This article was originally published on 23/03/2021, but was updated on 26/03/2021 in line with further Government updates and clarifications, shared by the UK Weddings Taskforce.
If we were to sum up the past year in a word, we wouldn’t be able to write it here, as it’s not appropriate.
It’s been a hard and challenging year for so many of us, but now we have some wedding guidance that should help us through the next few months. With the help of the UK Weddings Taskforce, we’ve gone through this new guidance document and can share what we know (and don’t know!).
This article relates to the ceremony guidance – we are still awaiting the updated version of the receptions guidance and will update this article in line with its publication.
Step One Weddings: What Can Happen
Weddings can take place from the 29th March without the need for there to be ‘exceptional circumstances’.
These can be ceremonies in locations that are permitted to open at this stage – the catch is that not much is permitted to be open at this time, so you’re looking at public buildings (town halls, register offices) and places of worship, as well as licensed wedding venues where their only purpose is to host weddings.
The below is taken from the government guidance:
Wedding or civil partnership ceremonies can take place in licensed venues that are not expressly required to close under the COVID-19 Regulations. This includes, for example:
- Register Offices
- Church of England churches or chapels, and certified Places of Worship that have been registered for the solemnisation of marriage (“registered buildings”)
- Naval, military or air force chapels
- Approved premises for civil marriages and civil partnerships (that is, places approved by the local authority of the area in which the premises are situated) not required to close. This may include venues such as community centres and town/village halls
Many places such as hotels, stately homes and public attractions that can host weddings have all been expressly required to close so it does rule out many licensed venues, however an update from the Government shared on 25/03/2021 stated that ‘purpose built wedding venues’ could now host ceremonies.
Who Counts in the Numbers at a Step One Wedding?
This quote is taken from the Covid-19 Guidance for Small Marriages & Civil Partnerships:
“Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people. This maximum number includes all those at the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses, and guests. Anyone working is not included in this limit.”
This means that your venue staff and your suppliers do not count in the number, but the couple getting married do count.
Do Children and Babies Count in the Guest Number Limits?
This is something that the UK Weddings Taskforce urged Government to give clarity on – the Government clarified on 25/03/2021 that all those present at the wedding who are not working count in the numbers – which includes children of all ages.
Can I Have a Reception for My Step One Wedding?
If you are marrying before 29th March then you are not permitted to have a reception. However, if your wedding takes place between the 29th March and the 11th April, you can have a ‘small gathering in line with social contact limits’. This means your group of six (or two households) could gather in an outdoor space following the ceremony.
Step Two Weddings: What Can Happen
There has been a change in the guidance for weddings in Step Two. It was previously stated that many licensed wedding venues that had a sole purpose of hosting weddings were not permitted to open, but this has now been revised.
You can now host your Step Two wedding ceremony in the following places:
- Register offices
- Places of worship (including Church of England churches or chapels) that have been registered for the solemnisation of marriage (‘registered buildings)
- Naval, military or air force chapels
- Approved premises for civil marriages/partnerships that are not required to close – such as licensed community centres or town/village halls
- Conference centres and exhibition halls
- Holiday accommodation, including hotels in a room that is licensed for marriage/civil partnerships
- Any purpose-built wedding venue that is not also a hospitality venue or a visitor attraction
There are some caveats surrounding visitor attractions – you may marry there in Step Two if the part of the venue where your ceremony would be (the licensed room) is only used for weddings and isn’t normally accessible to public. The example the government gives for this is a specific ceremony room (such as an orangery which is only used for private events and is licensed for ceremonies) in a public attraction such as a botanical garden.
The guidance caveats that this does not apply for rooms or spaces within indoor visitor attractions where you may mix with the public on the way in or out of your ceremony – the example they give here is a room within a museum that doesn’t have separate access such as its own separate street entrance or an entrance and exit in an outdoor area.
Who Counts in the Numbers at a Step Two Wedding?
Step Two weddings are limited to 15 people. This includes the couple getting married, guests and witnesses, but does not include those working.
Children of all ages count in the number limits.
Can I Have A Reception for My Step Two Wedding?
Wedding receptions can take place in the form of a sit-down meal outdoors for up to 15 people in Step 2. We are still awaiting the detailed receptions guidance, but this is what we know.
- Receptions can take place with up to 15 people (including the couple) in the form of a sit-down meal in any Covid-19 Secure venue that is permitted to open, or where a broader exemption applies
- These receptions cannot take place in private gardens or public outdoor spaces, because gatherings in public spaces and private gardens are still governed by the rule of six.
The Government shared an update with the UK Weddings Taskforce on 25/03/2021 that guests must be seating in line with social contact limits, which means in groups of six or two households.
What Can Happen at My Step 3 Wedding?
From no earlier than 17th May, up to 30 people (including the couple) may attend a wedding. At Step 3, these weddings can take place in venues that are permitted to open, which includes the venues listed previously, as well as remaining hospitality venues.
Receptions can take place with up to 30 people indoors or outdoors, providing the venue is a Covid-19 secure location that is permitted to open.
There is more information to come on Step 3 weddings, so we will update this once it has been published.
What Can Happen at My Step 4 Wedding?
If all goes to plan, weddings from 21st June/Step 4 should be restriction free. This is dependent on the scientific advice and the results from the Government’s Events Research Programme.