Weddings in England will return from 21st June with 'unlimited' numbers of guests allowed in adherence with social distancing measures.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has delayed stage four of lockdown easing by four weeks, but he made an exception for weddings and lifted the current 30-person limit.
Speaking at a press conference, he said: "We are lifting that restriction on 30 people from the 21st providing social distancing is observed."
Many couples, however, are still confused by exactly how many guests this means will be allowed at their wedding.
What Boris's statement means is that the number of wedding guests will now be limited only by how successfully the individual venue can adhere to the "1 metre +" social distancing rules. The larger the venue, the more guests are allowed. Each venue will need to do a Covid-secure risk assessment to determine exactly how many guests they can safely host.
Official guidelines on what can and cannot happen at weddings from June 21st have been released, and we've broken them all down for you below.
The Prime Minister put forward a date of Monday 19th July for the ending of this stage of restrictions - again this will be determined by the data closer to the time and may move - but it could mean all restrictions are lifted after that date.
Couples who are planning their 2021 weddings will be eager for the latest advice so we've gathered everything we know about what is currently allowed at weddings across the UK and what to expect from June 21st.
The devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have set their own rules on weddings in 2021, which we've covered too. Scroll on to find out everything you need to know if you're having a 2021 wedding.
- What Are the Current Rules for Weddings in England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland?
- What Are the Wedding Rules from 21st June 2021?
- Will My Summer 2021 Wedding Happen?
- Will My Winter 2021 Wedding Happen?
- What Happens If My Venue Can't Open but My Ceremony Can Go Ahead?
- Who Is Included in the Numbers for Weddings?
- Can I Go to a Wedding Outside the UK?
- Can I Still Buy a Wedding Dress?
- When Can We Go on Venue Viewings?
- Will Masks & Social Distancing Measures Still Apply after 21st June?
- When Can Big Weddings Happen?
- How Can I Keep My Wedding Guests Safe?
- I’ve Been invited to a Wedding During Covid, What Do I Need to Know?
- How Can I Make Virtual Guests Feel Part of the Day?
- Will My Insurance Cover Postponement or Cancellation?
- Can I Still Get Wedding Insurance?
- Am I Eligible for a Refund If I’m Forced to Cancel?
- Will I Need to Cancel or Postpone My Wedding Abroad?
- Will I Get My Money Back from My Credit Card?
- Can I Book a Honeymoon for 2021?
- Can I Still Plan My Wedding During Covid?
The newly-announced gov.uk guidelines state that as of 21st June, indoor and outdoor wedding ceremonies and civil partnership ceremonies can take place with more than 30 people. The exact number will be determined by a risk assessment completed by the venue. The general rule seems to be that venues can host around half their maximum capacity when in adherence with social distancing guidelines.
Here's what weddings look like from 21st June:
- More than 30 people are allowed at an indoor or outdoor ceremony and reception, provided the venue is Covid-secure and adhering to social distancing rules.
- Ceremonies cannot take place indoors in a private home (unless they are urgent weddings where one person is seriously ill and not expected to recover, when six people or two households can attend) but can take place in private gardens, as can receptions. You may have up to 30 guests at an outdoor wedding in your garden, on private land or in a public outdoor space without doing a Covid risk assessment. If you want to have more than 30 people, you will need to complete a risk assessment or face a £10,000 fine.
- If an event if taking place outdoors, it can be partially sheltered, but structures like marquees should be at least 50% open.
- Children of all ages are included in the individual venue's limit for ceremonies and receptions. Likewise, the couple are included, but anyone working is not.
- Indoor professional performances (i.e. a live band, magician, saxophonist etc) can take place at both the ceremony and reception. There is no limit to the number of performers but it should be determined on how many the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures.
- Amateur choirs, bands or musicians may perform in a group of up to six indoors. Outdoors, they may perform in multiple groups of up to 30. However, communal singing should not take place indoors - so no hymns still at a religious wedding.
- Dancing "is advised against", except for the couple's first dance. Dancefloors must remain closed but can be repurposed for additional seating.
