Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 20 Oct 2020
Last updated: 19 Oct 2020 - 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
Marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations

Marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations

The conduct of marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations.


In respect of marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations, we advise that numbers attending should be limited to 20 for public health reasons. (See guidance on numbers attending).

Those responsible for the management of venues where a marriage or civil partnership may take place must take action to minimise the potential for spreading COVID-19 among attendees and anyone working within the venue’s buildings and any surrounding grounds. The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, and with effect from 14 September 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (“the Regulations”) oblige those premises permitted to open to enforce physical distancing in their premises. 

Where an owner, proprietor or manager carrying out a business (or a person responsible for other premises) contravenes the Regulations, that person commits an offence.

We have published further guidance for businesses on physical distancing requirements.

There should be a particular focus on protecting people who are clinically vulnerable and more likely to develop serious illness as a result of exposure to COVID-19.

Actions to minimise the spread of COVID-19 and keep attendees safe should include:

Test and Protect- register of attendees

In line with guidance for other venues including the hospitality sector, those responsible for the venue are asked to keep a temporary register of attendees’ contact details for a period of 21 days. This is to support contact tracing as part of NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system, in the event of an outbreak linked to a particular venue. Collecting contact details is voluntary, but cooperation with Test and Protect measures will be crucial to national efforts to suppress the virus.

There is guidance on supporting Test and Protect by gathering minimal details from attendees, including on what information to collect, how to collect that information and how to store the data securely.

If data is shared with NHS Scotland on the basis of individuals being identified as at risk of being close contacts by the Test and Protect service, NHS Scotland may need to retain the data for longer than the 21 day period and will hold the data in line with NHS information governance processes. There is further information about the NHS Scotland information governance arrangements.

If it becomes apparent that an individual who has attended a marriage ceremony or civil partnership has a possible COVID-19 infection, the venue for that event should temporarily close so that it can be cleaned. Guidance on environmental decontamination (cleaning and disinfection) can be found in the COVID-19: guidance for non-healthcare settings (Health Protection Scotland).

The marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration

  • this should only take place in a safe environment where the appropriate consideration has been given to reducing and avoiding the risk of transmission. We encourage couples to consider an outdoor marriage or civil partnership because of the reduced risk of transmission in an outdoor environment. If the intention is to conduct the ceremony or registration outdoors, a shelter which is not wholly or mainly enclosed (e.g. such as an open-sided gazebo) can be used. For guidance on marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations at private dwellings see the section on those responsible for venues.
  • the ceremony or registration should be concluded in the shortest reasonable time. The content of a ceremony or registration should be limited as far as reasonably possible to the elements required for the marriage or civil partnership to be validly constituted under the law of Scotland
  • face to face interaction within 2 metres should be avoided as far as possible
  • religious or belief bodies and their celebrants should examine how rites and rituals are observed as part of a marriage or civil partnership at this time, given the potential for transmission of COVID-19. They should consider developing and implementing their own policies regarding how any such rites and rituals can be carried out as safely as possible.
  • 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 take place (before COVID-19) over a number of hours or longer. Adaptations will help ensure the safety of all present and minimise the risk of transmission.
  • unless essential for religious or belief purposes, food or drink should not be consumed at the ceremony or registration
  • where the couple intend to exchange rings, these should be handled by as few individuals as possible. All attendees should maintain good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene. This particularly includes those handling the rings who should ensure that they have washed their hands before and after the ceremony or registration
  • if other objects require to be shared or handled by more than one person (for example a hand-fasting ribbon), all should wash their hands before and after the ceremony or registration
  • when the register (the marriage or civil partnership schedule) is signed consideration should be given to using separate pens. Where the same pen is to be used by the couple, witnesses and celebrant following the conclusion of the ceremony or registration, they should all wash their hands before and after the ceremony or registration.

First published: 20 Oct 2020 Last updated: 19 Oct 2020 -