Since the UK lockdown began on 23rd March, couples’ weddings plans have been up in the air leading to many having to postpone their big day.
On 29th June, new Government guidelines were released allowing small wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships to take place from 4th July, but advising that only small receptions with two households were permitted indoors or six people from different households outdoors. Couples can now marry with up to 30 people present, however that number includes the couple, suppliers like their photographer, their officiant and two witnesses.
On 17th July, the Government announced that slightly larger wedding receptions could return from 1st August, but that guest numbers would be limited to 30 and social distancing measures must remain in place. However, on 31st July, just a day before the new guidelines were set to come into effect, Boris Johnson announced that the latest measures would be pushed back by two weeks when the guidelines will be reviewed again on 15th August.
Keep reading to find out how the latest wedding guidance might impact your day.
What Are the Latest Rules for Weddings?
The latest wedding guidelines, announced on 29th June, implemented a series of rules for wedding ceremonies. These include social distancing, hand washing before the exchange of rings and avoiding singing. Ceremonies should be conducted “in the shortest reasonable time” and couples are encouraged to restrict their service to the bare legal requirements.
Here’s what the Government advice says:
- Ceremonies must be kept “as short as reasonably possible” and limited to the legally binding parts
- No more than 30 people may attend, including the couple and staff at the venue
- Ceremonies must be in a “COVID-19 secure environment” with guests following the 2 metre rule, or “1 metre plus” where extra safety measures like masks are used
- The floor should be marked with tape or paint to help people maintain social distancing
- No food and drink can be consumed as part of the service, such as during a communion
- Hands must be washed before and after rings are exchanged; as few people as possible to handle the rings
- Couples and officiants are not allowed to speak with raised voices, such as when exchanging vows
- Raised voices should be avoided, so recordings are recommended instead of singing, and music played at a level where guests do not need to shout over it
- Playing wind or blown instruments should be avoided
- Mitigate risk factors by avoiding face-to-face seating, reducing the number of guests in an enclosed space, improving ventilation, using protective screen and face coverings, and restricting access to non-essential areas
Regarding receptions, the rules state that: “Any receptions that typically follow or accompany marriages or civil partnerships are strongly advised not to take place at this time.
“Small celebrations should only take place if following social distancing guidelines – i.e. in groups of up to two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors.”
On 17th July, new guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships was released advising that wedding receptions with up to 30 in attendance, involving sit-down meals, could go ahead from 1st August. However, on 31st July these new measures were pushed by another two weeks, at which time they will be reviewed again.
On 15th July, the Scottish government stated that indoor weddings would once again be allowed to take place with up to 20 people present. In Northern Ireland, ministers are now allowing indoor weddings and asking that venues determine numbers on a risk assessment basis.
The Welsh government has also lifted the ban on weddings in Wales as long as they are small enough to maintain social distancing measures.
The impact of Coronavirus on our lives has been huge, and for anyone who has a wedding planned in 2020, the current situation has thrown up a lot of questions and concerns about how their wedding day will be affected. With the latest announcement raising more questions than answers, it’s still a difficult time for couples and venues as they look for clarity on how weddings can go ahead.
To help you get a plan of action into place, we’ve spent some time chatting to all kinds of experts, from wedding insurance professionals to wedding dress suppliers, and have answered all of your Coronavirus and wedding-related queries.
Whether you’re worried about your wedding insurance policy, your wedding dress delivery time, when larger weddings might be allowed again and how to keep guests safe, we’ve taken all of your concerns to the people who know best. Here’s everything you need to know if your wedding is planned during the Coronavirus outbreak and the answers to all your big questions:
- Will I Need to Postpone or Cancel My Wedding?
- When Will Weddings Be Allowed?
- Will My Wedding Happen?
- When Should I Postpone My Wedding?
- What Does This Mean for My Church Wedding?
- Will I Need to Cancel or Postpone My Wedding Abroad?
- 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 Get My Money Back from My Credit Card?