- Venues and places of worship will be able to "provide food and drink but must adhere to the guidance on hospitality at this step, including that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that individuals remain seated. This sharing of vessels or glasses, including where part of a religious service, should be avoided."
- "If the event is taking place at a COVID-secure venue where alcohol is served, all food and drink (including non-alcoholic drink) must be ordered, served and consumed by the customer while seated at a table" - this means no standing drinks receptions and all food and drink must be table service for ordering and delivery.
- Guests do not need to be placed on socially distanced tables or on tables or six in a Covid-secure venue - "however, the organiser must still take reasonable measures to limit transmission. As part of doing so they should consider the risks of not maintaining social distancing"
- Speeches should be given outside or in well ventilated areas. Speakers should use a PA system to amplify their speech and not raise their voice.
- Close contact with loved ones is a "personal choice" but people are advised to exercise caution.
- Activities where the couple are watched by guests are allowed, such as the cutting of the cake or playing a Mr & Mrs game. However, objects in the reception venue which will be touched by lots of people should be minimised, e.g. a guest book, games station.
- Attendees and staff at a wedding ceremony or reception are required by law to wear a face covering indoors, except when eating or drinking. There are valid exemptions for those who do not need to wear a mask; those who are leading services or events in a place of worship; and the couple being married or joined in a civil partnership and those officiating the weeding.
- From Step 3, there is no requirement for guests to be placed on socially distanced tables, "though they should consider the risks of doing so, as set out in new guidance on meeting friends and family."
- Guests are allowed to leave England and travel to other parts of the UK (or abroad) to attend your marriage or civil partnership. If you're outside of England, you must follow the rules on weddings in that destination.
- Further information on what is allowed at cultural and religious weddings is set out in the places of worship guidance.
If you're wanting to look at wedding venues, showrounds are allowed. "Viewings can take place in venues permitted in law to be open at each step, but must take place in accordance with social contact rules."
In venues able to open (which is most, except for nightclubs which remain closed by law), viewings are able to take place indoors in groups of six, or two households. The same number can attend a viewing outdoors. Note these limits do not include those working, such as the venue manager.
Most of mainland Scotland and some islands are at COVID-19 Level 1, while the remaining islands (like Orkney and the Shetlands) are at the lowest tier of Level 0. However, some highly populated areas like Glasgow City, Dundee and Edinburgh remain at Level 2 due to a higher number of cases. This means the rules for weddings are different across Scotland currently.
The gov.scot website states: "Up to 50 people can attend a marriage ceremony, civil partnership registration, or reception in a protection level 3 or level 2 area. Up to 100 people can attend in a level 1 area.
"These limits are provided the venue size and layout will permit the necessary physical distancing between households to be in place. This means the number of people able to attend may be less, and sometimes significantly less, than 50 or 100."
Scotland is expected to move to Level 0 on the 28th June, which would allow weddings of up to 200, but Nicola Sturgeon said this will be determined on whether the data supports the easing.
The Northern Irish guidelines state: "The number permitted to attend weddings and civil partnerships is to be informed by a risk assessment for the venue.
"Face coverings must be worn by all unless exempt, other than those in the marriage party."
Similarly, receptions are now allowed to go ahead, with the number of guests limited by social distancing at the venue.
"There are no restrictions on the number of people seated at the ‘top table’, however other tables are restricted to a maximum of 10. Children under 12 are excluded from table numbers.
"Dancing is not permitted, the only exception to this is the couple’s ‘first dance’. Live music is not permitted, and ambient music must be at a level that permits normal conversation."
Non-essential retail is also open, including bridal shops.
The next review of the rules is scheduled for the 21st June. In the next stage, step four, some live music will be allowed at weddings. Step five will see most limits removed.
All of Wales moved to alert level 1 on the 7th June.
Wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships are allowed to take place in any approved venue or place of worship. The limit to the number is guests is determined "by the capacity of the venue where it is being held, once physical distancing measures have been taken into account."
However, there is a set limit for receptions, and this differs whether it is classed as a "regulated event" or a "non-regulated event taking place at a regulated premises".
