Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): wedding ceremonies and civil partnership registrations

Published: 26 Oct 2020
Last updated: 21 Apr 2021 - see all updates

Guidance to assist couples planning to get married or form a civil partnership in Scotland, as well as celebrants.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): wedding ceremonies and civil partnership registrations
Health and safety

Health and safety

A marriage should only take place in a safe environment. This includes steps that the venue will take.

If the celebrant considers that arrangements at the venue are unsafe – whether because of COVID-19 risks or any other risks – they may refuse to carry out the marriage and may stop the service if circumstances change.

Test and Protect

Those attending an indoor ceremony in a venue such as a hotel or registration office will be asked to provide contact details for Test and Protect purposes. Doing so is very important to help stop the spread of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

Physical distancing

  • face to face interaction within 2 metres should be avoided as far as possible
  • people from different households should stay 2 metres apart during the ceremony. Household includes an extended household, where two households have chosen to be treated as a single household 

Face coverings

The wearing of a face covering is mandatory in certain indoor premises. This includes hotels, places of worship, registration offices and any indoor public place or part of an indoor public place where a marriage ceremony is taking place.

There are exemptions to this requirement, including for individuals who are leading a ceremony.

In addition, the couple getting married do not need to wear a face covering during a ceremony as long as they:

  • are at least 2 metres away from everyone else, or
  • they are separated from everyone else by a partition.

This exemption for the couple getting married only applies during the ceremony and does not apply to receptions.

The couple may be required to wear a face covering if, at any point during the ceremony, such as when signing the schedule or leaving the venue they cannot remain physically distanced from the celebrant or from others attending, and partitions are not being used. Similarly the celebrant may be required to wear a face covering if they cannot remain physically distanced from guests or from the couple at all points during the ceremony and partitions are not being used.

Guests must wear a face covering during the ceremony in an indoor public place, unless exempt.

Ceremonies will differ in individual details. The couple (whether they arrive separately or together) should wear a face covering while they are waiting inside any public area before entering the room where their ceremony is to take place. If they are remaining in the same venue for their reception, they may also then require to wear a face covering. 

The wearing of face coverings must not be used as an alternative to other precautions including physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene. We have published guidance on the use of face coverings.

Hygiene during the ceremony

  • all attendees should maintain good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene
  • if objects need to be shared or handled by more than one person, all those involved should wash their hands before and after the ceremony
  • where the couple intend to exchange rings, these should be handled by as few people as possible.
  • where a drink from a quaich is to be shared during the ceremony, or a hand fasting ribbon is to be used, these objects should be handled only by the couple, wherever possible
  • when the marriage schedule is signed at the end of the ceremony, consider using separate pens
  • where the same pen is to be used by the couple, witnesses and celebrant, they should all wash their hands before and after the ceremony
  • attendees should avoid touching property belonging to others
  • if attendees remove items such as shoes, they should be handled only by their owner
  • people should avoid shouting or raising voices at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets
  • the celebrant’s declarations and the couple’s spoken responses during a marriage ceremony should not be in a raised voice. Consideration should be given to using amplification via electronic equipment such as microphones and speakers to ensure that there is no need for raised voices.

Singing, chanting and music

The couple should consider using music recordings that may be available to them. Any recorded music should be played at a level which allows everyone there to converse normally and without raising their voices.

A couple can arrange for a singer or musician to perform at their ceremony. This is provided the appropriate mitigations and safeguards are in place, in line with the risk assessment based approach set out in the performing arts guidance. The couple should also agree the arrangements with the person responsible for their venue. For example, a bagpiper can play outside the venue whilst attendees are arriving, provided they do so in line with any appropriate mitigations in the performing arts guidance.

Any music at the ceremony should not take place at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting or communal singing.

Communal singing involving those attending the marriage ceremony should continue to be avoided, because of the potential for aerosol production.

Any musician or singer employed for the ceremony by the couple is included in the limit on the numbers who may attend the marriage ceremony. This is the case at all protection levels.

There are different rules for music at receptions or other celebrations: see the reception guidance.

Other points on faith specific practices

Our guidance for the safe use of places of worship contains guidance on faith specific practices, such as contact between different households or extended households, washing or ablution rituals and the use of devotional, communal or personal objects. 


First published: 26 Oct 2020 Last updated: 21 Apr 2021 -