- Will My Honeymoon Be Affected by Coronavirus?
- Will I Still Be Able to Get My Dress?
- Can I Start Shopping for My Wedding Dress?
- How Can I Stop My Guests Catching Coronavirus?
- How Can I Make Virtual Guests Feel Part of the Day?
- Can I Still Plan My Wedding During the Outbreak?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson first announced on 23rd March that social gatherings including weddings would be stopped for three weeks. On 16th of April, Secretary of State Dominic Raab, deputising for the Prime Minister, announced that the measures were to continue for at least another three weeks. According to an article by the BBC, ministers are required by law to take the advice of experts and reassess measures every three weeks.
The Government announced that the following conditions would need to be met before lifting the lockdown: ensuring the NHS can cope; a sustained and consistent fall in the Coronavirus daily death rate; reliable data showing the infection rate is decreasing; ensuring the NHS has enough personal protection equipment and tests for future demand and confidence that any adjustments would not risk a second peak in Coronavirus cases.
While this system puts the UK in the best possible place to stamp out the virus and save as many lives as possible, it also puts couples and wedding businesses alike in a difficult and uncertain position.
The Prime Minister’s announcement cemented the return of wedding ceremonies from 4th July, and on 17th July he announced that wedding receptions involving no more than 30 people could begin from 1st August. However, this date has now been pushed back by two weeks and won't be reviewed until 15th August, meaning many couples who had begun planning receptions with up to 30 people will be forced to put their plans on hold. The current advice is that wedding receptions 'are strongly advised not to take place', and that if they do go ahead they should be limited to two households at an indoor venue or six households outdoors.
Places of worship and licensed venues opened for wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships of less than 30 people from 4th July 2020 in England. The government in Northern Ireland and Wales are allowing small indoor weddings that remain small enough to maintain social distancing.
As of July 15th, weddings in Scotland for up to 20 people returned.
Will My Wedding in August Happen?
In his update on 31st July, Boris Johnson pushed back the date for wedding receptions of up to 30 to return by two weeks.
Bernadette Chapman of The Alliance of Wedding Planners says: “Now is the time to work on contingency plans. So, if you still wish to marry this summer, are you able to do this with smaller numbers and organise a larger party for next year perhaps?”
If you’re not prepared to limit guest numbers or host a small wedding now and a large celebration at a later date, now is the time to discuss alternatives with your venue. Ask them for their availability later in the year or next year and discuss postponement options.
Bear in mind that the Government has also recently changed the rules regarding travel and many countries are included as part of a "travel corridor", meaning that travellers from these locations will not need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in the UK. However, if they have come from a country not on the government's list or have stopped over in one of these countries during their journey, they will still need to quarantine at this time.
Will My Autumn 2020 Wedding Happen?
It's difficult to know what the wedding guidelines in September and October could look like given that measures are changing regularly, and no one can say for certain whether or not weddings will be going ahead at full capacity, so it’s best to ask your venue when they will review your date if you're keen to host a large wedding.
It’s also worth checking in with suppliers and making sure they have everything they need to provide you with the services you have booked. For example, travel restrictions may have limited certain supplies and small businesses who have been hit with financial losses due to Coronavirus may struggle to fulfil their obligations in the future. It might be a tricky conversation to have, but it’s worth having sooner rather than later.
Will My Winter 2020 Wedding Happen?
Many Spring and Summer couples have postponed their weddings until this time and so winter weddings are thought of as a relatively safe bet right now. If the government’s plan is a success and the infection rate continues to drop, it seems likely that winter weddings will happen and that even vulnerable guests who were previously shielding will be able to attend as long as health and safety measures are adhered to.
We would still advise that couples ask when their venues plan to review autumn and winter dates, just in case of continued disruption. Winter couples should also check in with their suppliers and make sure that they’re still equipped to fulfil the services booked.
Bernadette recommends keeping up-to-date with the latest developments and keeping in touch with your wedding team: “All we can do is take it day by day. It is worth speaking with your venue and suppliers in the interim to discuss their views on postponement.”
