Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and celebrations

Guidance for couples planning to get married or form a civil partnership in England, and venues hosting these events.

Applies to England

Plan B: upcoming changes

The government has announced that the measures put in place under Plan B in England will be lifted. This means:

  • Workers are no longer asked to work from home if they can. Employers should talk to their workers to agree arrangements to return to the workplace.
  • From 27 January, there is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering. People are still advised to wear one in crowded and indoor spaces where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet.
  • From 27 January, venues and events are no longer required by law to check visitors’ NHS COVID Pass. Venues can still choose to use the NHS COVID Pass on a voluntary basis.

This guidance will be updated shortly to include more information on these changes.

Introduction

This guidance is designed to assist people planning to get married or form a civil partnership in England, and venues that host ceremonies and receptions, to enable them to conduct them in a manner that reduces the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

This guidance applies to all weddings and civil partnership ceremonies and formations taking place in England as well as wedding and civil partnership receptions and celebrations.

Alternative wedding ceremonies that are not binding under the law, whether religious, belief based, blessings, or other forms of non-statutory ceremony, are also covered by this guidance.

Those wishing to conduct a religious ceremony should refer to the places of worship guidance.

Keeping yourself and others safe

It’s important that we all use personal judgement to manage our own risk. All of us can play our part by exercising common sense and considering the risks. There are steps everyone can take to reduce the risk of transmission:

  1. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, even if they’re mild, should not attend. This includes the couple, attendees, and anyone working or involved in the ceremony or reception. They should self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test.

  2. If someone has been instructed by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate they must self-isolate and not attend. Please refer to guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection.

  3. People should wear a face covering in enclosed and crowded spaces. People are encouraged to respect other attendees and those working at events who may wish to adopt a more cautious approach. Please refer to the guidance on how to stay safe and stop the spread of COVID-19 for further information and the actions to take to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19.

  4. The NHS COVID-19 app is a vital part of NHS Test and Trace in England and Wales. Using the app helps stop the spread of the virus by informing you that you have been in close contact with someone who has since tested positive for coronavirus, even if you don’t know each other.

Face coverings

Face coverings are required by law in most indoor public places, including hotels and places of worship.

Find more information on when and where to wear face coverings.

Face coverings are not required in hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants and pubs, and nightclubs.

Face coverings are also not required in any venue, or part of a venue, that is being used wholly or mainly for eating, drinking or dancing. This includes venues being used to host wedding receptions. This is because it is not practical for people to wear a face covering when eating or drinking, and it is not recommended that face coverings are worn when undertaking strenuous activity, including dancing.

There is a reasonable excuse for someone to remove a face covering when it is reasonably necessary for them to sing, for example, if they are singing as part of a choir, or during a service, rehearsal or for a performance.

Some wedding or hospitality venues might ask people to wear a face covering and face coverings may still be required in parts of the premises where the main activity is not taking place.

Venues where face coverings are required must display signage or take other measures to ensure customers are aware of the obligation to wear a face covering where there is no applicable exemption.

To remind people to wear a face covering, venues can display the poster below:

In settings where a face covering is not legally required businesses can choose to encourage customers, visitors or workers to wear a face covering. Consider encouraging, for example through signage, the use of face coverings by customers and workers, particularly in indoor areas where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet. This is especially important in enclosed and crowded spaces.

When deciding your approach to face coverings, you need to consider the reasonable adjustments for staff and clients with disabilities. You also need to consider carefully how this fits with other obligations to workers and customers arising from the law on employment rights, health and safety and equality legislation.

Be aware that face coverings may make it harder to communicate with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.

It’s illegal for employers and businesses to prevent people, including staff, from wearing a face covering in places where face coverings are required.

It’s also illegal to prevent people, including staff, from wearing a face covering in hospitality venues if they choose to wear one.

Let fresh air in

When events take place inside or in other enclosed spaces, consider how the space can be continually well ventilated, before, during and after the event.

Letting fresh air into indoor spaces is important because when a person infected with COVID-19 coughs, talks or breathes, they release droplets and aerosols which can be inhaled by other people. The more fresh air there is to breathe, the less likely other people are to inhale infectious particles. Read the guidance on ventilation of indoor spaces to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Testing

Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms but can still infect others. Testing increases the chances of detecting COVID-19 when a person is infectious, helping to make sure people don’t spread COVID-19.

You may wish to take a rapid lateral flow test if you expect there will be a period of high risk that day or before visiting people who are at higher risk of severe illness if they were infected with COVID-19. Tests are available from pharmacies or online. Find out more about how to get rapid lateral flow tests.

