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, as well as managers of venues that host ceremonies and receptions.

This guidance is of a general nature and should be treated as a guide. In the event of any conflict between any applicable legislation (including health and safety legislation) and this guidance, the applicable legislation shall prevail.

Introduction

This guidance has been drafted on the basis of the scientific evidence available and will continue to be updated as set out in the ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021’, in line with the changing situation and as more data becomes available on COVID-19.

Marriages and civil partnerships are a vital part of our society, uniting couples to start their new life together and affording certain legal rights. These ceremonies are often followed by receptions and other celebrations attended by guests that are known to one another. However, by their very nature, in bringing families and friends together, they are social events which are particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 and restrictions have therefore been necessary to reduce the risk of transmission.

The government has been working closely with stakeholders in the wedding industry and the Places of Worship Taskforce to consider how we are able to allow marriages and civil partnerships, including receptions and celebrations, to take place safely.

Purpose of this guidance

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 prepare for these events in accordance with the associated legislation.

The guidance sets out how this can be done in a manner that is safe and in line with social distancing guidelines, in order to minimise the risk of exposure to infection for all individuals attending the event, including those who work at the venues.

This guidance does not set out how to meet the requirements for a valid marriage, or civil partnership under the law of England and Wales, including any preliminary requirement as to where marriage and civil partnership ceremonies can be held. This guidance also does not cover urgent marriages or civil partnerships which require particular guidance from local authorities.

This guidance applies to all weddings and civil partnership ceremonies and formations taking place in England under the law of England and Wales, as well as wedding and civil partnership receptions and celebrations.

Alternative wedding ceremonies that are not binding under the law of England and Wales, whether religious, belief based, blessings, or other forms of non-statutory ceremony, are also covered by this guidance, and subject to the same limits on the number of attendees as marriages and civil partnerships that are binding under the law of England and Wales.

Those wishing to conduct them should also refer to other government guidance on gatherings. As alternative ceremonies do not take place under the law of marriage formation in England and Wales, they neither create a legally valid marriage nor confer the rights and protections that flow from one. A definition of alternative wedding ceremonies is contained with the COVID-19 regulations.

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

Definitions for the purpose of this guidance

‘Alternative wedding ceremony’

A ceremony, including a ceremony based on a person’s faith or belief, or lack of belief, to mark the union of 2 people, but that is not legally binding under the law of England and Wales.

‘Household’ and ‘Support Bubble’

A household is a person or a group of people who live together in the same accommodation. A support bubble is a close support network which links 2 households. For further information on support bubbles, please refer to the guidance on making a support bubble with another household.

‘Marriages’ and ‘civil partnerships’

The ceremony of solemnisation of marriage or formation of a civil partnership which includes the usages or requirements for the marriage or civil partnership to be legally binding under the law of England and Wales and may include other elements (which are not legally required).

‘Must’

Where the guidance states that an activity must take place this is because it is a requirement under law.

‘Officiant’

A person acting in an official capacity. This could be a person with certain legal responsibilities at the ceremony, such as a registration official or authorised person, or a minister of religion solemnising the marriage.

‘Reception’ and ‘celebration’

A gathering of people to mark the occasion of the marriage or civil partnership of a couple, usually involving a sit-down meal.

‘Should’

Where the guidance states that an activity should take place this is not a legal requirement under law. However it is strongly advised that consideration is given to following the advice being provided to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

‘Third-party supplier’

Any other individuals providing a service on site for receptions and celebrations. This can be either during the event itself, or prior to/following the event for the purposes of preparing and/or tidying up.

‘Venue’

This includes any location at which a legally binding marriage or civil partnership can take place. It also covers any location where an alternative wedding ceremony, wedding reception or civil partnership celebration can take place.

‘Venue managers’

The person or persons responsible for the management of a venue, including assessment of compliance with the following guidelines.

