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Coronavirus: Current News on Weddings in the UK

Coronavirus: Current News on Weddings in the UK


Alison Hargreaves Updated:
8th of March 2023

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: 29th December - Following a meeting with experts on the 27th of December, Sajid Javid confirmed that no further restrictions will be introduced for England until the New Year. 

Bride and groom wearing facemasks

What are the rules for weddings in the UK?

Here is what we know about weddings in each UK nation:

England

England is currently under Plan B restrictions. We are still awaiting an update from Boris Johnson as to potential further restrictions to reduce the spread of the Omicron variant, but he has confirmed that nothing will be brought in before the New Year. 

News outlets such as The Times and Daily Mail reported on the 27th December that Weddings and other major life events would be 'exempted' from future crackdowns stating: 'The exemptions for life events are part of all scenarios that have been drawn up by the government to deal with the threat of Omicron.' We are hopeful that this is the case as that would bring England in line with the approach of other UK nations.

Scotland

From 26th December, Scotland will be introducing capacity restrictions for large events, and table service at pubs and restaurants will be reintroduced. However, weddings will be excluded from these restrictions.

Key statements from the Scottish guidance regarding weddings:

  • 'There are no limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships, and funerals. These events, and their associated receptions and gatherings, can go ahead as planned.'
  • 'There are no formal physical distancing requirements at weddings, civil partnerships, and funerals.  However, there continues to be a risk of transmission of COVID-19 wherever families and communities come together. Those attending these events should continue to do all they can to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 by following all other baseline measures.'
  • 'At wedding receptions and post-funeral gatherings, the service does not have to be at the table: buffets and canapes are allowed.'
  • 'Dancing is allowed at weddings.'

Wales

From 26th December at 6 am, Wales will move into Alert Level 2. This means the number of people who can gather in hospitality venues will be restricted, nightclubs will close and social distancing rules will apply in a number of settings. However, weddings, civil partnerships, funerals, and wakes will not be subjected to the same limits.

In his update to the Welsh Government, Drakeford stated: 'For important life events like weddings, civil partnerships, funerals, and wakes, the number will be determined by the ability of the venue to manage social distancing and other reasonable measures. At a wedding breakfast or at a wake, all guests will need to have taken a lateral flow test.'

We are waiting for the official Welsh wedding guidance to be updated.

Northern Ireland

More Covid restrictions will come in for Northern Ireland from 26th December. Here are the key points:

  • Nightclubs will close and dancing will be prohibited in hospitality venues, but this will not apply to weddings.
  • Hospitality venues will return to table-service only on 27th December, with limits of no more than six people allowed to sit together at a table. Again, this measure will not apply to weddings or civil partnership celebrations.
  • Ceremonies and receptions in private dwellings must comply with domestic setting regulations, with a maximum of 30 people.
  • For ceremonies in a place of worship, face coverings are required to enter or exit the building and are strongly advised (but no longer required by law) during the ceremony.
  • For ceremonies taking place in any other indoor venues accessible to the public, face coverings must be worn by anyone over 12, unless exempt. The officiant and the couple getting married are exempt.
  • For the reception, hospitality businesses must take reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. Face coverings can only be removed while seated in a restaurant, café or bar and when dancing.

Why are the regulations different in different parts of the UK? 

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.

Small wedding

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 note, always check with your registrar for the most up-to-date information about giving notice of marriage and having your ceremony during this time.

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. 

When will church weddings be able to go ahead?

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.

Do I still need to have my Banns read for a church wedding? 

Similarly to the Notice of Marriage, you will need to have your Banns read prior to being married. If your church is closed or you cannot attend services due to travel restrictions or self-isolation, 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. 

Is there anything we won't be able to do under current restrictions?

Read the current restrictions for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland for further information on what is currently permitted and what is not.

Faye and James' Real wedding reception

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. 

Search for a venue or supplier with availability on your date

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. 

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.

Komal and Rajan real Wedding

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?

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 2022 weddings are able to accommodate regulations.

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 people can attend an event if numbers are restricted. Where numbers are governed by socially distant capacity, more may be able to attend the event where the space is extended as it will enhance the venue's socially distanced capacity

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.

Can I have a marquee wedding at home?

Please check your UK Nations latest government guidance as weddings at home may be restricted by the gathering limitations.

Marquee at Applewood Hall

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 invite 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 had previously been 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. 

Intimate wedding indoor botanical wedding breakfast

Image courtesy of Wrag Barn Golf Club

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 self-isolation requirements. Attending events remotely will be a common occurrence, especially while many international borders remain closed.

  • 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
  • Live stream the wedding so they can be a part of the most important moments.

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.

Alison Hargreaves Guides for Brides Bio

About the author


Alison Hargreaves

Alison has been advising brides, grooms and bridesmaids for more than 25 years. She has an unrivalled knowledge of the British wedding industry and frequently appears on podcasts and expert panels. She regularly attends international wedding conferences to keep the UK at the forefront of wedding planning trends.

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