Using the NHS Covid Pass

From 15 December, some venues and events are required by law to check that all visitors aged 18 years or over are either:

  • fully vaccinated
  • have proof of a negative test in the last 48 hours
  • exempt

This means that those aged 18 years or over must show their NHS COVID Pass, or other accepted proof, to gain entry into these settings.

The NHS COVID Pass is a tool that can help limit transmission of COVID in places where it’s used. Where possible, you should always check for proof of COVID status through use of the free NHS COVID Pass Verifier App. Text or email proofs of a recent NHS Test and Trace test and international vaccine proofs should be visually checked.

Checking the COVID status of attendees is mandatory in certain places, in order to allow them to stay open more safely, and to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

If organisations do not comply with COVID certification requirements, local authorities can take enforcement action, including prosecution. Find out more about enforcement action.

Venues and events that must carry out COVID-19 status checks

Certain venues and events, such as nightclubs, are required by law to check the COVID status of their customers.

See the full list of venues and events that must carry out COVID-19 status checks.

If you’re holding a wedding or civil partnership ceremony or equivalent (including alternative wedding ceremonies), you will not be required to check the NHS COVID Pass of attendees.

Wedding receptions (and receptions celebrating other significant life events) which meet all of the following criteria will be required to use the NHS COVID Pass:

  • the reception meets the attendance thresholds for certification, either by being attended by 500 or more people in the case of indoor events or by 4,000 or more in the case of outdoor events, and those attendees are expected to stand or move around for all or part of the event
  • the reception is organised by a person or organisation operating in a professional capacity, or is held in a conference centre or town hall
  • the reception is not held in a private dwelling

If the wedding ceremony and the reception are combined and proof of vaccination, testing, or exemption is required at the reception, attendees are required to have proof of COVID status for the combined event.

Carrying out COVID-19 status checks on a voluntary basis

Venues and events that are not required to use the NHS COVID Pass can still opt to use it voluntarily as a condition of entry to reduce the risk of transmission at venues or events.

You should consider using the NHS COVID Pass if you operate a venue or event where individuals are likely to stand or move around, or where individuals are in close contact, even if you are not legally obliged to.

Find out more about carrying out COVID-19 status checks at your venue or event.

Expectations for workers at your venue or event

In places where the NHS COVID Pass is required, organisations should check the COVID status of all adults working or providing services in the venue or event that are likely to come into contact with the public. You should make sure that staff are all either:

  • fully vaccinated
  • undertaking regular testing
  • exempt (for medical reasons or as a result of clinical trial participation in a COVID vaccine trial)
  • an exempt person (under 18 or conducting their official duties)

Checking the COVID status of your workforce is strongly advised but it’s not mandatory. Find out more about checking the COVID status of your workers.

Returning to the workplace

The government is no longer asking people to work from home if they can.

You should now talk to your workers to agree arrangements to return to the office, consulting with workers and trade unions where appropriate. You should remain responsive to workers’ needs and consult with them on any health and safety measures you have put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading. You should give extra consideration to people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and to workers facing mental and physical health difficulties.

When considering working arrangements, employers should take into account their other existing legal obligations.

When considering workers return to their place of work, you should:

  • reflect this in your risk assessment
  • take action to manage the risks of transmission in line with this guidance

Self-isolation

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, you must self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test.

If you have been identified as a contact of someone with COVID-19, and you’re not legally required to self-isolate, you’re now strongly advised to:

  • take a rapid lateral flow test every day for 7 days, or until 10 days after your last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19 if this is earlier
  • take this daily rapid lateral flow test before you leave your home for the first time that day

If any of these tests are positive, you should immediately self-isolate.

People who have received a positive rapid lateral flow test result but do not have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, should report the result and self-isolate. You do not need to take a follow-up PCR test unless:

  • you want to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment
  • you have a health condition that means you may be suitable for new COVID-19 treatments
  • you’re taking lateral flow tests as part of research or surveillance programmes, and the programme asks you to do so
  • you’re an international arrival and have a positive day 2 lateral flow test

You must self-isolate from the day your symptoms started or from the day you receive a positive test result if you do not have symptoms.

You may be able to end your self-isolation period before the end of the 10 full days. You can end your self isolation on the sixth day of self-isolation following 5 full days isolating and 2 negative rapid lateral flow tests taken on consecutive days. The first rapid lateral flow test should not be taken before the fifth day. The self-isolation period remains 10 full days for those without negative results from 2 lateral flow tests taken a day apart. This is the law, regardless of whether you have been vaccinated.

