Weddings receptions are banned in areas under a Tier 3 lockdown and only 15 people are able to attend weddings in other parts of England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.
The new three-tier traffic light system came into effect on Wednesday and currently Liverpool City Region and Lancashire have been hit with the highest level lockdown, meaning hospitality and leisure venues are closed and weddings halted.
Weddings ceremonies and sit-down receptions of up to 15 people including the couple are still allowed to take place in areas under Tier 1 and Tier 2 lockdown, which is currently the rest of England.
On Thursday, Mr Johnson announced London would be moving from the medium risk Tier 1 to the high risk Tier 2 lockdown from the weekend. Luckily this change does not impact weddings taking place in the capital.
While there is no guidance on how long the three tier system may be in place, Mr Johnson said in late September that England can expect these restrictions to last for up to six months but they will be regularly reviewed.
The guidelines for England in Tiers 1 and 2 permit a ceremony and reception meal for up to 15 people total. This includes the couple, witnesses and any guests, but does not include anyone working, such as a photographer, officiant or venue staff. This means most couples will be able to invite a maximum of 13 guests to join them celebrate their day, but anyone who is in a Tier 3 lockdown cannot travel to attend a wedding.
The Prime Minister announced that pubs and restaurants in the lowest two tiers will only be allowed to offer table service and have to close at 10pm. Couples hosting a reception at a pub or restaurant will need to speak to their venue about how they can plan their day around the new rules.
It's important to note that the three-tier system does 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.
Keep reading to find out how the latest wedding guidance might impact your day.
- What Are the Latest Rules for Weddings in England?
- What Does the Three-Tier Lockdown System Mean for Weddings?
- Can We Travel Between Tiers 1 and 2 for a Wedding?
- What Are the Rules for Weddings in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
- How Many People Can Attend a Wedding?
- Can I Get Married or Host a Wedding Reception in My Home or Garden?
- Can I Have My Wedding Reception in a Pub?
- Will I Need to Wear a Mask at a Wedding or Civil Partnership Ceremony?
- Should I Postpone My Autumn or Winter Wedding?
- How Can I Keep My Wedding Guests Safe?
- I’ve Been invited to a Wedding During COVID-19, 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 Coronavirus?
- Can I Still Plan My Wedding During the Outbreak?
The number of people able to attend weddings in England is now limited to 15 in Tiers 1 and 2, while wedding receptions are banned in Tier 3. The Prime Minister said that this rule could last for six months and comes with guidelines for how make your wedding ceremony and reception the safest it can be.
Safety measures at ceremonies include social distancing, hand washing before the exchange of rings and avoiding singing where possible. 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 15 people may attend, however this does not include those working
- 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 group 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
Couples in eligible regions of England can follow their wedding ceremony with a sit-down reception meal of up to 15 people.
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 three tiers means and how it impacts weddings.
- Least restrictions
- Less than 100 cases per 100,000 people
- Same restrictions as national measures: 'Rule of 6' where no more than six people are allowed to gather indoors or outdoors, but an exception for weddings and civil ceremonies where up to 15 people can attend.
- Sit-down receptions allowed, but hospitality venues must close at 10pm and only offer table service
- Restrictions increase
- Over 100 cases per 100,000 people
- No mixing between households indoors or in hospitality venues, like pubs and restaurants, except with those in your established social bubble
- 'Rule of 6' applies in gardens and outdoor settings
- Weddings and sit-down receptions of up to 15 people permitted
- Tightest restrictions
- Introduced when Tier 2 has failed to reduce transmissions
- No social contact with another household at all, including outdoors
- Places of worship remain open
- Wedding ceremonies allowed for up to 15 people, but wedding receptions are banned
- Hospitality and leisure businesses shut down
The Government says that Tier 3 residents should not travel to other regions - with a few exceptions for those in work or education, accessing youth services, meeting caring responsibilities, or if a person is in transit.
For those in Tiers 1 and 2, there is no legal restriction on travelling between the tiers, but the main Government advice is not to travel to an area with a higher risk. Those in Tiers 2 and 3 have also been told not to make any non-essential travel, so there's a clear message that you should avoid travelling between tiers if possible.
