Weddings are back on from December 2, but with new restrictions. Boris Johnson has confirmed that weddings will be allowed to resume once the second national lockdown lifts, and is replaced with a new three-tier system.
Whilst brides and grooms have been prohibited from holding weddings during lockdown, the new ‘Covid winter plan’ allows nuptials, civil partnerships and wedding receptions to go ahead with up to 15 guests. All events must be Covid-secure and guests must adhere to social distancing guidelines at all times.
The government is expected to announce which areas will enter which tiers on Thursday, November 26, after they have access to the latest coronavirus data. We do know that Tier 1 will be classified as ‘medium level’, Tier 2 at ‘high level’ and Tier 3 at ‘very high level’, which has the most urgent risk of infection. Although the rules around hospitality and accommodation will differ in each tier, weddings will follow the same restrictions in all three tiers.
Until we know more, we have spoken to wedding industry experts to find out what a socially distanced celebration might look like, and whether you should postpone your wedding for the foreseeable future.
Are weddings back on in the UK?
Under the most recent lockdown measures across the country, households are banned from mixing, while services in places of worship are unable to go ahead. Furthermore, beauty services, and the hospitality sector have been told to close, which will certainly interrupt plans for your big day.
After December 2, however, weddings will be able to resume. Whilst the ‘rule of six’ will return from next week, the number of attendees for weddings will be capped at 15 people (and also subject to travel restrictions).
This number includes the couple, guests, suppliers (such as the photographer), and registrar or celebrant, all of whom must comply with social distancing rules. Guests will also have to stand or sit at least one metre apart, as well as take other safety precautions – such as wearing a face mask.
For those who were originally planning a big bash, this means seriously downsizing if your venue is still able to accommodate you safely.
Those in the wedding industry did not particularly welcome the new rules last time. Sam Cutmore-Scott, MD of Bijou Wedding Venues, a family-run company that usually hosts 250 weddings per year, said he was “disappointed” at the government’s tiered restrictions – especially when they did not apply to funerals.
“We are disappointed to hear the new restrictions that have been placed on wedding size,” Cutmore-Scott said. “It doesn’t make sense to allow more people to attend a funeral than to attend a wedding, particularly when wedding venues like ours are 100 per cent Covid-secure.” Bijou Wedding Venues, like most of the wedding industry, has adapted to Covid with measures such as temperature reading cameras to test guests on arrival, socially distanced seating and increased use of marquees.
“We have proven that we can meet the tough requirements for safe and successful weddings to be held,” he says, “and we urge the government to rethink their policy on how many can attend a wedding and bring it in to line with the 30 persons allowed at funerals.”
What are the potential post-lockdown safety measures?
If wedding ceremonies in England follow the same measures as they did before the new lockdown, wedding ceremonies from December will be kept “as short as reasonably possible” and limited to just what is legally binding, according to the guidelines, Covid-19: Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships. Religious ceremonies which would usually take a number of hours or days will need to adapt to a shorter service.
It is likely that post lockdown weddings will still discourage food and drink as part of the event. The venue should have the floor marked with tape or paint to help people maintain social distance.
What about the traditions?
Again, post-lockdown weddings may follow similar restrictions of those before the measures put into place on November 5. From early December, it is likely that social-distancing rules will put in place for fathers walking their daughters down the aisle (unless they live in the same household), while brides and grooms will be encouraged to wash their hands both before and after they exchange rings, and say their vows without raising their voices.
Hymns may be off limits, too. “This might not be an issue with a civil ceremony, but with religious ceremonies in places with worship, a lack of singing could be a problem,” said Chapman.
She also advises brides to be aware that while will be able go to the hairdressers, new restrictions may prevent a hair or make-up professional from coming to your venue.
Should I postpone my wedding?
If you have a wedding booked for 2020, should you postpone it? From December 2, it depends on whether you are comfortable with having a socially-distanced celebration of only 15 people.
Wedding planner Katrina Otter has had a lot of her weddings postponed to 2021.
“These days, weddings involve so much more than just a legally binding ceremony; they’re a celebration of friendship and families, and this is something that the current guidelines don’t allow.” While many of her clients remain “optimistic” about their weddings next year, she said that whether future ceremonies will be able to operate at full capacity remains uncertain.
Another popular option is to press on with a small ceremony with a handful of guests this year, and postpone the big celebration until we can party properly again
Some might opt to have a small ceremony in the summer, with a handful of guests, and postpone the big party to next year. “I can see an increase in couples having a simple ceremony this year when allowed for just them, the registrar and witnesses,” says Chapman. “And in 2021 they will plan a larger wedding for all their guests but opting for a celebrant ceremony.”
Will my wedding next year be OK?
It’s all a matter of “speculation”, Otter says, and the situation could change so rapidly. “At this present time, no, I do not see 2021 being an issue,” she explains, “but have this conversation with me in two weeks’ time and I might be saying something totally different.” From the rate of increase, as outlined below, it’s easy to understand Otter’s uncertainty.
If you do postpone your wedding to next year, you might face another challenge: finding an available date. Given that most weddings this year will be postponed to 2021, on top of the weddings that were already planned to go ahead next year, suppliers and venues might have limited dates available. As such, a lot of couple are having mid-week weddings, according to Otter, “so they can keep their suppliers”.
She tells me that one couple wanted to move their wedding, which was supposed to take place this September, to any Saturday between the beginning of April and end of October 2021. There was only one date that the suppliers could do.
When restrictions are lifted, what might the weddings look like?
Wedding planner Matthew Oliver, who specialises in international weddings, says weddings will “absolutely” have to adapt in the future.
“I feel like we will need have to look at bigger venue options,” he says. “For instance, if you’re working with a couple that are inviting 150 guests, instead of looking for venues that hold exactly 150 people, we’re going to have to look for venue options that are larger.”
This would be to allow guests to socially distance – which, he thinks, will still be our mentality after lockdown is over. “After this whole situation is finished, people are still going to have that in their way of life – of ‘I don’t want to be close to you,’” he says, adding that venues and suppliers might be more “protective” about their contact with guests.
Other wedding venues have also found creative solutions. Bijou Wedding Venues, which specialises in country house weddings, will use “airport quality” temperature reading cameras to test all staff and guest temperatures on arrival, and will live-stream the ceremony to different areas of the venue, so the mandatory witnesses can be present at the ceremony and the other guests can view it from a safe distance.
The wedding venues company also plans to replace buffet queues with table service, install marquees and gazebos to maximise time outdoors, and hold ceremonies outdoors where possible.
Otter does not see the need for such changes. “I think when we are allowed to get back to weddings as they used to be, weddings will go back to how they used to be,” she says, adding that “if social distancing rules are relaxed, things will very quickly get back to normal”.
Some couples might opt for “alternative” ceremonies on Zoom, even when the restrictions are lifted, but this won’t work for everyone. “It’s going to work for some couples,” Otter says. “It’s definitely not going to work for the majority.”
What about international weddings?
With severe restrictions on international travelas the country goes into lockdown, Oliver does not imagine there will be any international weddings this year because “people are scared”.
If weddings are able to go ahead in the coming months, he says they “might be smaller weddings, they might just be elopements”.
Most of his clients have postponed to next year, or cancelled altogether. Usually, he takes on between 15 to 20 weddings this year, but says next year he will have double the number due to the postponed weddings from this year.
He’s still getting new bookings for 2021, as “people are looking past this whole situation,” he says.
Have you postponed your wedding, are you worried about the new rules? Tell us in the comments section below
Source: The Telegraph Travels