‘Visitor’, ‘attendee’ or ‘guest’

Individuals entering a venue for the purpose of attending a marriage, civil partnership formation, alternative wedding ceremony, reception or celebration.

COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021

The government has published the ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021’ setting out how COVID-19 restrictions will be eased in England, including a staged return of weddings, civil partnerships, receptions and celebrations.

At each step anyone working is not included in the limit on the number of attendees for ceremonies or receptions.

A decision on when to progress to each step will be guided by data not dates and the 4 tests set out in the roadmap. A week’s notice will be provided before any step is taken.

Step 2 - until 17 May

At Step 2, on 12 April, some of the rules on what you can and cannot do changed. However, many restrictions remain in place. Find out what you can and cannot do here.

Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are permitted to take place with up to 15 people in COVID-secure venues that are permitted to open or where a broader exemption applies.

Receptions, celebrations and viewings

Receptions can take place with up to 15 people in the form of a sit-down meal in any COVID-secure outdoor venue that is permitted to open (this does not include the gardens of private homes). During the reception, guests should remain seated in groups of 6 or 2 households. Outdoor venues may be partially sheltered, such as marquees, but cannot be enclosed or substantially enclosed. For example, at least 50% of the wall area of the marquee must be open for it to be considered outdoors.

Viewings can take place in venues permitted in law to be open at each step, but must take place in accordance with social contact rules. At Step 2, this means that 1 household (including a linked support bubble, if eligible) can attend an indoor viewing at an open venue, such as a community centre or town hall.

Step 3 - from 17 May

Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies will be permitted for up to 30 people in COVID-secure venues that are permitted to open.

Alternative wedding ceremonies, and weddings under the law of England and Wales that are permitted to take place outdoors, with up to 30 people, including in COVID-secure venues or private gardens.

Receptions, celebrations and viewings

Receptions and celebrations will be permitted to take place with up to 30 people. They can take place either indoors in a COVID-secure venue (this does not include private homes), or outdoors (which does include private gardens). Although there is no requirement to be COVID-secure in a private garden, the organiser should take all reasonable steps to limit the risks of transmission and must adhere to the gathering limit of up to 30 people. If the event is taking place outdoors, it can be partially sheltered with, for example, a marquee, provided that at least 50% of the walled area remains open.

A broader range of venues will be able to be open at this step, as set out in the roadmap. Any venue which is not required in law to remain closed will be able to host events and allow viewings with appropriate COVID-19 mitigation measures in place. This includes, for example, any restaurant or indoor visitor attraction.

Step 4 - no earlier than 21 June

At Step 4, the government aims to remove all limits on weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and receptions. This will be subject to the outcome of the Social Distancing Review and also the Events Research Programme, which will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other mitigations to run events of larger sizes.

The pilots have been selected to examine the risks of transmission in a range of settings, venue types, and activity types (for example, seated or not seated, indoor or outdoor) so that findings may inform thinking on the reopening of all large events.

Key principles

National restrictions remain in place in England. There is different advice for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We understand the unique significance that marriages and civil partnerships hold in people’s lives, but it is important that we all continue to manage the risk of transmission.

It is crucial that all staff, attendees and third-party suppliers visiting a wedding ceremony, civil partnership, reception, or celebration venue are not showing any symptoms of COVID-19. If either member of the couple has symptoms of COVID-19 the ceremony, reception or celebration should not go ahead. Anyone displaying symptoms should stay at home and get tested.

If anyone becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 at a venue they should go home and be advised to follow the stay at home guidance. If they need clinical advice they should go online and access NHS online (or call 111 if they don’t have internet access). In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. They should not visit a GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital except for emergency access as above.

People who may have been in contact with a person who has become unwell should wash their hands thoroughly after the interaction, but they do not need to take any other specific action unless they develop symptoms themselves or are advised to do so by NHS Test and Trace. If they do develop symptoms they should follow the stay at home guidance.

