Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 26 Oct 2020
Last updated: 9 Jun 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
Those responsible for venues

Those responsible for venues


Those responsible for venues should ensure that they are used for a marriage ceremony only if it is safe to do so. It is their responsibility to put in place measures that will allow this.

The Regulations set out the requirements for businesses and venues to enforce physical distancing in their premises. Where a person who is responsible for a place of worship, or who is carrying on a business or providing a service breaches the Regulations, that person commits an offence. 

Venues hosting marriage ceremonies should ensure that they are conducted in accordance with this guidance. They are also expected to comply with the guidance for the tourism and hospitality sector. Those responsible for venues which are community centres will also follow the Scottish Government’s guidance for multi-use community facilities.

In addition, managers should follow:

Venues hosting a wedding reception are expected to comply with:

Those responsible for venues which are hospitality businesses must gather minimal contact details to support NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect service. Our guidance for the tourism and hospitality sector contains further information. There is guidance for other sectors on collecting contact details.

One way for a person responsible for a venue to help ensure they are collecting people's details is by using Check-in Scotland.

COVID-19 risk assessment

Health and safety law requires all employers to assess the risk of returning to work while the coronavirus outbreak is ongoing and to put steps in place to manage that risk. The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) guidance on working safely during the coronavirus pandemic can help those responsible for venues and has published a risk assessment template

We have published guidance on risk assessment for the tourism and hospitality sector and on conducting individual risk assessments. There are examples of risk assessment templates and other tools available at the Healthy Working Lives website. In frequently used venues, the person responsible for managing the venue should consider marking areas using floor tape or paint to help people maintain physical distance.

Those responsible for managing a venue should set out in their risk assessment the mitigations they will introduce. Key mitigations are physical distancing, ventilation, hand hygiene and cleaning.

Venues which are private dwellings

Definition of  private dwelling

As well as private homes, this  includes self-contained self-catering and other private hire holiday accommodation. 

The use of private hire exclusive use premises for a marriage ceremony will depend on the arrangements in place. There are properties such as castle or historic houses where someone does or could live.

If the private hire venue is managed and regulated then a ceremony can take place there. This could be inside or outside. The venue must have staff present to ensure that everyone is following the relevant guidance. Relevant guidance includes this guidance, the statutory hospitality guidance and the receptions guidance.

Mitigating risks of transmission at a ceremony at a private dwelling 

Marriage is an important legal right. This is why there is an exception permitting marriage ceremonies including at private dwellings. 

This guidance advises that marriage ceremonies can take place inside a private dwelling where this is necessary with a  minimum number of attendees. 

Marriage ceremonies may also take place outside at a private dwelling with higher numbers providing physical distancing can be maintained. However, there will continue to be risks of transmission of coronavirus at these  family gatherings. The risks may also be increased where a ceremony will take place at a private home rather than in a venue where there will be staff to ensure compliance with the regulations and guidance. 

Where a couple are planning to have their ceremony at a private dwelling, such as at a family home, it is very important that their plans take account of the risks of transmission and that the couple consult with their celebrant. If the celebrant considers that the arrangements are unsafe they may refuse to carry out the marriage. Where the marriage ceremony is not at their family home, the couple will also need to agree their plans with the person(s) who owns or occupies the private home being used. 

In particular, when the couple decide their proposed guest numbers, they should take careful account of the space available and the continuing need for physical distancing. The Scottish Government has published guidance on calculating the capacity of a public venue which may be helpful.

The couple should also consider providing additional toilet facilities, where their guest numbers will exceed the numbers who are usually permitted to socialise outside at a private dwelling. 

The inside of the private dwelling should not be used in the event of bad weather. The couple should consider using an open sided temporary shelter such as a gazebo. A marquee which is wholly or mainly enclosed is considered to be inside for the purposes of this guidance on private dwellings.

There are separate rules for receptions. As explained in this guidance, no one should eat or drink at the ceremony, unless this is essential for religious or belief purposes. 

First published: 26 Oct 2020 Last updated: 9 Jun 2021 -