Wedding receptions and funeral wakes
This guidance covers wedding receptions and funeral wakes in Scotland. The term ‘wedding receptions’ includes receptions organised following the registration of a civil partnership. There is separate guidance for the ceremony part of such events: guidance on marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations.
This guide sets out what those responsible for wedding receptions and funeral wakes should do to comply with regulations and guidance. Venue managers and those responsible for compliance should familiarise themselves with their legal obligations in terms of the statutory guidance Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (as amended).
This guidance is primarily aimed at venue managers and aims to assist them prepare activities in accordance with associated legislation. Additional general guidance for customers of retail and hospitality is available.
Where the marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration as well as the reception is taking place at the venue, venues should also familiarise themselves with the guidance on marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations.
Timetable for easing restrictions
The restrictions set out below remain subject to regular review.
We expect to move through the levels on the following dates:
- 26 April: mainland Scotland and islands at Level 4 move to Level 3. Islands at Level 3 will remain there until 17 May (confirmed)
- 17 May: all of Scotland will move to Level 2 (indicative)
- 7 June: all of Scotland will move to Level 1 (indicative)
- June (late): all of Scotland will move to Level 0 (indicative)
Subject to exceptions set out in this guidance, such as the provision of alcohol at wedding receptions and the “first dance”, it is generally intended that restrictions will align with those imposed in other hospitality settings.
All businesses must undertake a risk assessment to determine what adjustments are required to operate safely. The venue manager is responsible for ensuring these are completed. More detailed information, including a template can be found in the assessing risk chapter of this guide.
Physical distancing and good hand hygiene remain the most effective measures in reducing the transmission of COVID-19.
2 metre physical distancing, is the default in all settings, and should be maintained within the wedding reception/funeral wake venue by all parties that are not in the same household.
However, the 1 metre physical distancing exemption applies to the contained hospitality areas of the premises i.e. the bar, restaurant, dining room or café. Clear signage must be provided to indicate that guests are entering the 1 metre zone.
Restrictions on capacity
Venues must follow all restrictions on capacity in regulations and comply with associated guidance.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 provide that for the purposes of minimising the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus on the premises, a person responsible for a place of worship, carrying on a business or providing a service must take a number of measures where reasonably practicable.
These include ensuring that physical distancing takes place and ensuring that people are admitted to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain the required distance.
The number of guests permitted to attend the wedding reception or funeral wake should follow any supporting guidance, in force at the time of the event.
It is important to reiterate that the numerical limits are contingent upon the venue having sufficient capacity, with physical distancing, to safely accommodate that number of people. We have produced draft guidance on how to calculate capacity limits. Read more: Coronavirus (COVID-19): calculating physical distancing capacity in public settings
Numbers that can attend
The numbers set out below can attend only if the venue can hold that many people with strict physical distancing measures in place. In some venues fewer people will be able to attend.
Level 0 - no more than 200 people should attend.
Level 1 - no more than 100 people should attend.
Level 2 - no more than 50 people should attend.
Level 3 - from 26 April, no more than 50 people should attend.
Level 4 - wedding receptions and funeral wakes are not permitted in level 4.
At all protection levels, the limits include:
- the couple
- guests, including children of any age
- any carers accompanying someone attending the wedding reception or wake
- any staff not employed by the venue, such as a photographer, musicians or others a couple has employed for the purpose of the ceremony.
At all protection levels, the limits exclude staff employed by the venue.
For example, in a protection level 3 area (subject to capacity) you could have up to 50 people comprised of 45 guests, the couple and 3 third party suppliers at a permitted wedding reception. The staff employed by your venue would not count towards the applicable limit.
Level 0 - consideration should be given to a closing time in line with licensing requirements.
Level 1 - the closing time required in all indoor hospitality settings is 23:00 hours. This applies to wedding receptions and funeral wakes.
Level 2 - the closing time required in all indoor hospitality settings is 22:30 hours. This applies to wedding receptions and funeral wakes.
Level 3 - the closing time is 22:00 hours. The event must close and guests must leave the venue no later than this time. This is covered by an exception in the Regulations to allow for a later closing time than that which is imposed on indoor hospitality more generally. As this is a concession, it is important that Venue Managers observe this strictly.
Level 4 - wedding receptions and funeral wakes are not permitted in level 4.
Serving food and drink
Food must be via table service as table service is mandatory in hospitality settings. There should be no buffet service.
Salt/pepper, water jugs, food service equipment and condiments should not be shared between different tables.
Food service must adhere to the following guidance:
Alcohol can be provided at a permitted wedding reception or funeral wake (in levels 0,1,2 and 3).
