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Strict wedding restrictions come into force today

Written by: Emma Lunn
The ‘big day’ for many couples has now become much smaller, with the maximum number of attendees at a wedding or civil partnership service in England or Wales reduced to 15 people.

Wedding guests will also need to adhere to social distancing guidelines, with dancing banned except for the newlyweds’ first dance.

Government guidelines state that during all activities linked to the reception or celebration, all parties, especially people from separate households or bubbles, should stay 2 metres apart or 1 metre with risk mitigation.

Venues and guest numbers should be chosen to ensure 2 metre spacing is possible for the main sections of the celebrations.

The government advice also states: “Wherever possible attendees should remain seated to support social distancing safety measures. They should be reminded at key points during the events to maintain social distancing and to avoid physical contact with individuals from different households.”

Attendees and staff must wear a face covering (except when eating or drinking) in line with the guidance on face coverings.

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

Attendees, including children, should frequently 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.

Adam French, consumer rights expert at Which?, says: “The tightening of restrictions on weddings in England will be frustrating for couples due to tie the knot in the next six months, particularly for those who have already had to move the date once as a result of the pandemic.

“If your wedding isn’t going to go ahead as planned, you can agree to a new date with your wedding venue, or go ahead with fewer guests and negotiate a price reduction. Don’t be pressured into either of these choices if it’s not what you want – the option of a refund should always be clear and easily available.

“We expect venues and wedding companies to treat customers in this difficult situation fairly. If they fail to do so, the regulator must be prepared to take action.”

An investigation by Which? in May found many couples who planned to marry during the pandemic are struggling to get refunds, often worth tens of thousands of pounds, from wedding venues.

The new wedding restrictions have come into force a week after the coronavirus alert level was raised to level four, with prime minister Boris Johnson announcing a new set of restrictions including a 10pm curfew on pubs, bars, and restaurants.

More than 73,000 weddings and civil partnership ceremonies were cancelled after a ban was declared at the start of lockdown in March.

The rules are different in the devolved nations. Up to 20 people can attend a wedding or civil partnership service in Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, the maximum amount of attendees to a wedding is determined by how big the venue is.

Anyone who breaks the rules on social gatherings in England will be fined £200 with the penalty doubling on each further repeat offence up to £3,200.

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