Weddings

Coronavirus: The Latest UK Wedding News & Rules Following 'Plan B'

Weddings in Wales and Northern Ireland will now be limited to the socially-distanced capacity of each venue and face coverings have returned. Here's everything you need to know about the current wedding rules across in the UK

Bride and groom holding hands

Bride and groom holding hands

Restrictions to wedding guest numbers have returned in Wales and Northern Ireland as cases of the Omicron variant increase across the UK.

The number of guests able to attend weddings in Wales will be determined by each individual venue's socially-distanced capacity and all guests will be required to take a lateral flow, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on Wednesday.

The new, strengthened measures will be introduced from 6am on Boxing Day (26th December) and include a requirement for face coverings to be worn in all hospitality settings except for when seated.

In Northern Ireland, guest numbers for ceremonies and receptions will be determined by the venue on an individual risk-assessed basis and limited to 30 people indoors in a private home.

Face coverings must be worn when entering and exiting a place of worship or while in any publicly accessible indoor venues, with only the officiant, couple and children under 12 exempt.

There are currently no limits on guest numbers in England or Scotland, but face coverings are required for everyone during ceremonies in Scotland except for the officiant and couple.

Those planning weddings post-Boxing Day 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 broken down all the official guidelines for each devolved administration.

Two grooms kissing

What Are the Current Rules for Weddings in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

England

As of the 19th July, England removed all social distancing rules around weddings, however, a few limitations returned from the 13th December 2021 when Boris Johnson announced the move to 'Plan B'. The current Covid wedding guidelines in England are:

  • No legal restrictions on the number of people that can attend a wedding, civil partnership, reception or celebration.
  • Face coverings are not required by law in most wedding venues, except in certain premises such as places of worship. You are permitted to remove a face covering during a ceremony when reasonably necessary to sing. You are not required to wear a face mask if the main part of the event is eating, drinking or dancing.
  • Covid passports are required by law in certain venues, such as nightclubs. In other venues, Covid status may need to be shown for the reception (not the ceremony) if more than 500 people will be attending indoors or 4,000 outdoors; the reception is organised by a person or organisation acting in a professional capacity; and the reception is not held in a private dwelling. You do not need to show a Covid passport for a wedding under 500 people.
  • If someone has been instructed by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate because they have tested positive for COVID-19, or they’re the close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, they must still self-isolate and not attend.
  • If a wedding is taking place abroad or in the UK outside of England, the guidelines state that guests are permitted to travel, but must follow the rules on weddings in the destination they've travelled to.

Scotland

Scotland re-introduced several Covid measures on 17th December 2021 that relate to weddings:

  • There are no limits on the number of people who can attend a wedding or civil partnership
  • Face coverings must be worn by everyone (unless exempt) during the ceremony apart from the officiant and the wedding couple. This is provided that they are either able to remain at least two metres from others present, or there is a screen or partition between them and others present.
  • If one or both of the couple are being accompanied down the aisle, they and the person accompanying them do not need to wear a face covering at this point in the ceremony
  • Face coverings may be temporarily removed to eat or drink as part of a religious rite, but should not be taken off for the entire ceremony.
  • Face coverings must be worn at receptions except for if eating and drinking (either seated or standing) and while dancing

Northern Ireland

The current Northern Irish guidelines state:

  • Numbers attending indoor ceremonies and post-ceremony celebrations will be determined by the venue on a risk assessed basis, meaning each individual venue can host a different number and you'll need to contact your venue for exact details.
  • A maximum of 30 people are permitted to gather indoors at a private home.
  • If the ceremony is taking place in a place of worship, face coverings are required when entering or exiting the building. The legal requirement to wear a face covering during an act of worship has been removed, however it is still "strongly advised".
  • For ceremonies taking place in other publicly accessible indoor venues, face coverings must be worn by all unless exempt, other than the officiant, the couple getting married, and children aged 12 and under.

Wales

Updated Welsh wedding guidelines come into effect on Boxing Day (26th December). They include:

  • Wedding ceremonies, receptions and civil partnerships are allowed to take place inside in any approved venue or place of worship, with the guest limit determined "by the venue's ability to manage social distancing and other reasonable Covid secure measures"
  • All guests need to take a lateral flow before attending a wedding.
  • Face coverings will be required in hospitality settings at all times apart from when seated.

A further, full update of the Alert Level 2 rules is expected to be announced soon which will provide further clarity on face masks and reception requirements.

Bride and groom sitting on a flight of stairs

Will My Spring 2022 Wedding Happen? Will There Be Restrictions?

The rise in Omicron cases has spurred on the reintroduction of some restrictions to weddings and civil partnerships. As it stands, weddings can still go ahead in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but, depending on the region, your wedding may be smaller and your guests may need to wear face masks.

Any further changes to the rules will be dependent on the direction that Omicron cases go in, which we simply don't know at the moment.

It's best to speak to your wedding venue and suppliers about a possible Plan B scenario, but don't let yourself get too stressed about whether your wedding may be cancelled. The vaccine booster drive has been really well received and it's too early to be second-guessing what may happen in January, February or as we move into Spring.