For indoor receptions, the Welsh wedding guidelines state: "Wedding and civil partnership receptions are permitted for up to 30 people indoors (not including children aged under 11 or carers)." Those working at the event do not count in the maximum numbers either.
Indoor receptions of up to 30 can take place in regulated premises such as restaurants and hotels. However, "only members of your individual household (those you live with) and members of your extended household can attend an Indoor wedding reception that takes place in a private home."
For outdoor receptions, the limit at a regulated premises, like a private party in a restaurant, is up to 30 people, although "children under 11 or carers of any guest attending do not count towards this number."
You can also have up to 30 people meet outdoors at a wedding reception in a private garden or on private land. A marquee with more than 50% open sides is treated as an external environment for this purpose.
If your outdoor reception is classified as a "regulated event", however, the rules are vastly different. "When organised by a business, charity or other organisation, wedding receptions can be classified as a regulated outdoor event which would have a cap of 10,000 people seated [and 4,000 people standing].
Here's what's allowed at receptions in Wales:
- Live or recorded music including DJs are permitted at both indoor and outdoor levels as long as music is played at a background level. Singing is advised against.
- The rules state that a risk assessment would find "dancing should not form part of the event", however, they also state that a first dance is allowed and that dancing "between members of different households is very strongly discouraged" but there are no rules against dancing with your own household
- Speeches are allowed as normal, however sharing of microphones and the passing out of gifts should be avoided.
- Guests can enter a house to use the toilet but should keep their time indoors to a minimum and the bathrooms should be cleaned regularly.
- Guests should also keep their masks on at all times when not eating or drinking and be discouraged from moving around the venue.
From 21st June 2021, wedding ceremonies and receptions are permitted in England with no set limit on guest numbers. The cap on guests is determined by the social-distanced capacity of each individual venue.
For the vast majority of couples, this will be welcome news as the 30 person limit is lifted. You will need to speak to your venue about the number of guests that they can safely host, and you may need to be prepared to discuss postponing your date again if the number is still not what you want.
We'd encourage you to be as understanding as possible with your venue. They've received the news at the same time as you have, and will be hard at work determining how they can make the venue work best for you and get you the highest number of guests allowed. There may be some short delays in communication, but we know how hard venues are working at the moment and how much effort they are putting into making your day as perfect as possible.
Weddings are happening all across the UK, so yes, your summer 2021 wedding can go ahead. The only question is what restrictions will be in place at your venue.
- Weddings in England will have the 30 person limit lifted from the 21st June, in which case your summer 2021 wedding can go ahead at a socially-distanced capacity.
- Mainland Scotland, excluding some bigger cities, has moved to Level 1. This is the second lowest tier and would allow weddings of up to 100 guests. Glasgow and Edinburgh among others will have to remain in Level 2 for a few weeks before they move to Level 1. That level would limit your wedding to 50 guests. A move to Level 0 will allow up to 200 guests and this could happen soon.
- Wales is currently in Alert Level 1. Limits on wedding ceremonies are by socially-distanced space inside the venue so you can have a large wedding ceremony provided your venue can safely host it. At level 1, reception are allowed for 30 people indoors and the outdoor limit is determined by the venue.
- Northern Ireland will have it's next Covid rule review on the 21st June. The number of guests allowed at both the ceremony and reception is determined by social distancing at the venue, so you can have a large wedding in a large venue.
If the UK's roadmaps stay on track, it should definitely be possible for weddings of all different sizes to go ahead by winter 2021.
The only venues not open across the UK are nightclubs. Pubs, restaurants, hotels and dedicated event spaces are all open so your reception should be able to host you.
However, there may be limits of guests numbers. You may want to postpone your planned reception to a later date and have an informal, smaller indoor or outdoor reception at a different venue straight after the ceremony.
All wedding guests, including the couple and children of all ages, are part of the numbers; anyone working at the ceremony or reception is not included.
England is running a traffic light system for international travel, with countries on red, amber and green lists. While you can travel abroad for a wedding, you are encouraged to minimise your travel and will have to follow the legislation of both the destination country and England on your return. This may include a hotel quarantine if you travel to a red list country.
