Watch: 30-person limit on weddings in England will be lifted from June 21
The 30-person limit on weddings has been scrapped, in one of just a handful of relaxations to COVID-19 restrictions that will take place on 21 June as planned.
Couples trying to plan their nuptials have faced numerous frustrations recently, including multiple postponements, difficulty obtaining refunds and confusion over insurance coverage, but perhaps the biggest hurdle is uncertainty surrounding the end of coronavirus restrictions.
But in good news for brides and grooms to be who have booked to get married in the next month, full-scale celebrations will have the go-ahead, albeit without any singing or dancing.
On Monday, Boris Johnson announced that the lifting of remaining COVID restrictions, planned for 21 June, would be delayed until 19 July.
However, in an exception, the PM said the current cap on wedding guest numbers will be lifted from next Monday, allowing planned weddings to go ahead with more than 30 guests.
Asked at a press conference about the issue by a member of the public who said her own wedding had been postponed twice, Johnson said he was “sorry for all the disappointment that’s going to be caused by going a bit slower”, but that weddings with more than 30 people could happen from 21 June “providing social distancing is observed”.
He added: “I hope that works for you, and I think everyone would wish you every possible fortune with your wedding.”
What do the new rules mean for weddings?
While many couples will be thrilled to learn their planned days can go ahead, the full rules, which have not yet been published, are actually pretty complex.
Risk assessments must be undertaken by venues in order to calculate how many people can safely be present in order to observe social distancing rules.
The rules vary according to where the event is held. For example, while the maximum number of guests at a commercial venue depends on the size, if a wedding takes place inside a private home, the maximum number is six, to adhere to wider rules for home-based mixing.
Guests must be served at tables, with a limit of six per table, while stand-up drinks receptions remain off the table (pardon the pun).
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No dancing or singing
More complication comes with regards to dancing. While rules barring dancing are part of the law for weddings at commercial venues, for those taking place on private land, for example in a garden, they are only guidance, and not set down in the law – but dancing outdoors is still discouraged.
Brides and grooms concerned they will miss out on their first sashay round the dancefloor should take heart in a reported "dance rule" exception that should allow the bride and groom to do their first dance.
Guests are also banned from singing hymns at wedding ceremonies, but musical performances may take place, at a limit of up to six performers indoors.
Marquees in gardens will count as outdoor spaces, but only if at least two of the sides are raised to provide ventilation.
Mask wearing must also be observed while walking around a venue, but can be removed while seated to eat.
Other wedding traditions that are reportedly allowed to go ahead include speeches and the cutting of the wedding cake, although it is recommended this be done in a well-ventilated area.
“The recent government announcement is good news for many couples and wedding businesses who have been waiting a long time for some exciting news on the future of their pending nuptials," says Sarah Allard, editor of wedding planning destination Hitched.
"It’s been a very tough year filled with uncertainty and we welcome the government’s decision to allow more than 30 guests at a socially distanced capacity."
Allard says recent Hitched data reveals that 93% of UK couples set to marry between now and 2022 are confident that their wedding will take place on its scheduled date, and that the latest roadmap announcement will only help to make this dream a reality for many.
However, not every venue will be able to host an unlimited number of guests.
"Similar to policies in Wales and Northern Ireland, it means the number of guests will be limited by how successfully social distancing rules can be adhered to at the venue," Allard says.
"The social distancing rules currently stand at '1 metre +', meaning the larger the venue, the more guests can attend. "
She recommends couples speak to their venue to find out final numbers that are allowed, but the change in rules means the vast majority of couples marrying after 21 June will no longer be limited to 30 people.
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What to do if you have a wedding booked but the changes mean you don't want to go ahead?
For couples that have a wedding booked between 21 June and 19 July, it's going to be a challenging time and they may need to make some difficult decisions.
"While for some, this is the positive news they were waiting for, it is also okay to say this easing is not enough for you to go ahead," says Caroline Gould and Victoria Ewing, from The Wedding Planners.
"We'd suggest taking your time to digest the news, read through the guidance and work out what it means for you."
Gould and Ewing suggest opening a conversation with suppliers to let them know how you are feeling, whether you are thinking of changing your wedding day slightly or if you are considering a postponement.
"We know this is a tough time for couples, but it is also a tough time for your suppliers, please do remember this when you are speaking to them," they advise.
"For a lot of suppliers, they have been unable to work for the past 15 months and another four-week delay could have a massive impact on their business."
Gould and Ewing say the industry is incredibly sensitive to couples and the pain they have had to go through over the past year.
"Remember planners and your suppliers can support you in this difficult time; the government guidance is referring to and referencing the need for careful risk assessments and proper management of your wedding day so that you and your guests can enjoy your wedding, safely," they say.
"Your suppliers can help you achieve this.
"Ultimately we all want the same thing, happy couples celebrating their weddings in the way they had always planned to."
Becca Pountney, wedding business consultant and wedding blogger at Engageweddings.co.uk, adds:
"Although not all restrictions are lifted, weddings are able to take place so in most cases you will be unable to ask for a full refund from your venue or suppliers, but always double check your contract and agreements as they will be different for each supplier."
If you have not yet paid the final balance and decide to postpone or cancel, Pountney says you are likely to lose your initial deposit.
"If you are looking to postpone your big day, speak to your suppliers soon to find out if that is possible, and to come to an agreement," she says.
"It can be a logistical nightmare to agree a new date with everyone so I recommend speaking first to the venue to secure a new date and then to email all of your suppliers immediately with the new details to confirm they are available."
But Pountney's most important advice is to try to be patient.
"It's within everyone’s best interest to come to an agreement that works – so be patient whilst awaiting a response from your various suppliers and keep in mind that this is very stressful for them too," she says.
"At the end of it all remember that the most important thing is your relationship – so take a breath and work through everything together."
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