Social distancing measures

At Step 2, the advice remains that all individuals involved in the event (including attendees, guests, officiants and anyone working) should observe social distancing from those they do not live with, except where they are part of the same support bubble. This means adhering to a distance of at least 2 metres between households (or support bubbles), or 1 metre with risk mitigation (only where 2 metres is not viable). Attendees should be reminded at key points during the events to maintain social distancing and to avoid close contact with individuals from different households.

Please note that the actual number of people able to attend a wedding or civil partnership ceremony or reception must not exceed the number limit that applies at each step, but will also be limited by how many people can be safely accommodated within the venue with social distancing, and where the venue manager has carried out a risk assessment and taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Venue managers should consider and set out the mitigations that will be introduced in the risk assessment. These could include, for instance, avoiding any face-to-face seating by changing layouts, reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings, using signs or floor markings to help people maintain social distance in frequently used areas, and closing non-essential social spaces, as outlined throughout this guidance. Tables must be 2 metres apart, or no less than 1 metre apart with risk mitigations if there are COVID-secure measures such as barriers, screens or other measures to limit transmission are taken.

COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within 2 metres). The further away you can keep from other people, and the less time you spend in close contact with them, the less likely you are to catch COVID-19 and pass it on to others. Close contact, including hugging, increases the risk of spreading COVID-19.

At Step 3, the guidance on meeting friends and family will change, with a greater emphasis on personal responsibility. Instead of instructing people to stay 2 metres apart away from anyone they do not live with, people will be encouraged to exercise caution and consider the guidance on risks associated with COVID-19 and actions to take to help keep friends and family safe.

You should always make space for other people to keep their distance if they want to.

Please refer to the guidance on meeting friends and family for further information and the actions to take to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19.

Face coverings and hygiene

In England, face coverings are currently required by law to be worn in many indoor settings, including places of worship. Attendees and staff at a wedding ceremony or reception must wear a face covering (except when eating or drinking).

There are valid exemptions for some individuals and groups to not wear a face covering in these settings. In particular, those who are leading services or events in a place of worship. Those exemptions will also cover the couple being married or joined in a partnership and those officiating at the wedding. This exemption does not apply to those observing the wedding, who should wear face coverings consistent with the requirements for any other public space.

Employers must not, by law, prevent their staff or any other person present from wearing a face covering where they are required to do so.

For further information, please refer to the guidance on the wearing of face coverings at a place of work and guidance on face coverings: when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make one.

Venue managers should provide hand sanitiser at convenient points throughout the venue and encourage attendees to use it.

Attendees, including children, should frequently throughout the day wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with running water and soap, or use hand sanitiser ensuring that all parts of the hands are covered.

The police have the powers to enforce the wearing of face coverings, including to issue fines (fixed penalty notices) of £200, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £6,400.

People who have COVID-19 symptoms should not attend

Any guests or those involved in the ceremony or reception who have symptoms of COVID-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell), should not attend. They should immediately self-isolate, follow the stay at home guidance, and request a test online, or by contacting NHS 119 via telephone if you do not have internet access. Remote participation should be considered, for example by live streaming.

If either member of the couple has symptoms of COVID-19 the ceremony should not go ahead.

People who are required to self-isolate

If you have been instructed by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate because you have tested positive for COVID-19, or you are the close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should not attend a wedding or civil partnership ceremony due to the risk you pose to others. Please refer to guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection.

Protecting the vulnerable

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you will have received a letter to inform you of this and you may have been advised to shield in the past.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people are able to attend weddings, but you may want to consider taking extra precautions to reduce your risk of exposure to the virus and should follow the guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable. You may wish to participate remotely if possible but if you do choose to attend, you are advised to inform those organising the wedding and you should minimise close contact with others, especially in larger groups, continue to wash your hands regularly, and practise social distancing (unless you make a personal choice to not distance from friends and family, as outlined above).

