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COVID-19: Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships
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 the health and safety legislation) and this guidance, the applicable legislation shall prevail.
This guidance is only applicable in England. For guidance in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, please refer to guidance from the relevant national governments.
This guidance is national guidance that applies across England. Please consider if local restrictions are in place when reading and implementing this guidance, see here for local information.
The UK is currently experiencing a public health emergency as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The transmission characteristics of COVID-19 are outlined by Public Health England. The transmission of COVID-19 is thought to occur mainly through respiratory droplets generated by coughing and sneezing, and through contact with contaminated surfaces. The predominant modes of transmission are assumed to be droplet and contact.
This guidance for marriages and civil partnerships has been drafted on the basis of the scientific evidence available and will be updated as necessary 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 particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.
The government has been working closely with stakeholders in the wedding industry, the Places of Worship Taskforce and the National Panel for Registration to consider how we are able to allow small marriages and civil partnerships to take place safely.
This guidance remains under review and may be updated in line with the changing situation.
Local COVID alert levels
On 12 October the government introduced a system of local COVID alert levels. If you live, work or volunteer in an area that is subject to ‘local COVID alert level – high’ or ‘local COVID alert level – very high’ regulations, additional restrictions will apply to many activities.
In general, these additional restrictions do not have significant implications for small marriages or civil partnerships. Where they do, they have been included in this guidance.
Please visit the local COVID alert levels page to find out what level your area is in and the additional restrictions that apply.
2. 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 such ceremonies, to prepare for small ceremonies, 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 marriage or civil partnership, 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.
Weddings that do not take place in accordance with such law, 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 (see links below). In particular for religious ceremonies you should refer to the places of worship guidance.
At present, it is strongly advised that marriage ceremonies, civil partnership formations, or alternative wedding ceremonies should only go ahead where they can be done in a COVID-19 secure environment. It is also advised that the ceremonies are kept as short as reasonably possible such gatherings cannot by law take place in private dwellings, unless very limited circumstances apply such as Urgent Marriages (including deathbed weddings).
By law no more than 15 people can attend any marriage or civil partnership ceremony, even where large numbers could be accommodated with social distancing in a COVID-19 secure venue. 15 is the maximum number for all attendees at the event, including the couple and guests. Anyone working is not included as part of the legal limit.
Receptions for weddings and civil partnerships can continue to take place, in areas that are subject to ‘local COVID alert level – medium and high’ restrictions in a COVID-19 secure venue. No more than 15 people may attend. Such receptions must not take place in people’s private homes (unless there is an exception, see guidance on receptions below). Any reception or celebration taking place in private dwellings or gardens must follow wider restrictions on gatherings in these settings.
Wedding receptions cannot take place in areas that are subject to ‘local COVID alert level – very high’ restrictions.
Guidance on receptions is also available.
Definitions for the purpose of this guidance
“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).
“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 two people, but that is not legally binding under the law of England and Wales.
“Venue” – Any location at which a legally binding marriage or civil partnership can take place. These include, among the various permitted places: Register Offices; 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); Church of England churches or chapels, certified places of worship that have been registered for the solemnisation of marriage (“registered buildings”); naval, military or air force chapels.
“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, or alternative wedding ceremony.
“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.
“Must” – Where the guidance states that an activity must take place this is because it is a requirement under:
And therefore is a requirement in law.
“Should” – Where the guidance states that an activity should take place this is not a legal requirement under the:
However it is strongly advised that consideration is given to following the advice being provided to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
“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 where a single adult living alone, or a single parent with children under 18, can form an exclusive network with one other household where social distancing does not have to be observed. The 2 households that form a support bubble count as one household for the purposes of this guidance.
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 the marriage or civil partnership if they are not able to safely adhere to the guidelines outlined below. It is against law for a venue to provide a service if it is non-compliant with the gatherings limits.
