Wedding ceremonies have been banned in England except under "exceptional circumstances" as the country moves into a third national lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that these measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 would be in place until at least the middle of February.
The current gov.uk guidelines read, "Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not included.
"These should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example, an urgent marriage where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery."
These tough restrictions, which came into place just after midnight on Tuesday, mean thousands of couples will have to reschedule their January and February weddings.
Boris Johnson said that after the end of the third lockdown, the country would return to the Tier system. More than three quarters of the country were in Tier 4 when the latest lockdown was announced, which already only allowed weddings under exceptional circumstances.
However, wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships were still able to go ahead in parts of the country under Tiers 1, 2 and 3.
In Tiers 1 and 2, receptions were also allowed and were limited to 15 guests and subject to social distancing rules.
The Prime Minister said that the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and rapid lateral testing by Easter should allow weddings to return to normal by summer 2021, adding said the UK will be "in a different world" by then.
"My hope is by summer it really will be a different world for the weddings and events industry. I hope that your potential customers will be full of confidence and optimism as well and will be getting hitched in the normal way.
"I think you should be able to plan for a much more active summer and lots of happy nuptial events all over the UK."
It's important to note these restrictions do not apply to the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who have set their own rules. Keep scrolling down to find out more.
- Can Weddings Go Ahead in Lockdown?
- What Are the Rules for Weddings in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
- What Does the Four-Tier System Mean for Weddings?
- How Many People Can Attend a Wedding During Covid?
- Will I Need to Wear a Mask at a Wedding or Civil Partnership Ceremony?
- Should I Postpone My Spring 2021 Wedding?
- 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?
- Will My Wedding Venue and Suppliers Give Me 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?
- Will My Honeymoon Be Affected by Covid?
- Can I Still Plan My Wedding During Covid?
Wedding ceremonies cannot take place in England except under "exceptional circumstances", such as one or both partners are terminally ill. These rules are expected to stay in place until at least the middle of February, when the third lockdown will be reviewed.
Scotland also entered a national lockdown at midnight on Tuesday. However, under Scottish rules, wedding ceremonies can take still with a maximum of five people in attendance. You are not allowed a reception.
The Scottish guidelines state: "Wedding ceremonies and civil partnership registrations can take place with a maximum capacity of 5 people (including the couple, the witnesses and the person conducting the ceremony, 6 if an interpreter is required), provided the venue’s capacity allows for 2 metre physical distancing.
"Wedding or civil partnership receptions and post funeral gatherings such as wakes and cannot take place."
A safe two metre distance must be maintained at all times during the wedding ceremony.
Northern Ireland entered a six week lockdown from 26th December. Currently, wedding ceremonies are still allowed to take place with up to 25 people, but receptions are not permitted.
The Northern Irish guidelines state: "Marriages and civil partnerships ceremonies are limited to 25 people. This number includes children under 12 and the celebrant.
"A risk assessment for over 15 people is required.
"Face masks must be worn by all other than those party to the marriage.
"Receptions or post ceremony gatherings are not permitted."
All of Wales is under alert level 4. Wedding ceremonies are able to take place in places of worship and register offices, but wedding receptions are not allowed. The number of people can attend is determined by the capacity of the venue when all physical distancing measures have been taken into account.
The Welsh guidelines state: "Places of worship and Register Offices are able to remain open for wedding and civil partnership ceremonies. This is subject to the need to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of spreading the virus on the premises.
"Other ‘approved premises’ such as hotels, are required to close alongside other businesses in the hospitality sector.
"Wedding or civil partnership ‘receptions’ are not permitted, and in practice many venues are required to close while alert level 4 restrictions are in place."
England has gone into a third national lockdown until at least the middle of February. Upon its end, England is expected to return to the four tier system that was in place before, with the majority of the country going back into Tier 4.
The government has created a postcode checker that tells you what tier your local area is in: you can find it here. Below are the most basic descriptions of what each of the four tiers means and how it impacts weddings.
