Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 26 Oct 2020
Last updated: 6 Jan 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.

Physical distancing

  • face to face interaction within 2 metres should be avoided as far as possible
  • should maintain physical distancing between one another during the event. An extended household is two households which have chosen to be treated as a single household
  • for the latest advice on physical distancing requirements see Coronavirus in Scotland.

Hygiene during the ceremony

  • all attendees should maintain good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene
  • where the couple intend to exchange rings, these should be handled by as few individuals as possible.
  • if other objects require to be shared or handled by more than one person (for example a hand-fasting ribbon), all those involved should wash their hands before and after the ceremony
  • when the marriage schedule (sometimes called the register) is signed at the end of the ceremony, consideration should be given to 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, raising voices and playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting 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
  • the couple should consider using music recordings that may be available to them
  • any recorded music should be played at a level which allows attendees to converse normally and without raising their voices

Face coverings

The wearing of a face covering is now 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, he couple getting married do not need to wear a face covering during a marriage ceremony as long as they are at least 2 metres away from everyone else or separated from everyone else by a partition. If this is not always possible, for example when signing the schedule or leaving the venue, then they should wear face coverings at those times. 

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

Guests must wear a face covering during the ceremony, 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.

Singing, chanting and music

Singing and live music performance at a marriage ceremony may resume. This is provided the appropriate mitigations and safeguards are in place, in line with the performing arts guidance and should not take place at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting. Any musician or singer engaged for the ceremony by the couple is included in the limit on the numbers who may attend the marriage ceremony, at all protection levels. .

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

There are different rules for receptions or other celebrations: see the industry guidance.

Other points on faith specific practices

Our guidance for 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: 6 Jan 2021 -