This guidance has been published alongside industry or venue specific guidance, and this should be used alongside this guidance to ensure public safety. These include:
This guidance remains under review and may be updated in line with the changing situation.
3. Key principles for planning COVID-19 secure marriages and civil partnerships
For the purposes of a marriage ceremony, civil partnership formation or alternative wedding ceremony, the number of attendees should ideally be kept to a minimum as far as possible. The lower the number of attendees, the lower the risk of spreading the virus.
However, we understand the unique significance that marriages and civil partnerships hold in people’s lives. For this reason, up to 15 people, but no more, can attend a marriage, civil partnership or alternative wedding ceremony, where this can be safely accommodated with social distancing in a COVID-19 venue (up until 28 September the limit will be 30).
This maximum number includes all those at the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses, and guests. Anyone working is not included as part of the limit on attendees.
During all activity linked to the marriage ceremony, civil partnership formation or alternative wedding ceremony, all parties should adhere to social distancing guidelines. This means people should be 2 metres apart or more than 1 metre apart as well as taking extra steps to reduce the risk of transmission.
The marriage ceremony or civil partnership formation
Should only take place in COVID-19 secure environments. Where a marriage ceremony can take place legally in other places not covered by this guidance, the legal restrictions on gatherings must be followed for that place. It must not ordinarily take place in a private dwelling or garden, where only up to 6 people are permitted to gather by law.
It is advised that the ceremonies and services should be concluded in the shortest reasonable time.
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.
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 the exchanging of rings is required or desired, hands should be washed before and after. The rings should be handled by as few people as possible.
Where an infant is involved in proceedings a parent/guardian or member of the infant’s household should hold the infant.
Singing, chanting and the use of musical instruments
What the leader(s) and performers can and cannot do:
- For liturgical performance (and rehearsals), both indoors and outdoors those performing in:
- a professional capacity; and
- those under 18 where supervised, are not limited in number.
- In all other cases, where the number of adult performers will be greater than 6, each group of up to 6 performers should ensure that they do not mix and that appropriate social distancing requirements are observed.
- Singing should be limited to the performers.
- Venues should take account of the Performing Arts guidance which outlines additional mitigations such as good ventilation.
- Where music plays a big part in worship, and recordings are available, we suggest you consider using these as an alternative to live singing to mitigate risks.
- Any instrument played during the ceremony should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use.
- Avoid playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting when people will be trying to converse.
What the congregation can and cannot do:
- People should avoid singing, shouting and raising voices. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets.
- Activities such as singing, chanting, shouting and/or playing of instruments that are blown into should be specifically avoided by congregations/worshippers. This is because there is a possible additional risk of transmission in environments where individuals are singing or chanting as a group, and this applies even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are used.
- Therefore, spoken responses during ceremonies should also not be in a raised voice.
Social distancing measures
All individuals involved in the ceremony (including attendees, guests and officiants) should observe social distancing from those they do not live with.
They or members of their household should not attend the marriage or civil partnership if they are unwell with symptoms of COVID-19. If either member of the couple have symptoms of COVID-19 the ceremony should not go ahead.
Wherever possible, adhere to social distancing of at least 2 metres, or 1 metre with risk mitigation (where 2 metres is not viable), between households. For frequently used venues, mark areas using floor tape or paint to help people maintain social distance.
You should consider and set out the mitigations you will introduce in your 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, and closing non-essential social spaces, as outlined throughout this guidance.
In England, face coverings are currently required by law to be worn in places of worship.
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.
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.’
See guidance on the wearing of face coverings at a place of work. For more information please see guidance on face coverings on GOV.UK.
Visitors should avoid touching property belonging to others, such as shoes which, if removed, should be placed and collected by their owner while adhering to social distancing principles.
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.
Receptions for weddings and civil partnerships can continue to take place in areas that are subject to local COVID alert level – medium and high’ restrictions, in a COVID-19 secure venue. No more than 15 people may attend. Wedding receptions cannot take place in areas that are subject to ‘local COVID alert level – very high’ restrictions.
