The coronavirus pandemic has been testing in so many ways, for so many different people. One such group is brides and grooms-to-be, whose plans to get married have been disrupted for the past year due to the danger of COVID spreading among large groups.
In February, Boris Johnson set out the government's plans to bring the UK out of lockdown, sharing a four-stage roadmap to ease restrictions, and today, we're now happily welcoming the third stage. Since the Prime Minister's first announcement, there have been a number of clarifications about weddings that have provided a bit of a rollercoaster for couples, so what are the rules for weddings?
Here's what we know about how and when weddings will be able to go ahead in England, if you're planning to get married some time soon...
When (and how) are weddings allowed in England?
Currently, and up until 21 May at the earliest, wedding ceremonies and wedding receptions are permitted to go ahead in England with a maximum of 30 people (not including anyone working at the event). As regional tiers have been scrapped, it doesn't matter where you live in the country, these rules apply to all.
Weddings with receptions were re-introduced at step 2 of the four-step plan, which began on 12 April. The dates for each further stage guiding us completely out of lockdown have been laid out, but they obviously depend on the number of coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths remaining manageable. So far, it's looking like this:
From 8 March, wedding ceremonies with 6 people opened up, but only in exceptional circumstances and with no receptions allowed.
From 29 March, wedding ceremonies with 6 people were allowed in any circumstances, but wedding receptions were not permitted.
From 12 April, weddings and wedding receptions with up to 15 people have been allowed to take place in COVID-19 secure venues that are permitted to open.
🌟 From 17 May, weddings and wedding receptions with up to 30 people are possible indoors or outdoors in a COVID-secure venue, including in private gardens, which is a change from the original rules which did not allow private gardens to facilitate wedding receptions.
From 21 June (step four of the plan), the aim is to "remove all legal limits on social contact" at weddings (and other live events, such as night clubs and theatre performances).
So what are the current rules for weddings and wedding receptions in England?
Now we're in step 3, the permitted guest list for weddings and wedding receptions has doubled to 30 people, not including anyone working at the event. These can take place in all COVID-secure licensed wedding venues, and also in private gardens. Here are some useful key rules to note:
If the wedding or reception is taking place outdoors, it can be partially sheltered with a marquee, provided that at least 50% of the walled area remains open.
In accordance with the law, face coverings must be worn in indoor settings (that includes places of worship).
During the ceremony, venues and places of worship will be able to provide food and drink but must take reasonable steps to ensure that individuals remain seated. Sharing of vessels or glasses, including where part of a religious service, is not allowed.
You can provide single use service sheets, prayer mats, or devotional material, but individuals must remove these following the ceremony.
Cash donations should be discouraged, with online giving resources being used where possible instead to minimise contact.
Indoor professional musical performances can take place at a ceremony or a reception. There is no limit on the number of performers, but it should be determined by how many the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place between performers and guests.
Amateur choirs, bands, or musicians can perform in a group of up to 6 indoors, or 30 outdoors.
Dancing is advised against (but not specifically banned), apart from the couple’s first dance which is still allowed.
Objects in the reception venue such as guest books, photo booths or games are allowed but should be minimised, and hand sanitisation should be encouraged both before and after contact.
Speeches should be undertaken outside or in well ventilated areas wherever possible (eg windows and doors open).
Speaking to Cosmopolitan in February, the spokesperson for the UK Weddings Taskforce, Sarah Haywood, said of the plan: "We’re pleased that our safe and workable solutions for the return of weddings were incorporated in the Prime Minister’s roadmap. It is however frustrating and disappointing for businesses and couples alike that we are moving at snail’s pace towards 21st June.
"We have recommended to Government that weddings pave the way for all events to take place as by nature, weddings operate a tightly controlled guest list of a close circle of family and friends. We have already begun pressing for answers as to why some events can include over 1000 guests when the capacity for weddings will be just 30. It doesn’t make sense."
It's hoped that by June 21, even more restrictions as described above could be lifted, however that is all conditional on levels of coronavirus remaining in control. However, with the vaccination programme being rolled out - and with more than 36 million people having been vaccinated at this point - everyone is hopeful that numbers should remain low enough for the final stage to go ahead as planned. If that happens, the wedding industry can pick back up - and that thousands of couples across the country can finally say "I do" in the way they originally planned.
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