What Happens If I Can't Have as Many Guests as I Want? 

In Wales and Northern Ireland, capacity limits at venues are determined by a risk assessment based on each individual venue's socially-distanced capacity. This may mean that you cannot invite as many guests as you originally planned. 

You may decide to go ahead with your wedding as it is, you may want to postpone your day, or you may wish to have a smaller ceremony followed by a big reception party later in the year when all restrictions are lifted.

In terms of who is included in the numbers for weddings, all wedding guests, including the couple and children, count; anyone working at the ceremony or reception is not included. 

There are some exceptions for children, such as under 12s not counting as part of table number limits in Wales. These vary so read the rules for your area carefully.

How Can I Avoid Catching COVID and Missing My Own Wedding? 

We know this is a big worry for couples as the cases of Covid in the UK continue to rise. Naturally couples who are getting married want to do everything they can to avoid having to isolate and cancel their day.

One of the biggest places we're hearing of couples catching COVID ahead of weddings is their hen or stag party, so it could make a lot of sense to delay this!

We'd advise you to read the NHS guidelines on how to avoid catching COVID which contain some really useful advice on practical steps you can take to reduce your risk of catching it. These include:

  • Get vaccinated and get your booster– everyone aged 18 or over can book COVID-19 vaccination appointments now
  • Meet people outside if possible
  • Open doors and windows to let in fresh air if meeting people inside
  • Limit the number of people you meet and avoid crowded places
  • Work from home where possible
  • Wear a face covering when it's hard to stay away from other people – particularly indoors or in crowded places like public transport
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day

There are some extra steps that you can take if you're being extra cautious. These are Hitched's own thoughts and you don't have to follow any of them, but if you're being extra cautious we'd advise:

  • You will have lots of admin to do, such as collecting items or buying final bits. Purchase what you can online and choose contact-free delivery. If you're going to meet a supplier or one of your wedding party, ask if they'll take a lateral flow test before seeing you, and you should do the same. It's recommended to take two lateral flow tests a week in the final few weeks before your wedding
  • Have hen, stag or sten parties a few months in advance of the wedding or save them up for after the wedding; they'll be just as fun and something to look forward to
  • If anyone close to you has symptoms, isolate as soon as you can and arrange a PCR test
  • Is there any way to cut down unnecessary trips in the couple of weeks before the wedding? Perhaps you can get your food shop delivered? Maybe you can arrange your pre-wedding haircut or nail appointment a little earlier than you planned?

What's the Best Way to Ask Guests to Take a Lateral Flow Before My Wedding?

Worried about sounding demanding if you ask guests to take a lateral flow on the morning of your wedding? Don't. It's a very simple and quick test that your friends and family can take to ensure your wedding is as safe as possible. The last thing anyone wants is for loved ones to catch COVID on their special day.

Most of your guests will understand this completely and we'd send an email around to all guests as well as creating an area on your wedding website where you explain your request.

Wording like this is good:

"We're excited to celebrate our wedding with you all next week. It's important to us that we keep all our guests as safe as possible and there will be elderly and vulnerable loved ones in attendance who need a little extra care.

"We politely ask that all guests take a Lateral Flow test on the morning of our wedding to check they are negative for COVID. Lateral Flow tests are free from pharmacies and online, and are a quick and simple test that gives results back in 30 minutes. One in three people who have COVID have no symptoms and we ask you to respect our decision to require guests to take a test before attending our special day.

"If you are positive, please isolate, even if you do not have any symptoms. We will miss your presence at the wedding, but your safety is our priority.

"For those who are sadly unable to attend, the ceremony will be live streamed and we'd love for you to tune in at this link and be a part of our celebrations still."

If you really feel awkward (although there's no reason to), blame it on your venue. You could say:

"We've received an important update from our venue. For the safety of their staff, they have requested that guests wear masks at all times inside the ceremony venue, which we fully support. We would also ask that our guests complete a Lateral Flow test on the morning of the wedding."

A bride posing with a bouquet
Orione/Pexels

Can I Currently Get Wedding Insurance?

Many providers have temporarily suspended 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.

Read our complete guide to wedding insurance in 2022 here for more details.

Will My Wedding Insurance Cover Postponement or Cancellation?

This will entirely depend on your policy. As weddings have now reopened, the main cause of postponement or cancellation will be if one of the couple gets COVID and has to isolate, or if the venue has to close due to staff isolating.

Many wedding insurance companies are dealing with a backlog of queries and are only taking calls or emails relating to wedding taking place in a certain time period, while others are not covering COVID-impacted weddings if the policy was bought after a certain date. For example, Wedinsure says, "For all new customers who purchase a policy from 23rd October 2020, the policy specifically excludes all claims and losses arising directly or indirectly from any Pandemic or Epidemic including COVID-19."

Wedding Plan Insurance have outlined the circumstances in which your wedding will be covered if cancellation and not postponement is necessary, but the policy is also only valid if insurance was taken out before any lockdown or venue closures were announced. “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.”

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.”

Each company will be different and we recommend taking a look at the terms and conditions and phoning your insurer if you’re unsure.

Do We Have to Wear Masks At Our Wedding?

