Wedding couples can now be fined £10,000 if they fail to do this

Family and friends have been much missed throughout the Covid pandemic, and so many people have sacrificed time together over the past 18 months.

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel because restrictions on weddings, civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes are lifted in England this week.

This means that the 30-person limit on wedding guests no longer applies, and people can at last join together with their families and friends to celebrate life’s big events – or pay tribute to loved ones at wakes.

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies can now go ahead in Covid-secure venues. Additional measures have been put in place and businesses are doing everything they can to make sure they can welcome groups back safely.

If you’re looking forward to a gathering and are wondering what’s permitted, here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions – including how couples could face a fine of up to £10,000 if they fail to fill in a risk assessment…

Q. Is there a limit on the number of people at a wedding?

A. No. From this week, there won’t be limits on guests, but it’s up to organisers to make sure events are safe. They’ll need to determine capacity limits so social distancing can stay in place. Venues need to do a Covid-19 risk assessment and follow Government guidance.

Q. I’m organising my own ceremony. How do I know how many people I can invite?

A. If the event is in a Covid-secure venue, the manager needs to tell you how many people can attend – bear in mind it needs to be safe and socially-distanced.

If it’s in your garden or another venue for which you’re responsible, you must determine how many people can safely attend while maintaining their distance (that’s two metres or one metre with additional mitigation such as being outside). You can find a risk assessment template and other key information at gov.uk.

Q. What happens if I don’t fill in a risk assessment?

A. You could risk a £10,000 fine. It’s a legal requirement and is usually done by the venue manager or event organiser.

Q. My ceremony and reception are at different venues. What do I do?

A. They’re seen as separate events, so risk assessments must be carried out for both. So if you’re inviting 75 people to your ceremony at a Covid-secure venue, you need to make sure the reception is safe too.

Q. Can I still have my hen do?

A. Yes, stag and hen dos are permitted in line with wider social contact limits (six people or two households indoors, up to 30 outdoors). But use your judgment: it’s a good idea to reduce social contact leading up to your wedding or civil partnership to reduce the risk of Covid transmission. If you do want to go ahead with pre-wedding celebrations, think about holding them well in advance of your big day and ask everyone to take a test before meeting up.

Q. I’d like to book a live band. Is that permitted?

A. It depends on how many people the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place between the performers and guests. Measures to reduce risk of transmission are set out in the Government’s performing arts guidance, but outdoor performances are always safer to minimise the risk of droplet and aerosol transmission.

Q. Can we dance?

A. Sadly, dancing is not advised due to the increased risk of transmission, but the couple can still have their first dance.

Q. What about singing?

A. Communal singing is strongly advised against indoors due to the risk of transmission, but groups of up to
30 can sing outdoors. Take extra precautions as set out in the performing arts guidance – for example, people should be two metres apart and not stand face to face.

Q. Can I still have a buffet or does it have to be a sit-down meal?

A. Buffets are out. Businesses providing food and drink must take all reasonable steps to ensure people remain seated while they’re eating and drinking, even in outdoor settings, to help limit the risks of transmission. So table service is in – and these restrictions also apply where events are held in gardens of private homes, whether catering is provided by a business or you provide the food and drink yourself.

Q. Are the rules different for areas with high transmission of the Delta variant?

A. No, the rules are the same across all areas, but be aware of the extra risk, and remember outdoor events are safer.

Q. What about other life events that involve gatherings?

A. The easing of restrictions also applies to wakes, bringing them in line with existing rules on funerals so people can say goodbye to those they have lost. Alternative wedding ceremonies (ie non-legally binding ones) are permitted with the same rules as weddings or civil partnerships. Baptisms and bar mitzvahs can already take place with a limit of up to 30 people; restrictions
still apply in these events.

Q. How can I make sure my wedding is as safe as it can be?

A. Continue to practise the “Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air” guidance before, during and after the day. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, cover your face, maintain your distance and let fresh air in – and remember it’s always safer to meet outdoors.
Get tested twice a week before and after the event, even if you’re symptom free – and urge your guests to do the same. Anyone displaying Covid symptoms should not attend, immediately isolate and get tested.

Remember that anyone planning on hosting a wedding ceremony must complete a Covid-19 risk assessment of the venue before the event takes place to establish how many people can attend.

  • For more, see gov.uk/coronavirus

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