which applies to private homes.
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 or needing to self-isolate, they will discuss with you whether they should refer you to a colleague or refund your deposit. The latest guidelines exclude those working at the wedding from the 15 person limit, so in England, you will not need to worry about your on the day suppliers taking the space of a valued guest.
What if we decide to postpone our wedding?
Postponing to next year doesn’t guarantee that your wedding won’t still be affected by social distancing. Speak to your venue and suppliers if you are thinking about postponing; they will want to be there for you and be able to help with further understanding the contractual agreements.
Couples that have postponed have described 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?
Yes, for English weddings, you’ll be restricted to 15 people. For Wales, only a small wedding ceremony is permitted, which is dictated by the venue’s capacity and gatherings of up to 30 are permitted outdoors. (During the “firebreak” lockdown scheduled for 23rd October to 9th November, wedding ceremonies will be limited to places of worship and register offices and receptions will also not be permitted during this period.) Scotland is allowing wedding ceremonies and receptions of up to 20 people. On October 14th, the Northern Ireland government announced that wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships would be limited to 25 people with no receptions from 19 October.
When larger celebrations are allowed to return, we anticipate that numbers will still be limited in some way. 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 or move some of the credit to a party in 2021. For the intimate wedding, add courses, switch Prosecco for Champagne, and treat your guests to a feast to remember; really spoil those who are attending in person.
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 to find out the status of your wedding dress. They may have your dress in stock already and can arrange for you to collect it. 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. For more info on what to expect on your visit to the boutique, read our coronavirus bridalwear shopping guide.
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. However, some have been ensuring that they are COVID-secure by adjusting the features of the vehicle. If you are unable to arrive by wedding car, but it is important that you arrive in style, you might need to rethink your transport options. For example, a vintage bus, horse-drawn carriage, or stretch limousine may allow for the distancing required between you and the driver.
Rest assured, wedding car suppliers will be doing all they can to ensure that you, your guests, and the driver are all as safe as possible. Please note, wearing a face-covering in the car may now be a requirement to mitigate these risks.
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, a marquee structure or on to the lawn.
- You’ll need to have fewer 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. You could even look at a bubble wedding as an option.
- Move the speeches and cake cutting to the end of the drinks reception. This way, elderly and vulnerable 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 if they would like to.
- 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. At Guides for Brides, we offer a Live Stream feature, using Zoom technology. With our feature you can stream your wedding on Facebook or Youtube for £35 including VAT. See below for more information and contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to take advantage of the feature.
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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