Here’s when wedding ceremonies will be allowed in England - and the rules you’ll have to follow
Many couples who were due to tie the knot this year have been forced to cancel or postpone their special day, with weddings not allowed to take place since March.
But more than three months on from when lockdown was imposed, wedding ceremonies will be permitted in England once again, with some very strict guidelines in place.
When will weddings be allowed?
Wedding ceremonies in England will be allowed to take place from 4 July, in limited circumstances and with social distancing measures in place.
Government guidance states that weddings should only go ahead if they can be conducted in a “Covid-19 secure environment”.
Advice states that no more than 30 people should be in attendance at the ceremony, providing this can be done safely with social distancing. This number includes the couple tying the knot, officiants, guests, photographers, security and caterers.
Managers at the wedding venue are required to keep a record of all of the people who attended the ceremony for a period of 21 days after the wedding, so that they can be contacted via the NHS test and trace service in the event of anyone experiences coronavirus symptoms.
What rules have to be followed?
The government has advised that wedding ceremonies and services should be concluded in the “shortest reasonable time”.
Ceremonies should also be limited as far as reasonably possible to the parts of the marriage or civil partnership that are required to be legally binding by law in England and Wales.
As such, religious communities should adapt traditional religious aspects of the service where celebrations “would otherwise have taken place over a number of hours, or even days”, to reduce the risk of infection.
The exchanging of rings is allowed, but hands must be washed before and after, and the rings should be handled by as few people as possible.
Where an infant is involved in proceedings, it is recommended that they should be held by a member of their household.
As for walking down the aisle, brides are allowed to be escorted but not arm-in-arm, unless the escort lives in the same household.
The bride and escort can walk side-by-side down the aisle with at least a one metre distance between them.
Is singing allowed?
Guidance states that singing should be avoided, along with shouting, raising voices and playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. This is due to the potential increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets.
The playing of instruments that are blown into should be avoided, but other musical instruments are acceptable, providing they are kept clean.
Where singing is required for the marriage or civil partnership, only one individual should be permitted to sing or chant. In this situation, plexi-glass screens should be used to protect guests.
It is also advised that couples who wish to incorporate communal singing into their ceremonies should consider using recordings instead, until guidance is safe to change.
Are wedding receptions allowed?
Wedding receptions that typically follow marriages or civil partnerships have been strongly advised not to take place at the moment.
Small celebrations, in groups of up to two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors, should only take place in line with social distancing guidelines.
Food and drink should also not be consumed as part of the event, unless it is requiredfor the purposes of solemnisation.
What about washing and ablution rituals?
Any washing or ablution rituals should be carried out before arriving at the wedding venue, wherever possible.
Where this is not possible, washing facilities at the venue should be used in line with social distancing guidelines and strict hygiene measures. People should also not wash the body parts of others.
Where rituals or ceremonies require water to be applied to the body, small splashes are allowed, but full immersion should be avoided.
Rituals that require objects to be touched or kissed should also not take place, and books, service sheets and prayer mats should be removed.
Will there be fines if rules aren’t followed?
If venues fail to complete a risk assessment which takes account of coronavirus, or fail to put in any sufficient safety measures in place to manage the risk of transmission, it could constitute a breach of existing health and safety legislation.
Serious breaches and failure to comply with enforcement notices can constitute a criminal offence, with serious fines and even imprisonment for up to two years.