Alcohol must be provided in accordance with licensing requirements and care must be taken to ensure that physical distancing requirements are maintained.
Venues must put in place the same mitigating measures as they would in other indoor hospitality settings. For example, guests should not approach the bar and protective screens should be used.
In protection level 3, alcohol is not permitted in other indoor hospitality settings. There is an exception in the regulations which permits the sale of alcohol at a permitted wedding reception or a funeral wake.
Test and Protect
This is mandatory for hospitality businesses. Customer detail collection guidance has been published and must be followed.
Low level background music is permitted. Further guidance can be found in the chapter on background music and sound.
Singing and dancing must not take place. The only exception to this is the couple’s ‘first dance’ and a dance between parents where they live in the same household. Not allowing singing and dancing generally is consistent with the measures being applied to hospitality as a whole. Any change to this restriction for wider hospitality will also be applicable here. Live music is not permitted at receptions and wakes at present (level 3).
We will keep this restriction under review in line with the commitment set out above to align these restrictions with those applied in other settings. Therefore, we expect to permit live music, with appropriate mitigations, from level 2.
We do not expect to permit dancing earlier than level 0.
In order to minimise the risk of droplet and aerosol transmission, speeches should be made outside wherever possible. If indoors, it should be ensured that the space is well ventilated and the speech must be amplified via electronic equipment such as microphones and speakers to ensure that there is no need for raised voices.
Physical distancing should be maintained during speeches. Microphones should be cleaned regularly and between use.
The practice of a welcome line/receiving line should not be permitted. This is because this could represent a breach of the statutory guidance which states that there should be no queuing inside premises.
Additionally, line-ups present a risk as they are likely to bring people face to face and within close contact of one another.
Businesses must take measures to ensure they minimise the risk of the virus being spread. One way entrance and exit systems should be put in place where possible supported by clear signage.
Arrangements should be put in place to limit the necessity of guests to touch door handles. This should be via automatic doors or doors being held open where fire regulations allow this.
There should be no queuing inside premises, such as at bars, and systems should be in place to ensure this does not happen.
This may include barriers to prevent access to and congregation of guests at bars. It is important that physical distancing is maintained wherever possible.
Adequate and good quality ventilation should be standard in indoor commercial spaces – businesses should consider current arrangements and whether additional measures are required to make improvements. HSE guidance on this issue may be helpful.
It is mandatory for staff to wear face coverings in accordance with hospitality statutory guidance
Guests must wear face coverings other than when eating and drinking. The use of face coverings is mandatory in indoor premises. This includes in those areas of a hotel/venue (such as the hotel reception, toilets or other corridor/circulation spaces) that are not used for eating and drinking.
Exemptions for vulnerable groups/individuals apply.
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.
It is planned that restrictions on seating arrangements will correlate with those applied in other indoor hospitality settings. Please see the timetable published on 13 April 2021 which sets out our plans. These will be kept under review.
At present (level 3), guests should be seated by household and seating may be for up to a maximum of 6 persons per table. There should be no more than 2 households per table and distancing measures should be applied between each household seated at the same table, in accordance with hospitality guidance.
There should be no mixing between tables. The distance between tables should be in accordance with hospitality guidance.
Guests should be seated as soon as possible
Guests should be seated at all times, other than when entering/existing premises or using toilet facilities.
Guests must wear face coverings indoors, other than when eating and drinking.
If possible, set waiting staff should serve the same tables to minimise increased contact with others.
Hand sanitiser should be provided at every table.
Hand sanitiser (preferably foot operated) should be provided where guests move from one area to another.
Close contact services
Guidance on close contact services is available.
Toilet facilities present a significant risk as physical distancing is difficult and there are shared touch points.
Venues must include a risk mitigation plan within their risk assessment offering assurances as to how toilet facilities can be used safely.
Toilet facilities must be managed carefully and it is recognised that this may require at times the need for customers to queue in a physically distanced and orderly manner to allow facilities to be used safely. Space should be identified for this away from seated areas that can ensure physical distancing and that do not encroach on passage ways. Customers should be wearing face coverings when not seated.
Measures must be implemented to support safe use. You may find it helpful to read: safe use of toilet facilities
The venue manager must ensure that the areas used by the event are thoroughly cleaned before the next event takes place.
All cleaning should be carried out in accordance with Health Protection Scotland's gudiance for non healthcare settings.
This may mean enhancement of the cleaning regime normally used at venues.
Venues should take steps to ensure that there is frequent cleaning of touch points that are frequently used. This is an effective measure in preventing infection.