Be aware too that not all countries are allowing residents of the UK into their country, e.g. Australia and New Zealand.
The gov.uk guidance states: "You are also able to leave England and travel to other parts of the UK (or abroad), to attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony, again when it is taking place as set out in the legislation. This guidance is only applicable in England. Therefore, if you travel outside England to attend a wedding or civil partnership, you must follow the rules on weddings in place at your destination as well as any relevant restrictions on international travel."
The basic answer, therefore, is yes, but there's a lot of red tape you need to be aware of at the moment if you plan to travel this summer!
Non-essential retail, such as bridal shops, are open in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
We'd recommend you start with online research and then book yourself an appointment when you feel comfortable. What's more, increasing numbers of bridal boutiques are offering virtual appointments, so you can get an idea of different dress styles. Check out our guide on how to shop for a wedding dress online.
Wedding dresses do have relatively long lead times, but if you're looking for a dress now for a summer wedding, for example, it's worth contacting boutiques to find out how long made-to-order gowns take to arrive from different designers. And remember, if you end up needing a wedding dress relatively last minute, you can always buy a wedding dress online that isn't made-to-order.
Wedding venues are open for viewings indoors and outdoors in England. The limit on attendees at viewings is six people, or two households, not including staff at the venue.
In Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, wedding venue viewings are available by appointment.
Some scientists have predicted that social distancing and masks may be necessary for the foreseeable future, meaning you could still see masks at indoor weddings during 2021 even as other restrictions ease. As it stands, social distancing rules are not being relaxed on June 21st, so face masks and maintaining a one metre distance is still required.
Proof of vaccination and lateral flow tests may make it possible to ease social distancing further at weddings.
Currently, in areas where weddings are allowed, face masks should be worn throughout the wedding ceremony, and should not be removed by guests, the officiant or the photographer.
The couple may temporarily remove their mask while saying their vows and for a short time for photos, but the latest NHS advice is that a face covering should be worn at all times indoors around those who aren't in your social bubble. If you officiant would prefer you wear a mask during your vows, you must respect their wishes.
These guidelines particularly apply to indoor ceremonies. You may find that a face mask is not necessary outside if guests are socially distanced and sit within their bubbles.
From 21st June 2021, big weddings can return with restrictions determined by the size of the venue. Guests will need to maintain social distancing rules so the bigger the venue, the more guests allowed.
As it stands, the wearing of masks and restrictions on entertainment such as dancing will remain in place.
Boris Johnson has said the date for the next review of lockdown easing will be July 19th so we are hopeful for a bumper year of weddings with no restrictions from then on.
Your key objective for wedding planning in 2021 will be to make wonderful memories while keeping guests as safe as possible. If you're getting married before 21st June, there will be restrictions in place.
There are plenty of ways to follow the rules - all of which you can find here - but we've listed the biggest ones for you:
Keep Guests Up-to-Date
Guests need to know what's expected of them. If you have a wedding website, why not add information from or link to the NHS hygiene guidelines? The government also suggest sign posting guests to their Staying Alert and Safe document. We recommend you give it a read yourself but here's the key points:
- Hands - Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
- Face - Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
- Space - Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors).
Plan Safety Measures in Advance
Bernadette also advises that couples put their own special measures in place on the day: “Ask the venue if they have antibacterial soap in the restrooms, ask for disposable paper hand towels over fluffy soft hand towels. Ask for hand sanitisers to be placed in the toilets and think about having staff spritz every guest with high quality alcohol-based sanitisers. You could have masks provided for everyone to wear except the couples themselves, why not have this in a personal pretty gift bag along with sanitiser?”
Stay in Contact With Your Venue and Suppliers
Find out from your venue and suppliers what measures they're introducing for their teams. If you have some additional requirements - perhaps you're having custom face masks made and would like serving staff to wear them - speak to them in advance. Remember that your safety comes first, so if they decline to do something (e.g. the masks you'd provide aren't medical grade), then accept that it's for your safety.
Our guide to throwing a socially distanced wedding and reception is also a great place to start when looking at ways to keep guests safe.