Self-isolating is important because you could pass the infection on to others, even if you do not have symptoms. You must self-isolate for the full amount of time you are told to, because this is the period when the virus is most likely to be passed on to others.

Under 5s are exempt from self-isolation and do not need to take part in daily rapid lateral flow testing.

Protecting the vulnerable

People at higher risk are advised to follow the guidance on how to stay safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

They should take advice from their health professional on whether additional precautions are right for them.

Handling objects and communal resources

Surfaces can become contaminated with viruses like COVID-19. Once contaminated, touching them can transfer viruses to people’s eyes, nose or mouth. From there, viruses can enter someone’s body and infect them. This means that, touching or kissing objects that are handled communally including consumables, carries a risk of catching or spreading a virus.

The use of shared communal objects, including consumables, is now a personal choice. However, you’re advised to follow the advice on personal hygiene.

Singing, music, and performances

There are no limits on the number of people who can sing or perform indoors or outdoors. However, some activities can also increase the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19. This happens where people are doing activities which generate more particles as they breathe heavily, such as singing, dancing, exercising or raising their voices.

The risk is greatest where these activities take place when people are in close contact with others, for example in crowded indoor spaces where people are raising their voices.

In situations where there is a higher risk of catching or passing on COVID-19, you should be particularly careful to follow the guidance on keeping yourself and others safe.

Where a venue or part of a venue is being used for an event where the main activities include eating, drinking and dancing, face coverings are not required.

In settings where face coverings are required, there is a reasonable excuse for someone to remove a face covering when it is reasonably necessary for them to sing, for example, if they are singing as part of a choir, or during a service, rehearsal or for a performance.

Businesses and venues

All businesses should follow the principles set out in the working safely guidance.

Employers still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. The way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks identified. Working Safely guidance sets out a range of mitigations employers should consider including:

  • cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly
  • identifying poorly-ventilated areas in the venue and taking steps to improve air flow
  • ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the workplace or venue
  • communicating to staff and customers the measures you have put in place

Food and drink

Where food and drinks are consumed, staff and attendees should follow the guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs and takeaway services.

Face coverings are not required in hospitality venues where food and drink are consumed.

Where a venue or part of a venue is being used for an event where the main activities include eating and drinking, face coverings are not required.

Using the NHS COVID-19 app

Using the NHS COVID-19 app helps stop the spread of the virus by informing people that they have been in close contact with someone who has since tested positive for coronavirus, even if they don’t know each other. The app is free and easy to use.

The app also allows people to report symptoms, order a coronavirus test and check in to venues using a QR code. To help protect yourself and others, download and use the latest version of the NHS COVID-19 app.

Collection of contact details

Businesses are no longer required by law to collect customer contact details, or keep a record of staff and visitors.

However, businesses are encouraged to continue to display an NHS QR code for customers wishing to check in using the app, as this will help to reduce the spread of the virus and protect customers, visitors and staff. Businesses do not have to ask customers to check in, or turn them away if they refuse.

If businesses display an NHS QR code, they should also have a system to collect (and securely store) names and contact details for those who ask to check-in but do not have access to a smartphone or prefer not to use the app.

See the guidance on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.

Travel

If somebody from abroad is travelling to England to attend a marriage or a civil partnership ceremony or reception, they should check the advice on travelling to England.

Other guidance

This guidance has been published alongside other specific guidance provided by the government (all of which is subject to review and update), which should be used together to ensure public safety. These include:

Published 13 May 2021
Last updated 21 January 2022 + show all updates
  1. Workers are no longer asked to work from home if they can. Employers should talk to their workers to agree arrangements to return to the workplace.

  2. People with COVID-19 can now end their self-isolation on day 6, if they test negative for COVID-19 on 2 consecutive days. The first test should not be taken before day 5. The government has announced that the measures put in place under Plan B in England will be lifted.

  3. Guidance updated to include change from 11 January, people in England who receive a positive lateral flow test will be required to self-isolate immediately but won’t need to take a confirmatory PCR test.

  4. Information box updated to include change from 11 January, people in England who receive a positive lateral flow test will be required to self-isolate immediately but won’t need to take a confirmatory PCR test.

  5. If you’ve tested positive or have symptoms, you can stop self-isolating after 7 days instead of 10 days if you get 2 negative lateral flow test results on day 6 and 7.

  6. Information added about Plan B measures.

  7. Information added on new measures introduced in response to the Omicron variant.

  8. Updated to include guidance on changes from Step 4.

  9. Updated guidance on risk assessments, social distancing measures, singing and dancing, serving food and drink, and enforcement.

  10. Updated to include guidance on changes from 21 June.

  11. First published.