Question regarding COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

“Please provide any scientific evidence which justifies the fact that in level 4 restriction only 15 people can attend a wedding and wedding receptions are not allowed while funeral wakes, christenings, Bar Mitzvah’s etc are allowed for up to 20 people. Please also provide any evidence justifying why a distinction is made in level 4 but not in other levels"


Some changes have been made to guidance in place as a consequence of Covid-19 which affect your request. In particular, before any local authority areas were moved to level 4, the guidance in relation to marriage ceremonies changed so that 20 people can now attend a marriage ceremony in level 4. Please see the guidance at Coronavirus (COVID-19): wedding ceremonies and civil partnership registrations - (

As a consequence, the position on marriage ceremonies in level 4 is now the same as the position on marriage ceremonies at levels 1, 2 and 3. It is also the same as the position for funerals where the guidance indicates that no more than 20 people should attend a funeral in levels 1 to 4.

On life events such as Christenings and Bar Mitzvahs, the guidance in relation to local authority areas at level 4 now indicates that “Oher life events, such as Bar Mitzvahs and christenings can still take place as long as they are part of an act of worship and a maximum of 20 capacity is applied”. Please see Coronavirus (COVID-19): local protection levels - ( (under Life events inc weddings and funerals).

It remains the case that wedding receptions are not permitted at level 4 whereas wedding receptions are permitted at the other levels and that funeral wakes are permitted at level 4.

The Scottish Government has published Impact Assessments for the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. In particular, there is a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) which covers life events such as weddings and funerals: please see pages 3 to 23. Page 8 notes that “gatherings for weddings and funerals fulfil many of the high-risk criteria for COVID-19 transmission”; pages 8 and 9 discuss issues on transmission of the virus; and pages 9 to 11 discuss risk factors in relation to life events in the context of Covid-19.

When appropriate, the BRIA has footnotes linking to scientific and clinical evidence: please see, for example, the references on page 11 to evidence published by SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies).

Page 12 of the BRIA notes: “ On marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations, the Strategic Framework should, as far as possible, take account of religious and belief requirements and the right to marry under the European Convention on Human Rights, in addition to recognising what we understand are the heightened transmission risks for these type of social gatherings. For receptions, the risks of transmission in hospitality settings where food, drink and alcohol may be consumed will also be relevant.”

On why wedding receptions are not allowed at level 4 but are allowed at other levels, page 16 of the BRIA says on level 4: “ Within this level we would expect to see very high or rapidly increasing incidence, and widespread community transmission which may pose a threat to the NHS to cope. It is likely that this level would see the introduction of measures close to a return to full lockdown. Measures would be designed to be in place for a short period, to provide a short, sharp response to quickly suppress the virus. Measures introduced in level 4 would be to control and suppress the spread of the virus, reduce transmission rates, hospital admissions, deaths, allow key services to continue such as education and avoid overwhelming of the NHS.”

The First Minister announced to Parliament on 8 December that all 11 local authorities in level 4 restrictions move out of level 4 to level 3 from Friday 11 December. The First Minister’s statement is at Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's statement 8 December 2020 -

At level 4, marriage ceremonies can continue which recognises the right of persons of a marriageable age to marry whilst wedding receptions cannot which is aimed at trying to help reduce the transmission of the virus.

On why funeral wakes can take place at level 4 and wedding receptions cannot, page 17 of the BRIA notes that allowing funerals and wakes at level 4 “takes into account the importance of funerals and wakes in the grieving process”.

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