The coronavirus pandemic has been testing in so many ways, for so many different people. One such group is brides and grooms-to-be, whose plans to get married have been disrupted for the past year due to the danger of COVID spreading among large groups.
In February, Boris Johnson set out the government's plans to bring the UK out of lockdown, sharing a four-stage roadmap to ease restrictions, and we're now happily at the second stage. Since the Prime Minister's first announcement, there have been a number of clarifications about weddings that have provided a bit of a rollercoaster for couples, especially those hoping to marry in April or May. And this week, there have been even more changes it's worth knowing about. So, what are the rules for weddings?
Here's what we know about when weddings will be able to go ahead in England, if you're planning to get married some time soon...
When will weddings be allowed in England?
Currently, and up until 17 May at the earliest, wedding ceremonies and wedding receptions are permitted to go ahead in England with a maximum of 15 people (not including anyone working at the event). As regional tiers have been scrapped, it doesn't matter where you live in the country, these rules apply to all.
Weddings with receptions have been re-introduced from step 2 of the four-step plan, which the government projects to begin from 12 April at the earliest. The dates for each stage guiding us out of lockdown have been laid out, but they obviously depend on the number of coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths remaining manageable. So far, it's looking like this:
From 8 March, wedding ceremonies with 6 people opened up, but only in exceptional circumstances and with no receptions allowed.
From 29 March, wedding ceremonies with 6 people were allowed in any circumstances, but wedding receptions were not permitted.
🌟 From 12 April, weddings and wedding receptions with up to 15 people have been allowed to take place in COVID-19 secure venues that are permitted to open.
From 17 May, weddings and wedding receptions with up to 30 people should be possible indoors or outdoors in a COVID-secure venue, including in private gardens, which is a change from the original rules which did not allow private gardens to facilitate wedding receptions.
From 21 June (step four of the plan), the aim is to "remove all legal limits on social contact" at weddings (and other live events, such as night clubs and theatre performances).
So what are the new rules the government has changed about weddings?
Although the road map was largely good news for couples hoping to get married this spring, the government then went on to make clarifications which were predicted to make 7,000 weddings impossible to go ahead. The change was that weddings and receptions taking place between 12 April and 16 May could only go ahead inside places of worship, public buildings, or in locations and outdoor settings that were already permitted to open. This was a major blow to couples, as it did not include the vast majority of England’s licensed wedding venues where over 70% of weddings take place.
However, the government went on to do a U-turn, with the Weddings Taskforce confirming that "updated guidance now states that wedding ceremonies may take place in all licensed wedding venues" from the beginning of step 2, which commenced on 12 April. "The UK Weddings Taskforce is pleased that following its intervention, the Government has reversed its decision and will now allow wedding ceremonies in licensed venues from step 2," Chris Naylor, Chairperson of the UK Weddings Taskforce told Cosmopolitan.
The government also originally stated that during phases 2 and 3 of the roadmap out of lockdown, wedding receptions would not permitted to take place in people’s private gardens or in public outdoor spaces. This caused outrage, with people questioning the "contradictory and bizarre" rules, considering people have been allowed to host up to six people in private gardens since 29 March.
In yet another change of their minds, the government has now decided that wedding receptions from step 3 (no earlier than 17 May) can take place in private gardens, meaning many more will now likely be able to go ahead. The maximum capacity for weddings in May and June, up until step 4 comes into action, is 30 people.
Of course, all of the above is still conditional on levels of coronavirus remaining in control. However, with the vaccination programme being rolled out - and with more than 32 million people having been vaccinated at this point - everyone is hopeful that numbers should remain low enough for each stage to go ahead as planned.
Speaking to Cosmopolitan in February, the spokesperson for the UK Weddings Taskforce, Sarah Haywood, said of the plan: "We’re pleased that our safe and workable solutions for the return of weddings were incorporated in the Prime Minister’s roadmap. It is however frustrating and disappointing for businesses and couples alike that we are moving at snail’s pace towards 21st June.
"We have recommended to Government that weddings pave the way for all events to take place as by nature, weddings operate a tightly controlled guest list of a close circle of family and friends. We have already begun pressing for answers as to why some events can include over 1000 guests when the capacity for weddings will be just 30. It doesn’t make sense."
So let's keep our fingers firmly crossed that, as restrictions ease, the wedding industry can pick back up - and that thousands of couples across the country can finally say "I do."
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