If you become aware that someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable will be attending a wedding, you should:

  • enable them to participate remotely where this is possible
  • encourage other attendees to remember that some people are more vulnerable than others
  • ensure attendees are aware that there are other attendees who are clinically extremely vulnerable and of their need to minimise close contact, especially in larger groups

Young people and children

Parents or guardians should ensure children frequently wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with running water and soap and dry them thoroughly or use hand sanitiser ensuring that all parts of the hands are covered. When interacting with friends and family, minimise how many people they are in close contact with, and for how long – remembering that some people are more vulnerable than others. Please see guidance on meeting friends and family.

Outdoor playgrounds are permitted to open where venue managers risk assess that it is safe to do so and ensure facilities are cleaned regularly. Any indoor shared facilities for children, such as play corners, soft furnishings, soft toys and toys that are hard to clean, should be removed or closed. From Step 3, such indoor facilities can open in line with the guidance on soft play areas. Particular attention should be paid to cleaning surfaces frequently touched by children and those that are at child height.

Children of all ages are included in the limits on the number of attendees for both ceremonies and receptions.

The marriage ceremony or civil partnership formation

Under current restrictions, it is advised that ceremonies and services should be concluded in a reasonable time and be limited to those elements to ensure the marriage or civil partnership is valid in law.

Religious communities should therefore adapt traditional religious aspects, especially where celebrations would otherwise have taken place over a number of hours, or even days, to ensure the safety of those present and minimal spread of infection.

Under current restrictions, no food or drink should be consumed as a part of the marriage or civil partnership ceremony unless required for the purposes of solemnisation. Where it is required for the purposes of solemnisation, it must not be provided by the venue.

From Step 3, venues and places of worship will be able to provide food and drink but must adhere to the guidance on hospitality at this step, including that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that individuals remain seated. This sharing of vessels or glasses, including where part of a religious service, should be avoided. More detail can be found in the places of worship guidance.

Washing/ablution rituals

Please see the places of worship guidance for advice on the use of water in rituals.

Handling objects and communal resources

Venue managers should take steps to prevent visitors from touching or kissing devotional and other objects that are handled communally. Where shared items are required, hands should be washed before and after. The items should be handled by as few people as possible. Barriers or clear signage should be put in place where necessary.

Books, reusable and communal resources such as service sheets, prayer mats, or devotional material should be removed from use. Single use alternatives can be provided as long as they are removed by the attendee. Items owned by individuals for use in the ceremony or registration (such as a prayer mat or religious text, a pen for the signing of the register) may be brought in but should be removed after the marriage or civil partnership.

Where possible, venue managers should discourage cash donations and continue to use online giving resources where possible minimising contact around transactions. Regular cleaning and hygiene should be maintained and gloves worn to handle cash.

Faith and belief marriage rituals

Where faith and belief marriage rituals or ceremonies are being undertaken under the legal provisions for a wedding reception, these ceremonies must follow the guidance for that step, including the limit on attendees, social distancing and any other safety measures provided in this guidance.

If a faith or belief marriage ritual or ceremony is taking place as a wedding reception, it should take place within a reasonable timeframe alongside the legal solemnisation of the marriage.

Venues for weddings and civil partnerships

At present, it is strongly advised that marriage and civil partnership formations should only go ahead where they can be done in a COVID-secure environment. Such gatherings cannot by law take place in private dwellings, unless they are urgent marriages where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover (‘deathbed weddings’).

At Step 2, wedding or civil partnership ceremonies can take place in licensed venues that are not expressly required to close under the COVID-19 regulations, or where an exemption applies. This includes, for example:

  • register offices
  • Church of England churches or chapels, and certified places of worship that have been registered for the solemnisation of marriage (‘registered buildings’)
  • naval, military or air force chapels
  • approved premises for civil marriages and civil partnerships (that is, places approved by the local authority of the area in which the premises are situated) not required to close - this may include venues such as community centres and town or village halls

They can also take place in other venues which are not explicitly closed in law. This includes purpose-built wedding venues where that is its sole purpose, and it does not also function as a hospitality venue or visitor attraction, for example.

