Weddings after June 21: face coverings, table service and no dancefloors

A married couple hold hands (PA Archive)
16:59pm, Tue 15 Jun 2021
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On Monday Prime Minister Boris Johnson briefly outlined how delays to “Freedom Day” on June 21 meant weddings after this date must follow social distancing regulations.

The Government has now published an almost 7,000-word guide on the new rules – so what will weddings look like now?

– What are the main changes in a nutshell?

The current 30-people cap on weddings will still be lifted on June 21, but venues are now being asked to limit numbers based on space and to enforce social distancing measures, including the wearing of face coverings indoors.

– What are the new rules on numbers?

Guestlist limits will be determined by “how many people a venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place”, according to the Government website.

Venue staff, bands, photographers and anyone else involved in the wedding must be included in the headcount, as well as guests of all ages.

The guidance on numbers applies to both wedding ceremonies and receptions held in “Covid-secure” venues and private outdoor spaces.

– What is a “Covid-secure” venue?

A Covid-secure venue is one where a risk assessment has been carried out with a maximum capacity set to allow for social distancing, and where measures such as adequate ventilation and frequent cleaning are in place.

This includes sites operated or used by a business, charitable or philanthropic institutions, places of worship and registry offices.

– Can people hold their own outdoor weddings? 

Yes – weddings in private gardens and fields or in public outdoor places can go ahead with more than 30 guests.

If there are more than 30 people attending the outdoor wedding, the organiser is legally obliged to carry out a risk assessment in the same way as the owner of a Covid-secure venue.

For weddings with fewer than 30 guests, the couple or organiser do not need to carry out a risk assessment.

If a marquee is involved, 50% of the perimeter must be open for the wedding to be classed as “outdoor”.

– What about weddings held inside private homes?

Weddings held inside private homes or “enclosed spaces” that are not formal venues are limited to six people or two households.

Only “deathbed weddings” – cases where one partner is seriously ill and not expected to recover – are exempt from this rule, and can host up to 30 people.

Wedding Rings (PA Archive)

– What are the rules on social distancing? 

Since guidance on meeting family and friends was updated on May 17 with a greater emphasis on personal responsibility, friends and family can also choose not to distance at weddings.

However, venue managers and organisers should consider how to enable social distancing between attendees who do want to maintain a two-metre distance.

Hosts serving food and drinks must provide table service, and snacks and beverages cannot be consumed as part of the ceremony unless required for religious purposes.

Coronavirus – Thu Jul 2, 2020 (PA Archive)

– What about face coverings?All guests and staff at indoor wedding ceremonies and receptions must wear a face covering except when eating or drinking.

This excludes the person officiating the service, the couple, and anyone exempt.

Police can enforce the wearing of face coverings and may issue fines of £200 for the first breach, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £6,400.

Royal Ascot 2021 – Day One (PA Wire)

However, there is no legal requirement to wear a mask at outdoor weddings.

– What does this mean for singing, dancing and speeches?

Professional bands comprising any number of musicians are allowed to play at weddings, as long as the venue can safely provide for the numbers.

Amateur bands must be limited to six-strong indoors, or up to 30 performers outdoors.

Communal singing by the guests should not take place indoors, according to Government guidance.

Dancing is also “advised against” due to the increased risk of transmission, except the newly married couple’s “first dance”.

Dancefloors must be closed but can be repurposed for additional seating space.

The guidance advises that speeches are held outdoors or in well-ventilated areas, using a PA system where possible so the speaker does not need to project their voice.

– What if more than the allowed number of guests turn up to a venue?

The Government has said venue owners should notify the police or their local authority if numbers “significantly breach the safe capacity of the venue”.

It will be up to the “enforcing authority” to decide the “most appropriate enforcement” if this happens.

– Are there any other limits?

The Government guidance on completing a “risk assessment” states that organisers should consider whether any guests or staff are at higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus, and how to reduce potential transmissions.

It also warns that organisers could be hit with a £10,000 fine for gatherings involving more than 50 people outdoors or 30 people indoors if they “do not consider the risks”.

– What did the Prime Minister say about weddings during the coronavirus press conference?

When a bride-to-be who has had to postpone her wedding twice asked why testing and vaccination status cannot be used to open up weddings in the same way as it is being used for football matches, Boris Johnson said: “I’m very, very sorry to hear about your wedding plans being postponed twice…

“All I can say is I’m sorry for the disappointment that this will certainly bring to weddings, to many, many businesses, but it’s a few weeks that I think is worth it to get those jabs in.”

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