When it comes to postponing your wedding, Bernadette suggests scheduling a call with your venue and officiant first: “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.” Bernadette also suggests trying to book dates for late 2020 and asking suppliers if they will still provide their services on the same payment terms.
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.
Small church weddings in England can go ahead, with less than 30 guests. The Church of England have stated that they are happy to refund couples wanting to cancel and will work with couples to find a new date should they wish to postpone. However, they will still run limited services for those wishing to go ahead after the lockdown has ended, whenever that may be.
The official statement reads: “From 4th July the government strongly advises that numbers are restricted to 30 for public health reasons. This maximum number includes all those at the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses, officiant and guests. It also includes any workers who are not employed by the church such as photographers. It does not include staff or volunteers employed by the church such as vergers or churchwardens.”
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 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 your wedding is taking place from September, it looks likely that you will still be able to go ahead with your plans. However, just like everything else relating to the Coronavirus outbreak, this is uncertain and you will need to keep in touch with your wedding planner or venue and keep an eye on local government developments as not all governments will be opening their borders to all.
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?. Applications for insurance holidays are now open until 18th August, ensuring you don’t need to pay for a service you cannot use due to COVID-19.
If your wedding was or is due to take place during the ban on weddings and you can’t postpone, you may be entitled to at least a partial refund according to Which?. The CMA guidelines, explained here by The Association of British Wedding Businesses, say in most cases refunds should be issued if any of the following circumstances are met:
- a business cancels on you without providing any of the promised goods or service;
- no service is provided by a business, for example because this is prevented by Government public health measures;
- you are forced to cancel, or are prevented from receiving any services, because public health measures mean you are not allowed to use the services.
If your venue or supplier agrees to a refund, it’s likely they will already have incurred costs for things like menu tastings or time spent in planning meetings. According to the CMA, the venue or supplier can deduct a contribution to the costs it has already incurred. If this happens, you might want to ask for a breakdown of the costs. Bear in mind, wedding businesses are under enormous pressure. Any refunds you may be entitled to could take time to process. Refunds from venues or suppliers are always a case-by-case basis, so check the terms in the various contracts you signed.
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. 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).
As many wedding dresses are manufactured in China, we totally get why some of you may be worrying about getting your dream dress on time. We chatted to the chairman of the British Bridalwear Suppliers Association, William Dicks, who told us that there’s no need to panic: “Our advice is very clear; there is not any problem with the supply of wedding dresses. Because the Coronavirus impacted upon China around the time of Chinese New Year, many suppliers had already received gowns early and made arrangements to ensure all orders would be received on time. So, if you have ordered a dress, do not worry, it will arrive on time.
To put your mind at rest, get in touch with your boutique and ask them to tell you the status of your gown if they haven’t already. Also, ask them to let you know as soon as they reopen so that you can try on your gown and still have plenty of time to fit in any alterations that you may need.
If you’re yet to start shopping for your wedding dress, contact your local boutique and ask them if they offer virtual appointments or contact an online atelier such as Catherine Deane and ask to speak with a bridal stylist. You can also buy wedding dresses online and order some to try-on at home – just make sure your other half is banished to another room when they arrive!
If you’re going ahead with your 2020 wedding and you have a wedding website, why not add information from or link to the NHS hygiene guidelines? This will ensure all guests are up to date with how best to ward off infection and stop the spread. We would totally suggest hand-washing in time to the chorus of “Marry You” by Bruno Mars, but that’s just us.
Bernadette also advises that couples put 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?”
In line with government advice we do not recommend that elderly and health compromised individuals attend large events such as weddings until the situation has stabilised. However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t be included in your celebrations. 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
Yes! From finding your wedding venue from home to buying a wedding dress online, there are plenty of wedding planning tasks you can tackle during lockdown if you’re newly engaged and wish to crack on.
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.
Bear in mind that many 2020 couples will now be postponing 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!