This includes some licensed buildings or rooms within a larger, closed visitor attraction or hospitality venue, for example a weddings venue in the grounds of a heritage attraction, where the licenced venue itself where the ceremony will take place doesn’t function as part of the visitor attraction. In these cases, there would need to be direct access to the wedding venue without going through a closed part of the larger site. This does not generally include rooms or spaces within indoor visitor attractions (for example a room within a museum) unless they can be accessed directly from the street, or open outdoor areas of the venue.

Ceremonies may also take place in venues which are permitted to open for the purposes of providing unrestricted services. This includes holiday accommodation, including hotels (in a room approved for the solemnisation of marriage and formation of a civil partnership).

In all the venues listed above, any indoor hospitality and any part of the premises ordinarily used for the consumption of food or drink indoors must remain closed until Step 3. This means, for example, that at Step 2 a wedding ceremony can take place in the function room of a hotel (if licensed to do so), but not the restaurant. Food and drink should not be consumed unless this is necessary for the purposes of solemnisation. Where it is necessary, food and drink must not be provided by the venue.

Where a venue is permitted to open in the regulations, venue managers will have discretion over when they consider it safe to open, and the officiant should also be content that it is safe to proceed. The venue should decide to remain closed or not proceed with a marriage or civil partnership if they are not able to safely adhere to the guidelines outlined. It is against the law for a venue to provide a service if it is non-compliant with the gatherings limits and exemptions.

You can find further information on which businesses are open under the current restrictions in the guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England, which sets out restrictions on certain businesses and venues.

Viewings can take place in venues permitted in law to be open at each step, but must take place in accordance with social contact rules. At Step 2, this means that one household (including a linked support bubble, if eligible) can attend an indoor viewing at an open venue, such as a community centre or town hall. You cannot conduct a viewing in Step 2 in a venue that is not permitted to open until Step 3. Further detail on venues permitted to be open can be found below. A group of up to 6 people or 2 households can attend a viewing of an outdoor venue. These limits do not include those working (for example, the venue manager).

From Step 3, a broader number of venues will open. Only those venues which remain closed in law (for example nightclubs) will be unable to host viewings, ceremonies, or receptions and celebrations. In venues able to open, viewings will be able to take place indoors in groups of up to 6, or 2 households.

Singing, music, and entertainment

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through small droplets, aerosols and through direct contact. Singing, playing some musical instruments, shouting and physical activity increases the risk of transmission through small droplets and aerosols. Steps should be taken to reduce the risk of transmission. This includes limiting the number of individuals participating as far as possible.

Singing should follow the principles for safer singing, and any performances should follow the performing arts guidance. This applies to the performers and audience.

At Step 2, where singing or chanting is essential to the solemnisation of a marriage or civil partnership ceremony, this should be limited to a small group of singers or performers, with social distancing being maintained at all times. Steps should be taken to reduce the risk of transmission and this includes limiting the number of individuals participating as far as possible. Communal singing by the congregation should not take place indoors.

At receptions and celebrations, socially distanced outdoor performances to a live audience can take place in line with the guidance on performing arts from Step 2, and can take place indoors from Step 3. While we remain in the early stages of the roadmap, a solo or small number of performers is likely to be safer.

From Step 3, indoor professional performances can take place, including at a ceremony or reception. Although there is no limit on the number of professional performers that can perform at a ceremony or reception, the number should be determined by how many the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place between the performers and guests. Performances should follow the guidelines as set out in the performing arts guidance.

Amateur choirs, bands, or musicians may also perform in a group of up to 6 indoors. Outdoors, they may perform in multiple groups of up to 30.

All performances should follow the principles for safer singing and performing arts guidance. Communal singing should not take place indoors at either Step 2 or Step 3.

