One of the hallmarks of the global pandemic has been major life events either put on hold, or not quite what they might have been in normal times.
But the good news is that is beginning to come to an end. From this past Monday, the gathering limit of 30 attendees at wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes or memorials following a death are to be lifted.
While there are still some restrictions on what you can and can’t do at those events, the successful rollout of the vaccine means that the rules can change to allow us to celebrate or commemorate with all those we’d like to be there.
With summer finally on its way and wedding season kicking into gear, that means that those friends and family who have been at the heart of getting us all through the pandemic can all share special days – without any awkward conversations about who can and can’t attend.
Is there an upper limit?
Whilst we are still encouraged to stick to small groups of those we know in most of our interactions, the rules have been changed to give major life events an exemption (events such as christenings and bar mitzvahs aren’t included). Couples and families have all had to make really tough decisions about who can share their days with them, be they joyous weddings or sombre wakes.
Venues will have capacity restrictions, of course, and they will still be lower than normal due to the importance of keeping social distancing going as we edge towards the end of the pandemic. We’ve got so far, and the vaccine rollout has been such a success, that it would now be a terrible shame to go backwards.
But the only upper limit is the venue’s Covid-compliant capacity, and the rule of a maximum of 30 has gone.
Are there different rules in different areas?
The relaxation of rules applies in England only, and the devolved nations have different rules. All the information is available at gov.uk/coronavirus
Though there are certain areas of the country which have been on the news as having a higher prevalence of the Delta Variant of the virus, the new relaxed rules apply across the whole country.
But I thought the end of lockdown had been delayed by four weeks?
The last stage of the UK’s roadmap out of Covid-19 restrictions has indeed been delayed by four weeks, with July 19 now the date circled in the calendar.
But with what we know about the virus, rules are being carefully relaxed in England for events like weddings and wakes to begin getting back to some resemblance of normality.
So we can have a normal ceremony?
Whilst these major ceremonies will be closer to normal than they have been, there are still some rules in place to make sure that they take place safely.
It’s important to check that your venue has undertaken a Covid-19 risk assessment, and what their Covid-secure capacity is. If you are getting married in a non Covid-secure venue where the safety capacity isn’t set by the venue manager, you will need to carry out a risk assessment yourself.
Are there restrictions on entertainment – live bands for example?
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. Measures to reduce risk of transmission are set out in the government’s Performing Arts guidance.
To minimise the risk of transmission, outdoor performances are always preferable.
Can dancing take place?
Dancing is not advised due to the increased risk of transmission, but there is an exception for the couple’s first dance – after all, couples need something to tell their kids in the future. Dancefloors and other spaces for dancing must remain closed but can be repurposed ensuring this is aligned to social distancing guidelines.
Can singing take place?
Due to the transmission risk associated with singing, communal singing is strongly discouraged indoors. Outdoors, communal singing is permitted in groups of 30, but additional precautions should be taken as set out in the Performing Arts guidance (e.g. people should be 2m apart and not stand face to face).
Is it table service only?
Businesses providing food and drink at these events must take all reasonable steps to ensure people remain seated whilst eating and drinking, even in outdoor settings, to help limit the risk of transmission. We don’t want to go backwards and squander the progress we’ve made in the fight against the Covid-19 virus just as the light at the tunnel gets ever brighter.
These restrictions also apply where events are held in gardens of private homes, where catering is provided by a business. These measures should also be followed if you are hosting, and catering, yourself.
How else can we make sure our event is Covid-19 safe?
- It’s important to continue to practice hands, face, space and fresh air guidance both before, during and after the day.
- Get tested twice a week before and after the event, even if you don’t have symptoms. Rapid lateral flow tests are available free at pharmacies and online. You might consider asking guests attending to have tests beforehand, too.
- Anyone displaying symptoms should not attend, and instead immediately isolate and get tested.
Can I have a hen or stag do?
Yes, in line with wider social contact limits. That means six people or two households indoors, and 30 outdoors. In the run-up to a wedding or a civil partnership you may want to consider reducing your social contact – of course, the fewer people you see and mix with, the less likely you are to be at risk of transmission.
If you do want to hold such events within the social distancing guidelines, it’s probably worth holding them well in advance of the big day. That means if there are any infections, they can be picked up early, with people isolating but then still able to attend once they are through the self-isolation period.
What else can we do?
Take up the offer of a vaccine when it comes, and make sure you attend your second jab appointment. The rollout of the vaccine is allowing us to come out of the pandemic, and allowing us to think about returning to normal life. But we need as many people as possible to get their jab – so get it when you can!