- Least restrictions
- Less than 100 cases per 100,000 people
- A maximum of six people can meet indoors or outdoors, with an exception for weddings and civil ceremonies where up to 15 people can attend
- Sit-down receptions allowed, but hospitality venues must close at 11pm (last orders at 10pm) and only offer table service
- Restrictions increase
- Over 100 cases per 100,000 people
- No mixing of households indoors apart from with established support bubbles, while a maximum of six people can meet outdoors
- Wedding ceremonies and sit-down receptions of up to 15 people permitted
- Tight restrictions
- Introduced when Tier 2 has failed to reduce transmissions
- Household mixing is not allowed indoors or in most places outdoors
- Places of worship remain open and wedding ceremonies are allowed for up to 15 people, but wedding receptions are banned
- Hospitality businesses shut down
- Tightest restrictions
- No-one is permitted to enter or leave Tier 4 areas
- Non-essential retail, indoor leisure, indoor entertainment and personal care sectors must close
- One person can meet with one other in an outdoor space
- Weddings, unless in exceptional circumstances such as 'deathbed weddings', are banned
In England, wedding ceremonies of up to six people are allowed, but only in exceptional circumstances. Wedding receptions are not permitted.
In Scotland, wedding ceremonies can take place with a maximum of five people in attendance. Wedding receptions are not permitted.
In Wales, wedding ceremonies may take place in places of worship and register offices only. Guest numbers are limited by the capacity of the venue. Wedding receptions are not permitted.
In Northern Ireland, wedding ceremonies may take place for up to 25 guests but receptions or post-ceremony celebrations are not permitted.
Yes. Masks should be worn throughout the wedding ceremony, and should not be removed by guests, the officiant and 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.
Inside a pub or restaurant, face masks are not required while eating and drinking.
From 5th January, England entered a third national lockdown which banned all wedding ceremonies from taking place. These measures are expected to last until the middle of February at the earliest, and potentially longer. Afterwards, England will return to the tier system, which also placed restrictions on weddings and receptions. For those marrying in Spring 2021, this will leave them making tough decisions about their big day.
We recommend your first step is deciding whether a wedding with such small numbers is the right thing for you and your partner. If it means cutting your guest list down so dramatically that key members of your family can't come, then it's worth looking into postponing.
If you think you can still have the wedding day you want, you can proceed tentatively with your new date and speak to your venue and suppliers to confirm what their advice and policy is. Are they happy to go ahead with your wedding with 15 people? Can they adjust your plans easily? Will you be able to have the same experience?
For those who want to postpone, head of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners Bernadette Chapman suggests scheduling a call with your venue and officiant as a priority: “Have a date in mind and check they are available. Ask if there are any penalties for changing the date. It might be that, provided the change of date happens in this financial year, they will change the date for free, but if after the tax year there might be an additional charge.
“It’s also very important you speak with the registrars, because it will be a new date and you will need to give notice again, so check the registrars are free on that date.”
If you have a wedding website, we suggest having an area of the site dedicated to updates on your postponement so that you’re not constantly fielding questions from guests.
Your key objective for wedding planning in 2021 will be to make wonderful memories while keeping guests as safe as possible.
There are plenty of ways to do this - 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 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 in such a large group 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 15 people, so it's important to take precautions and keep your distance. Sadly, staying 1-2 metres away from loved ones means you won't be able to hug or kiss them. 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, then it's best to 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.
When the 15 person limit returns, most 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, the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) told insurers that they must help customers struggling with payments, according to Which?.
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.
If your wedding is taking place in Europe, we strongly advise that you contact the venue or your local wedding planner to find out what, if any, restrictions are in place at this time. Individual regions may be subject to isolated lockdowns as in the UK.
Elsewhere in the world, the USA has banned travel from Europe and the UK, although you may enter if eligible but you must self-isolate for 14-days on arrival.Travel is now allowed to the Maldives but you will need to present a negative COVID-19 test and allow time for screening on arrival. Travel to Indonesia is now prohibited apart from for Indonesian nationals, so if you have a wedding planned in Bali, you will need to postpone as soon as possible. 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.
Many European destinations are now part of a 'travel corridor' with the UK and so European trips can now go ahead - although the situation is constantly changing and we recommend following updates closely. As the USA has banned travel from Europe and the UK, and countries such as Indonesia have also put a full travel ban in place, it is likely your long-haul honeymoon will be affected and it's worth checking with your travel operator.
The best sources for following the latest travel updates and restrictions are the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the International Air Transport Association. We also recommend contacting the hotel, airline or travel company you booked through to get their advice on postponing your trip if you’re planning on travelling to an affected area. Most travel insurance policies will cover trips cancelled due to government action but it’s best to check your individual plan.
To reduce your risk of contracting Coronavirus or spreading germs when travelling be sure to read up on the specialist travel guidelines from the National Travel Health Network and the NHS (spoiler: contains a lot of hand-washing).
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 so you’ll need to act quickly if you’re wishing to secure dates next year. Even if you’re not ready to book, ask your favourite venues and suppliers what their 2021 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!