To minimise risk of droplet and aerosol transmission from the combined attendees including the performer/s, audience, wedding party and associated staff and site providers, outdoor performances are always preferable. Where any indoor performances are planned they should be limited in size, implement strict social distancing rules, only take place where high rates of air flow can be maintained and should use amplification systems to create volume rather than natural voices. Those planning the wedding should consider how the performers will impact the total size of the wedding party and therefore the safety of their event, although those working at the event are not included in the limits on attendees at each step. Please see the performing arts guidance for advice on how to manage this.

All venues should ensure that steps are taken to mitigate the increased risk of virus transmission associated with aerosol production from raised voices, such as when speaking loudly or singing loudly, particularly in confined and poorly ventilated spaces. This includes, but is not limited to, lowering the volume of background music, and refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, particularly if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. Evidence on the most effective steps that can be taken to limit the transmission of the virus continues to be reviewed. This guidance may be updated in the future in response to changing scientific understanding.

Other activities

Dancing is advised against due to the increased risk of transmission, except the couple’s ‘first dance’. Dancefloors and other spaces for dancing must remain closed but can be repurposed for additional customer seating or other relevant purposes, ensuring this is in line with the social distancing guidelines.

Any other activities at a reception, including those that involve or are watched by attendees (such as cake cutting and the playing of games) can take place. At Step 2, social distancing should be maintained at all times and the numbers of guests involved limited wherever possible. At Step 3, guidance on meeting family and friends has been updated, with a greater emphasis on personal responsibility. Close contact with friends and family will be a personal choice, and people are encouraged to exercise caution. In line with this change to guidance, such activities can continue to take place and guests should exercise caution by minimising how many people they are in close contact with, and for how long, remembering that some people are more vulnerable than others. Please see guidance on meeting friends and family.

Other objects in the reception venue being touched by several people (such as guest books, polaroid camera stations or games) should be minimised and hand sanitisation encouraged both before and after contact.

Speeches should be undertaken outside or in well ventilated areas wherever possible. Ventilation with external air should be maximised in all buildings where people are gathering. For example, windows and doors should be opened as much as possible, and the sides of marquees removed or rolled up throughout the event and when groups of staff are preparing and clearing away. At least 50% of the wall area of the marquee must be open for the venue to be classed as ‘outdoors’. Air conditioning systems using recirculated air are not advised. PA systems should be utilised wherever possible to help amplify speeches without speakers needing to raise their voices. Social distancing between the speaker and observers should be maintained at all times and neither speakers nor participants should raise their voices, to avoid the increased risk from aerosol transmission.

Serving and consuming food and drink

Where food and drinks are consumed, staff and attendees should follow the guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services. This includes informing people of the requirements in relation to face coverings and ensuring that employers do not knowingly allow a worker (including agency workers) who is required to self-isolate to come to work. Regulations now require certain businesses to implement specific aspects of this guidance, or face a fixed penalty notice of up to £10,000.

Please note that at Step 2, no food or drink should be consumed at the ceremony, unless required for the purposes of solemnisation. The sharing of vessels, including where part of a religious service, should be avoided. More detail can be found in the places of worship guidance.

If the event is taking place at a COVID-secure venue where alcohol is served, all food and drink (including non-alcoholic drink) must be ordered, served and consumed by the customer while seated at a table. This applies at Steps 2 and 3.

Businesses that sell alcohol must introduce systems to take orders and payment from seated customers, instead of at a bar or counter. Any premises wishing to avoid this requirement would need to stop serving alcohol. This has been introduced to prevent crowding and social contact.

Businesses selling food or drink (licensed or not) must take all reasonable steps to ensure customers remain seated while consuming food or drink on the premises. This means that in unlicensed premises, food and drink can be purchased or ordered at a counter, but customers must sit down to consume it, even in outdoor settings.

At Step 2, seating arrangements should follow social distancing guidance, meaning keeping tables of up to 6 people at least 2 metres apart, or if certain COVID-secure measures are in place, at least 1 metre apart. From Step 3, there is no requirement for guests to be placed on socially distanced tables, though they should consider the risks of doing so, as set out in new guidance on meeting friends and family.