It is not possible for a wedding reception or funeral wake (with up to 50 people etc) to take place inside or outside at a private dwelling, in excess of the general indoor/outdoor socialising limits.
The definition of a private dwelling includes self-contained self-catering and other private hire holiday accommodation.
The use of private hire exclusive use premises (such as castles and historic houses) for marriage receptions will depend on the arrangements in place. In order to comply with the obligations set out in regulations, it would be necessary for the person or persons responsible for the management of the venue to be able to demonstrate compliance with all aspects of this guidance. For example, it would be necessary for a designated person to ensure physical distancing was maintained, toilet facilities are provided/managed and that staff serve food and alcohol via table service, and that the appropriate event end time is observed. Where a person responsible for providing a service or carrying on a business breaches the regulations, that person commits an offence. Where this guidance states that an activity ‘must’ take place this means it is a legal requirement.
Notwithstanding this, a gathering at a private dwelling can take place but must comply with the rules applying in the appropriate protection level for meeting others indoors or outdoors. For example, in level 3 you could have a small reception or wake in your garden with 6 people from 6 households. Read more: Coronavirus (COVID-19): local protection levels - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Wedding receptions and funeral wakes cannot take place in a protection level 4 area.
The rules governing the use of marquees depends on the setting and manner in which it is used.
Marquees in private dwellings
The erection of a marquee does not mean that a wedding reception, with numbers greater than those applied to other gatherings, can take place within a private dwelling. Gardens are part of a private dwelling.
A marquee for a wedding in a private dwelling can only hold the number of individuals permitted to gather in a private dwelling based on the relevant protection level, so for example at Level 3, this is 6 individuals from 6 households outdoors.
To be classed as outdoor space >50% of the sides must be open (not substantially enclosed) to ensure that adequate ventilation is provided. The erection of a marquee does not mean that a wedding reception, with numbers greater than those applied to other gatherings, can take place within a private dwelling. Gardens are part of a private dwelling.
Marquees in regulated venues
The erection of a marquee does not, of itself, constitute compliance with the Regulations or this guidance. The requirement imposed upon businesses to take reasonably practicable measures to lower the risk of transmission continues to apply. In other words, the mitigations set out in this guidance must be followed by a responsible venue manager whether the reception is hosted inside in a dining room or outside in a marquee.
In a marquee at a regulated venue, such as a hotel or licensed premises, at Level 3 the limit is 50, (the same as in indoor space) and the same applies for a marquee at a private hire exclusive use premises (such as castles and historic houses), provided there is a responsible person in place who is responsible for compliance with this guidance. The use of a marquee in a hotel, licensed premises or exclusive use venue (with a responsible person) does not allow for more than 50 persons at a wedding, even when configured as outdoor space. Further details of how many persons are permitted can be found above under “Numbers that can attend.”
Erecting and using a marquee for a wedding/civil partnership reception or wake at a private dwelling (including the garden) is not permitted, beyond the numbers allowed in respect of gatherings in private dwellings under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (as amended).
Where land is not a private dwelling, for example it may be community owned, privately-owned farmland or wild land, this can generally be regarded as a public place where members of the public can have access to it (for example for the wedding), and so the rules on public gatherings outdoors or indoors (depending on the configuration of any marquee or other structure) will apply.
At all times there will need to be a designated person who is responsible for ensuring compliance with all aspects of this guidance, for example a license holder, catering company or events co-ordinator, or another service provider who is happy to take on the responsibility of ensuring compliance with this guidance.
A guest is not a service provider. Such a person should be responsible for compliance for the duration of the event (noting that the service they are providing in this sense may go wider than the service they are used to providing at such events). For example, they would be responsible for ensuring that separate facilities, such as toilets are provided (not using a private dwelling) and that staff were available to provide table service.
Where a person responsible for providing a service or carrying on a business breaches the regulations, that person commits an offence. Additionally, service providers who have been granted an occasional license must follow the conditions imposed by the awarding authority.
In the circumstances described (a designated service provider responsible for a wedding reception on land which is not a private dwelling) the restrictions on numbers would depend upon the protection level at the time. For example, up to 50 people in level 3.
At wedding receptions, cake-cutting may take place with physical distancing being maintained at all times and the numbers of guests involved limited wherever possible.
Activities that involve objects being thrown (such as confetti or bouquet toss) or passed from person to person should be avoided to reduce the likelihood of transmission.
Other objects in the venue being touched by several people (such as guest books, pens or polaroid camera stations/photo booths) should be minimised and hand sanitisation encouraged both before and after contact. The exchange of cards and gifts during receptions should be minimised wherever possible.
You can find out more in the workplace training and compliance chapter
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House