If you've been invited to a wedding taking place within the next couple of months in an area where this is permitted, and you're vulnerable or shielding, let the couple know as soon as possible that you won't be able to attend. Many couples are looking at innovative and creative ways to involve absent guests, so make sure you check in and ask if you're able to join them via video link or follow a hashtag on social media.
The above advice also applies if you simply don't feel comfortable socialising at the moment. Deciding to skip the celebration doesn't make you a bad friend or family member and we reckon the happy couple will understand your position. Pop a wedding gift in the post or contribute to their wedding gift list as a gesture and arrange to celebrate together at a later date.
If you've decided to accept the invitation, then we recommend following the guidelines below:
- Remember Your Mask - you may need to wear a mask at certain points during the day and so it's best to come prepared. There are hundreds of face coverings available in stylish fabrics, so you're bound to find one that complements your outfit!
- Keep Your Distance - a wedding is one of few occasions that allow you to gather with as many as 30 people, so it's important to take precautions and keep your distance. You can 'cautiously' hug those in your bubble, but should keep your distance from others. We get that this is upsetting, particularly on such a special day however it's way better than spreading germs.
- Wash Your Hands - sanitising is certainly a handy way to keep germs at bay until we can get to a sink, but nothing beats a 20 second wash in the basin. Make sure you wash your hands at regular intervals particularly if you have touched surfaces or are about to eat.
We also recommend paying close attention to social distancing in the week or so before the wedding and keeping track of your symptoms. If you have any of the COVID-19 symptoms listed here, get a test urgently or stay away from the celebrations to avoid infecting the couple or other guests. The couple will of course be gutted you can't make it but will be grateful to you for helping to keep their wedding safe, trust us.
If and when a limit on guest numbers returns, many couples will be forced to reduce their guest list and look at other ways to involve guests in their celebrations. Luckily, modern technology and social media have made it easier than ever before to include absent friends. Here are the best ways to get them involved:
- Ask your venue if they have video link equipment and invite absent guests to join you via video call for the speeches or ceremony
- If you’re having a videographer, stage a special screening of your wedding video just for them when it’s ready
- Set aside an order of service and wedding favour and present them to your absent guest/s after the wedding
- Save them a slice of wedding cake!
- Create a wedding hashtag and ask guests to upload pictures and videos throughout the day and have absent guests follow the action
If you're set on celebrating with all your loved ones IRL, then why not consider a sequel wedding? This will allow you to host an intimate ceremony now and a larger celebration, when the situation improves, at a later date. It'll mean double the fun and you'll get to wear your dress more than once!
Wedding Plan Insurance have outlined the circumstances in which your wedding will be covered if cancellation and not postponement is necessary: “Our policy would only provide cover if your venue is unable to hold your wedding due to the outbreak of infectious or contagious disease, the venue is closed by the relevant authority, or the death, injury or sickness of you or your close relative that would make continuance of the wedding inappropriate, subject to the policy terms and conditions.” The policy is also only valid if insurance was taken out before any lockdown or venue closures were announced.
Wedinsure highlight that you will need to check the specifics of your policy as they do not cover certain situations related to Coronavirus restrictions: “The policy does not cover cancellation or rearrangement due to any claim resulting from issues relating to travel bans, flight cancellations or government acts, regulations such as a ban on public or social gatherings or any form of travel restrictions.”
According to Which? Debenhams, John Lewis, Emerald Life and Wedinsure (in certain cases) will cover you if your venue or other suppliers cancel. However, all wedding insurance companies asked, would not cover weddings cancelled due to government travel restrictions in the area. We recommend taking a look at the terms and conditions and phoning your insurer if you’re unsure.
As of 18th May 2020, the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) told insurers that they must help customers struggling with payments, according to Which?.
Many providers have temporarily suspending their wedding insurance products. Others are still accepting new customers, but check carefully whether your policy has Coronavirus restrictions built in. Some specifically exclude claims related to Covid-19.
Up until now, there were no clear guidelines on refunds which left both couples and their suppliers confused and unsure about what to do next. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) - which helps consumers understand their rights - has released a statement on refunds for cancelled weddings.