If the event is not taking place in a COVID-secure venue, the organiser should still take all reasonable steps to limit the risks of transmission and must adhere to the gathering limit of up to 30 people. Anyone working is not included in that limit. Where food and drinks are consumed, the guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services should be followed to reduce the risk of transmission.

Travel

Many restrictions still remain in place in England and you should continue to minimise the number of journeys you make where possible.

You are permitted to travel to attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony or reception in accordance with the legislation in England.

You are also able to leave England and travel to other parts of the UK (or abroad), to attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony, again when it is taking place as set out in the legislation. This guidance is only applicable in England. Therefore, if you travel outside England to attend a wedding or civil partnership, you must follow the rules on weddings in place at your destination as well as any relevant restrictions on international travel. For further information, refer to guidance from the relevant national governments, and guidance on international travel.

Guidance for venue managers

Third-party suppliers

For suppliers present during the wedding reception or celebration, they and the venue managers should ensure that all activities undertaken are subject to a risk assessment and that they maintain social distancing during any activities the suppliers are responsible for.

Venue managers should ensure that all third-party suppliers follow the guidance on inbound and outbound goods as set out in the guidance on restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services.

NHS Test and Trace

The NHS Test and Trace service helps to manage the risk of the virus re-emerging. The service:

  • provides testing for anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 to find out if they have the virus
  • gets in touch with anyone who has had a positive test result to help them share information about any close recent contacts they have had
  • alerts those contacts, where necessary, and notifies them they need to self-isolate to help stop the spread of the virus

Further information can be found online including for contacts of people with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection who do not live with the person and for places of work. See the guidance on NHS Test and Trace in the workplace.

Venues should assist this service by keeping a temporary record of visitors for 21 days, and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed for contact tracing and the investigation of local outbreaks. You should also display official NHS QR code posters so that those with the app can scan in if they choose.

Find further information on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.

While generally consent is not always required, we do recommend that consent is collected in places of worship. This is because of the potentially sensitive nature of the data collected in these circumstances, which is protected by law. Guidance on collecting visitor details for Test and Trace, including issues around consent, is provided by the Information Commissioner’s Office. You should make clear that giving contact details is optional and is not a condition of attending your place of worship.

Opening of the economy and public services is reliant on NHS Test and Trace being used to minimise transmission of the virus. In order to ensure that businesses and local services are able to remain open, we are now mandating that designated venues in certain sectors have a system in place to request and record contact details of their customers, visitors and staff to help break the chains of transmission of COVID-19. See the guidance on maintaining records to support NHS Test and Trace.

Enforcement

Where the enforcing authority, such as the Health and Safety Executive or your local authority, identifies employers or venues that are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation to control public health risks, or with health and safety legislation, they are empowered to take a range of actions to improve control of venue risks. Enforcement officers will take relevant guidance into account.

Failure to complete a risk assessment which takes account of COVID-19, or completing a risk assessment but failing to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk of COVID-19, could constitute a breach of existing health and safety legislation.

The actions the enforcing authority can take include the provision of specific advice to venues to support them to achieve the required standard, through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements. Breaches of the legal requirements and failure to comply with enforcement notices can constitute a criminal offence, with serious fines and even imprisonment for up to 2 years. Penalties increase for repeated breaches under the various regulations in place for COVID-19 measures. There is also a wider system of enforcement, which includes specific obligations and conditions for licensed premises.

Venue managers are expected to respond to any advice or notices issued by enforcing authorities rapidly and are required to do so within any timescales imposed by the enforcing authorities. Our expectation is that venues and venue managers will act responsibly and join with the UK’s fight against COVID-19 by working with the government and their sector bodies to protect their workers and the public. However, regulators are carrying out compliance checks nationwide to ensure that employers and venues are taking the necessary steps.

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