Have your nuptials been interrupted because of Covid-19? Do you still plan on getting married in 2020? What are the current restrictions and guidelines in place for weddings? Can large weddings take place or do they have to be small? Here we have answered your questions for the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Great Britain.
For England, big gatherings are off. Gov.uk’s page on ‘COVID-19: Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships’ which was updated on 17 July 2020 notes that ‘No more than 30 people should attend a marriage or civil partnership, where this can be safely accommodated with social distancing in a COVID-19 secure venue.’ The page is quick to note, too, that this guidance only applies to England and there seems to be no official page for Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. So, that means that if you are getting married in England inside a venue, your venue can only accommodate up to thirty guests with social distancings of up to two metres (if possible) and one metre (if not).
This guidance comes into effect from 1 August. Gov.uk notes, ‘…from 1 August, small wedding receptions will be able to take place – this means sit-down meals for no more than 30 people, subject to COVID-19 Secure guidance.’
If you want a wedding of over thirty guests, then you can only if you get married in a permitted public place but the guidance isn’t clear on what constitutes as a ‘certain public place set out in law’. The wording goes, ‘Gatherings of more than 30 people are permitted but only in certain public places as set out in law.’ Just to clarify, this ‘gathering’ of up to 30 people (total) will include the bride and groom, the officiant, and any on-site staff, etc.
But it’s important to note that you still cannot have a large wedding reception. It seems the guidance is really for the civil or religious ceremony or followed by a small sit-down meal and notes, ‘Large wedding receptions or parties should not currently be taking place after the marriage ceremony or civil partnership formation.’
There’s specific guidance on exchanging of rings (i.e. the rings should be handled as little as possible and the couple should wash their hands beforehand) and even singing; the guidance notes, ‘People should avoid singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets.’
The overall takeaway is that you can have a small wedding of up to thirty people, followed by a sit-down meal if all hygiene and social distancing measures can be observed.
Here’s a snapshot.
- Venues can reopen if they can open safely with Covid-19 measures in place
- Ceremonies should be as short as possible
- Food and drink should not be consumed unless essential for the ceremony
- It’s advised that group singing and playing instruments should be avoided
- A maximum of 30 people should attend (including guests, the officiant, and photographers)
- Social distancing should be observed (and maybe mask-wearing in future too?) especially between people of different households
- Receptions are ‘advised’ not to take place afterwards
- The venue needs to keep a record of the attendees in case they need to be traced
The guidance for Wales hasn’t been updated since 7 July and Gov.wales‘s website doesn’t give specific numbers on who can attend weddings but advises that it should be limited mainly to the couple, their witnesses, and officiant. The website notes, ‘Guests may attend the marriage ceremony or civil partnership formation, but should recognise that we are making a limited exception to the restrictions that have been imposed as a result of a public health emergency.’ Social distancing of two metres should still be observed and the website notes that the size of the room, the number of households, and other factors will determine the maximum number of guests able to attend and this number should be calculated beforehand. Just as in England, chanting, singing, and musical instruments are prohibited (or strongly discouraged) as is limiting handling objects.
In Scotland, the guidance is similar to England but limits the gathering size to 20 on the gov.scot website. There’s more specific guidance to those attending regarding travel, testing, health and safety, and so on. Just as in the English guidelines, it says food and drink shouldn’t be consumed unless necessary; it also notes that couples should consider outdoor venues and social distancing measures should be in place. There’s even a note about handling the same registry pen: ‘Where the same pen is to be used by the couple, witnesses and celebrant following the conclusion of the ceremony or registration, they should all wash their hands before and after the ceremony or registration.’ And, just like in English guidance, receptions and large gatherings afterwards are discouraged.
On NIdirect.gov, the Northern Ireland executive notes that from 10 July 2020, relaxation steps have been taken in regards to weddings as long as people practise social distancing and hand hygiene: ‘To date, the following has been agreed, where people can keep their distance (social distancing) and good hand hygiene.’
The current limit is that Northern Ireland is restricted to no more than 10 people indoors or outdoors at weddings (from 10 July). No further updates have been made and no more specific guidance has been issued.
The Republic of Ireland
If you want a large wedding, you may want to get married in The Republic of Ireland! The Journal notes, ‘After 20 July, Varadkar confirmed that numbers will rise to 100 people indoors and 500 people outdoors.’ No further information has been given but the Irish Times reports that further guidance will be updated in the coming weeks.
What does this mean for my wedding?
Even with higher numbers allowed in The Republic of Ireland and slightly higher numbers allowed in England, a 2020 wedding will look quite a bit different with social distancing measures in place as well as restrictions on celebratory meals and no dancing the night away!
If you’re getting married in 2020, what will you wear?
If you need a custom suit for your wedding, get in touch. Even if you aren’t having the wedding you’d imagined, you can still look a million bucks!
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