However, since it is not legally restricted, if you feel comfortable travelling from Tier 2 to Tier 1 and vice versa, it is allowed. Try to be as sensible as possible and take your car to avoid using public transport. Stick within your household or social bubble and wear a mask when meeting others indoors.
The gov.uk website states: "You may continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, for work, voluntary, charitable or youth services, or to access education, within a high alert level area, but you should and aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible.
"You can still travel within high alert level areas to hotels and other guest accommodation, but you should only do this with people in your household or support bubble.
"You can still go on holiday outside of high alert level areas, but you must only do this with people in your household or support bubble.
"When travelling, it is important that you respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and do not travel to different parts of the UK where their intended activities there would be prohibited by legislation passed by the relevant devolved administration. You should also avoid travelling to any part of the country subject to very high local COVID alert levels."
In Scotland, indoors and outdoor weddings are allowed to take place with up to 20 people present. Wedding receptions with up to 20 guests are also allowed and, like England, the guest count will not include venue staff and caterers but will include third party suppliers such as photographers.
Note that receptions of up to 20 are only allowed if they take place in a regulated venue like a restaurant; if they take place at your home, the standard limits on households mixing applies.
In Northern Ireland, couples are allowed to marry indoors or outdoors with no fixed limit on guest numbers. Instead the number is based on the venue's size and their own risk assessment. Ceremonies must only take place in licensed venues, places of worship, hotels and registry offices, except where one of the couple is terminally ill when a ceremony inside a private home is allowed. No additional guests can be added for the evening reception.
Wedding receptions can take place at home in a barn or marquee in the garden, but are subject to household mixing limits.
In Wales, indoor and outdoor wedding ceremonies and receptions of up to 30 guests can take place. Both your ceremony and reception must take place on the same day, and indoor receptions are only allowed to happen in hospitality premises - you would not be able to have a reception at home.
Despite the 30 person limit, guest numbers are still limited by the capacity of the venue once social distancing rules are taken into account, so check with small venues ASAP.
In England, wedding ceremonies and receptions with up to 15 people are currently allowed to go ahead in Tier 1 and 2 areas. This number includes the couple, witnesses and their guests, but excludes anyone working, such as the officiant, photographer and venue or catering staff.
Here's what the official gov.uk website says:
"We understand the unique significance that marriages and civil partnerships hold in people’s lives. For this reason, from 28 September up to 15 people, but no more, can attend a marriage or civil partnership, where this can be safely accommodated with social distancing in a COVID-19 venue (up until 28 September the limit will be 30).
"This maximum number includes all those at the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses, and guests. Anyone working is not included as part of the limit on attendees."
In Scotland, wedding ceremonies and receptions can go ahead with up to 20 guests.
In Wales, up to 30 guests may attend wedding ceremonies and receptions that happen on the same day.
In Northern Ireland, there are no fixed limits on guest number; it is dependent on the size of the venue and their risk assessment.
While a smaller guest list may leave you tempted to save on venue hire and host your nuptials at home, this is not advised. The government states that weddings should not take place in private homes or gardens as they will not have the same COVID-19 secure measures in place as wedding and hospitality venues.
Wedding receptions may still be able to go ahead in pubs but it will be at each individual establishment's discretion, so you'll need to check with them.
You'll also need to follow any guidelines they have in place such as one way systems and social distancing rules. It's a good idea to check in with the pub of your choice and pass on any guidance to guests ahead of the big day.
Pubs and restaurants will close at 10pm, so take this into account if you're planning an evening reception.
Yes. Masks should be worn throughout the wedding ceremony, and should not be removed by guests, the officiant and photographer.
The couple may prefer to 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.
Note that the Prime Minister has doubled the fine for not wearing a mask (except for those exempt) from £100 to £200 - it could be pricey if you ignore the rules.
With weddings currently limited to just 15 guests, it's no surprise that many couples will be looking to postpone their weddings, but when to pull the plug on the current date and when to rebook can be difficult to decide on.
The Prime Minister has said that the current limit of 15 guests on wedding ceremonies and receptions may last for six months - which means couples with autumn and winter 2020 weddings will be deciding their next steps.
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 wedding planning process is going to be entirely different is you have a wedding in 2020 or early 2021. Your key objective 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.
Due to the 15 person limit, 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!