Before the ceremony
This section highlights what you may need to consider before the ceremony.
Points on COVID-19
All individuals involved in the ceremony, including guests, should understand and follow the NHS inform guidance including on physical distancing measures. If you or any member of your household is unwell with symptoms of COVID-19, you should not attend the marriage.
Specific guidance for those on the shielding list is available.
The celebrant, those responsible for the venue and the couple should be aware of the need to take other actions to minimise the spread of COVID-19 before the ceremony starts:
- advising anyone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19, or is self-isolating due to living with someone who is displaying symptoms or as a result of contact tracing, to stay at home
- if either member of the couple have or develop symptoms of COVID-19 the ceremony should not go ahead
- anyone who becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 should be sent home and advised to follow guidance on what to do if you develop symptoms at NHS Inform (or call 111 if they don't have internet access and need clinical advice). In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or if their life is at risk.
General points for all marriages
Services that those attending the ceremony may wish to access before the event such as non-essential retail, hairdressers and other close contact services are generally open. Please see relevant guidance for further information.
Those responsible for venues will have in place local policies about the numbers that can attend a marriage ceremony there and other arrangements.
Attendance at marriage ceremonies will be within the capacity limits of the venue so that physical distancing between households can be strictly adhered to. In some cases, that may mean that fewer people can attend than this guidance permits in principle.
Couples and those responsible for venues should continue to adhere to all restrictions that are currently in place and to this guidance. They should work with the celebrant to put in place suitable arrangements that are as safe as possible for everyone attending. This means that agreed numbers of attendees should not be increased at short notice or beyond what the venue can accommodate safely.
If the celebrant considers that arrangements at the venue are unsafe they may refuse to carry out the marriage. And they may stop the service if circumstances change. A celebrant could do this because of COVID-19 or any other risks including because previously agreed arrangements have been altered without their agreement. Please note that a celebrant may not carry out the ceremony or may stop the ceremony if they consider it to be unsafe.
Couples and those responsible for venues should also discourage people unable to attend the ceremony from gathering outside the venue. Such informal gatherings may not be allowed under the law and increase the potential for the transmission of the virus.
Couples may wish to consider getting married outside because this reduces the risk of transmission.
The ceremony should be concluded in a reasonable time. This means that the content of a ceremony should be limited accordingly.
You should not eat or drink at the ceremony unless this is essential for religious or belief purposes.
- religious or belief bodies and their celebrants should consider how rites and rituals are observed as part of a marriage at this time, given the potential for transmission of COVID-19.
- religious or belief communities should consider and adapt religious or belief aspects accordingly during the current pandemic. This is especially important where a ceremony might otherwise take place over a number of hours or longer.
- people organising a marriage should consider if traditional aspects of some ceremonies could be adapted during the pandemic to take account of requirements such as physical distancing.