The wearing of face coverings is dependent on what part of the UK you are marrying in.

England: Face masks are required by law in certain venues, such as places of worship and hospitality venues. You may remove your mask to sing and face coverings are not required while eating, drinking and dancing.

Scotland: Face coverings must be worn by everyone (unless exempt) during the ceremony apart from the officiant and the wedding couple. They may be removed by the couple and the person accompanying them as they walk down the aisle. Face coverings can be removed at the reception while eating, drinking and dancing.

Wales: Face coverings are required in hospitality settings at all times apart from when seated.

Northern Ireland: Face coverings must be worn when entering and exiting a place of worship or while in any publicly accessible indoor venues, with only the officiant, couple and children 12 or under exempt.

Bride and groom wearing protective face masks

Can I Go to a Wedding Abroad?

The gov.uk guidance states: "People are permitted to travel to attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony or reception in England. They’re also able to leave England and travel to other parts of the UK (or abroad), to attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony. If someone travels outside England to attend a wedding or civil partnership, they must follow the rules on weddings in place at the 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.

Can We Go on Venue Viewings?

Absolutely, venues are open for viewings. We recommend you call ahead to find out if the venue has chosen to continue with any restrictions, such as limiting the number of people who can attend or asking you to continue wearing a mask inside.

Can I Still Buy My Wedding Dress or Wedding Outfit?

Non-essential retail, such as bridal shops and suit 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 - we recommend to start looking nine months in advance - so 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.

Covid Wedding Rules

How Can I Keep My Wedding Guests Safe?

Your key objective for wedding planning in 2022 will be to make wonderful memories while keeping guests as safe as possible.

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:

1. Keep Guests Up-to-Date

Guests need to know what's expected of them. Do you want them to take a rapid lateral flow test on the morning of the wedding? How about continue to wear masks? Tell them this. If you have a wedding website, this is a great space to explain what you would like your guests to do.

We suggest you request guests take twice-weekly lateral flow tests in the run-up to your wedding as one in three people have COVID with no symptoms. Rapid lateral flow tests are free from pharmacies or online and take 30 minutes to show results. If positive, even if guests have no symptoms, they should isolate and not attend the wedding

Why not also add information from the NHS hygiene guidelines? The government 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 you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet or where clinically vulnerable people may be
  • Isolate - Isolate when positive or when contacted by NHS Test and Trace

2. Plan Safety Measures in Advance

Bernadette Chapman of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners (UKAWP) 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?”

3. Stay in Contact With Your Venue and Suppliers

Find out from your venue and suppliers what measures they're maintaining. 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. 

Bride and groom holding hands in close up

I Don't Feel Comfortable Going to a Wedding Just Yet, Can I Say No?

If you've been invited to a wedding taking place within the next few 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 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: 

  • Take a Lateral Flow Test - Take a test on the morning of the wedding to make sure you and anyone else in your household isn't positive. If you are, you won't be able to attend, but if it comes back negative, you'll have peace of mind. The couple will of course be gutted if you can't make it but will be grateful to you for helping to keep their wedding safe, trust us.  
  • 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. 
  • Follow the Venue/Couple's Rules - Even if you're in a part of the country where no restrictions apply, some couples and venues may decide to keep them e.g. if a vulnerable elderly relative is coming and they'd like people to continue wearing masks. Check in ahead of time about what you need to do and respect the couple or their venue's wishes.

Woman typing on a Macbook

How Can I Make Virtual Guests Feel Part of the Day?

If your venue still has socially-distanced capacity restrictions or some vulnerable guests don't feel comfortable attending the wedding, you can still make them feel involved! Luckily, modern technology and social media have made it easier than ever before to include absent friends.

  • Ask your venue if they have video link equipment and invite absent guests to join you via video call for the ceremony and speeches
  • 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! 

READ MORE: How to Live Stream Your Wedding: Our Top 5 Tips

Wedding party celebrating

Am I Eligible for a Refund If I’m Forced to Cancel?

In September 2020, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) - which helps consumers understand their rights - released a statement on refunds for cancelled weddings. Their review specifically relates to weddings cancelled between Marc and September 2020, but applies to other points during the year when full lockdown was implemented. 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.

Will I Need to Cancel or Postpone My Wedding Abroad?

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 quite a few countries are not welcoming Britons at the moment and there are lots of hoops to jump through with PCR tests and Covid passports.

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.

Couple hugging and laughing on a beach

I Paid with My Credit Card, Will I Get My Money Back if My Wedding is Cancelled Due to Covid?

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.

Can I Book a Honeymoon for 2022?

In theory, yes - but be aware booking a honeymoon abroad for 2022 doesn't guarantee you'll actually be able to get away. Travel abroad requires tests in advance and on your return, and can also require proof of two vaccinations and even a booster. You should check everything ahead of time with your honeymoon travel company and check the rules for the country you're visiting on the Foreign Office website.

A great alternative is always a UK staycation!

Can I Still Begin Planning My Wedding During Covid?

Yes! There are plenty of wedding planning tasks you can tackle without having to leave the house, like finding your wedding venue from home.

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 have postponed to 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 2022 and 2023 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!

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