For more information see the guidance for marriage and civil partnership receptions and celebrations.
4. Guidance for vulnerable or symptomatic individuals
There should be a particular focus on protecting people who are clinically vulnerable and more likely to develop severe illness. Advice for both the clinically vulnerable and extremely clinically vulnerable is however advisory and they can choose how to manage their own risks
Actions should include:
- All guests or those involved in the ceremony staying at home and self-isolating if they have a new, continuous cough or a high temperature or loss of or change to sense of smell or taste. This is to minimise risk of spread of COVID-19 to friends, the wider community, and particularly the vulnerable. Where individuals are self-isolating due to a possible or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the household or because they have been requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace, they should participate remotely. See stay at home guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19.
- 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 to NHS 111 (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 the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.
Other 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.
Individuals aged 70 years and over
Certain groups of people may be at increased risk of severe disease from COVID-19, including people who are aged 70 or older, regardless of medical conditions.
Individuals who fall within this group are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if they do go out, to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside of their household.
You should consider informing these groups in particular of the symptoms of COVID-19 and current stay alert and social distancing guidance.
Young people and children
Parents or guardians should ensure children maintain social distancing and 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.
Any shared facilities for children, such as play corners, soft furnishings, soft toys and toys that are hard to clean, should be removed or closed. Particular attention should be paid to cleaning frequently touched surfaces by children and those that are at child height.
5. Test and trace
The government has launched an NHS Test and Trace service 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; and
- 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.
Venues should assist this service by keeping a temporary record of visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your place of worship, 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. We have created a template form for collecting consent, which is relevant for places of worship, available in Annex A.
It is important to note enforcement provisions, as is the case for other sectors.
Where the enforcing authority, such as the HSE or your local authority, identifies employers or venues who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks, 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.
Failure to complete a risk assessment that accounts for COVID-19 could constitute a breach of Health & Safety legislation and the could also lead to a breach of:
as could having a risk assessment with insufficient measures set out.
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. Serious breaches and failure to comply with enforcement notices can constitute a criminal offence, with serious fines and even imprisonment for up to 2 years. 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. The vast majority of venues and venue managers are responsible and will 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.
Annex A: Template form for collecting consent and contact details for attendees at places of worship:
Template: consent form for places of worship and those handling sensitive information
In order to support the NHS Test and Trace programme, we are taking contact details (name and telephone number) for all visitors, as well as recording times entering and leaving [name of place of worship].
In line with guidance issued by the Department for Health and Social Care, we will keep your details safely and in compliance with GDPR legislation for 21 days before securely disposing of or deleting them. We will only share your details with NHS Test and Trace, if asked, in the event that it is needed to help stop the spread of coronavirus. We will not use your details for any other purposes or pass them on to anyone else.
Thank you for your understanding.
If you agree to providing your information for this reason, please complete the following form:
|Tel. No|| |
- Remain 2 metres away from others at all times
- Spend as long as you wish in our parks
- Walk, run, cycle or workout in our parks
- Keep dogs on leads at all times
- Avoid touching surfaces such as gates and railings
- Wash your hands when you get home
- Meet up with friends and family in groups of no more than 6 people, please remain 2 meters away from other park users
- Have a picnic or sunbathe
- Enter tennis/basketball courts, multi use games area and skate parks
- Use our cafes takeaway service
- Bring barbecues, they are NOT permitted in any of our parks
- Leave litter in the parks, if the bins are full, please take your litter home with you
Lakeview Marquee has suspended all events and private functions until further notice. The Lakeview Marquee is is still open for viewing and consultations. Private hire bookings are being taken from the beginning of August onwards. Please note this date is subject to change as we continue to follow government guidelines and will continue to update you of any changes.
There is also a large function hall/meeting room, bar and restaurant and a small function room for hire further information available on request.
Keep up to date with latest government news
For all the latest advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) click on the Government website.