We recommend you read the whole statement yourself to better understand how it relates to your own situation, but below are the main points.
Before you start, it's important to understand what the CMA mean when they use the legal term 'frustrated' in their statement - a contract is 'frustrated' if, due to no fault of the parties, something happens after the contract was entered into which means it can no longer be performed at all or performance would be radically different to what was agreed, and therefore the contract comes to an end.
- For weddings scheduled between late March 2020 and late September 2020, it’s reasonable to take the view that the wedding could not go ahead safely without breaking lockdown laws, and therefore your contract with the venue/supplier has come to an end (i.e. is 'frustrated')
- It’s also the CMA’s view that if the number of guests who can attend your wedding or reception safely and lawfully is radically different to the number agreed in your wedding contract then your contract has come to an end
- Couples with weddings during this time period whose contracts are frustrated are entitled to a refund of monies already paid, and you don’t have to make any further payments
- The starting point is that couples are offered a full refund, even on ‘non-refundable’ deposits - however, there are exceptions
- Businesses are able to deduct some of the refund to cover costs they’ve incurred. Each case will need to be looked at individually, but some costs they can claim are things like perishable food and flowers that were already bought and can’t be reused for another wedding, or business expenses like extra staffing and planning costs (that have already been paid)
- The CMA has set out a list of things that can’t be deducted from your refund, like refurbishment of the building and an administration charge to refund you.
- Whether you have insurance or not does not affect this right to refund - however, you can only get your money back once. Businesses are not expected to refund you if you have claimed, or are in the process of claiming, money back from your insurer
It can seem a little overwhelming so the best thing to do is read over the CMA’s advice and then speak to your venue or supplier. Bear in mind, wedding businesses are under enormous pressure. Any refunds you may be entitled to could take time to process.
Remember also that the CMA statement is an advisory one. Its purpose is to help you as consumers understand your rights and be treated fairly. If you decide to take further action, it is up to a court to decide how the law applies.
Travel should still be kept at a minimum, but the guidelines state: "You are permitted to travel to attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony or reception in accordance with the legislation in England.
"You are also able to leave England and travel to other parts of the UK (or abroad), to attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony, again when it is taking place as set out in the legislation."
Be aware that very few countries are on the UK's 'Green List' and those countries may not be welcoming Britons.
If your wedding is due to take place abroad, we strongly advise that you keep in touch with your venue or your local wedding planner.
For the most up-to-date and reliable information, it’s best to check the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website regularly.
If you have paid for anything using a credit card, you should be covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
This means that any payments between £100 and £30,000 can be claimed back in the event of a cancellation. Even if you paid a deposit with a credit card and the rest by other means, providing the deposit was between £100 and £30,000, the credit card company would be liable for the total.
In theory, yes - but booking a honeymoon abroad for 2021 doesn't guarantee you'll actually be able to get away. International travel resumed on 17th May to countries on the 'Green List' but remember that they may not be allowing Britons to enter. What's more, border rules change quickly - remember, other countries may still be restricting inbound travel - and you may need to have a test before and after travel, which would add to the cost.
If you're considering a UK staycation for your honeymoon, the rules will vary depending on which country you're visiting.
In England, travel outside your local area was allowed from 29th March. Self-contained holiday accommodation opened from 12th April - that means self-catering properties and campsites. From 17th May, hotels opened.
Many wedding venues are offering virtual tours and video meetings, allowing you to have a traditional show-around experience from the comfort of your sofa. Suppliers are also offering video consultations and everything from fabric swatches to cake samples can be sent to you.
Venues are now also offering socially distanced tours, provided they're outside of local lockdown areas. You will need to wear a mask, sanitise your hands and keep your distance but none of that will get in the way of appreciating your potential wedding venue!
Bear in mind that many 2020 couples have postponed to 2021 and 2022 and so you’ll need to act quickly if you’re wishing to secure dates. Even if you’re not ready to book, ask your favourite venues and suppliers what their 2021 and 2022 calendars are looking like to get an idea of availability.
Are you and your partner working from home together? Don’t miss our tips on how to take care of your relationship while home-working!