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Coronavirus: How many people can attend a wedding?

By Eleanor Lawrie
BBC News

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  • Coronavirus pandemic
image copyrightGetty Images

Wedding receptions have been banned in parts of England where coronavirus transmission is rising the fastest.

In the rest of England, both ceremonies and sit-down receptions can be attended by up to 15 people, in a "Covid-secure" venue.

But the rules on weddings vary across the UK nations. In Northern Ireland, ceremonies will temporarily be limited to 25 people, with no receptions permitted, from Monday.

Are weddings allowed at the moment?

Weddings were banned when lockdown began on 23 March, affecting 73,600 weddings and civil partnership ceremonies.

They are now mostly allowed in all four UK nations, but with different rules.

  • Groups of more than six people from different households can't meet up in England - but wedding ceremonies and sit-down receptions are an exception, with 15 people permitted.
  • Liverpool City Region is under ''very high'' alert, meaning that wedding receptions can't take place, but ceremonies of up to 15 people are permitted.
  • In Scotland, wedding ceremonies of up to 20 people can be held
  • In Northern Ireland, wedding ceremonies are limited to 25 people from 19 October for at least four weeks and receptions are not permitted. Venues can open over the weekend of 17-18 October to host receptions, even if they are required to close otherwise.
  • In Wales,receptions of up to 30 people are allowed

How will coronavirus affect my wedding?

The government has published guidelines on how to have a ''Covid-secure'' wedding in England.

  • Venues can only reopen if they can do so safely
  • Ceremonies should be as short as possible
  • No food or drink should be consumed unless essential for the ceremony
  • Singing and playing music is allowed, but any performances should not be so loud as to encourage shouting
  • A maximum of 15 should attend, and only where there is space to socially distance. Anyone working is not included in the maximum group size
  • Different households should stay at least one metre apart
  • The venue should record visitors' details, in case they need to be traced

What should I do if I am due to get married soon?

If you feel your day will be too different from what you wanted, it is generally better to postpone rather than cancel.

Couples ''need to be understanding" of current issues for venues and suppliers, says Henrietta Dunkley of Ellis Jones Solicitors.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMany venues will have lost significant sums of money because of the pandemic

Many could have lost significant sums of money, so aim for a solution that works for everyone, she advises.

For example, if the wedding was on a Saturday or in peak season and the venue can't offer an equivalent date, it's generally reasonable to ask for a fee reduction, or an upgrade.

What are my rights if my wedding couldn't happen?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published guidance on consumer weddings rights.

It says:

  • If your ceremony was due between late March and late September, and you cancelled before lockdown was partially lifted in July, you are entitled to a refund
  • This applies even if you paid a ''non-refundable'' deposit. But a venue or supplier has a right to subtract ''limited'' costs for services it has already provided, such as a wedding meal tasting
  • A venue can also withhold money it has spent on your day that it cannot recover, such as staff planning the wedding, but cannot claim for things like general staff costs or building maintenance

While venues and suppliers may be entitled to keep part of your deposit, consumer rights law states they must give you a costs breakdown.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionEven if a wedding can't take place, couples may need to pay for some of the services already received

If your wedding is technically allowed to take place, that's where things become trickier.

If your big day will now have to be ''radically different'' to what was agreed, you are entitled to the rights laid out above.

If it is a less significant change, then a proportionate price reduction would be appropriate - and you should not face ''disproportionately high charges'' if you still want to cancel.

Can I claim on wedding insurance?

Most wedding insurance does not cover a ''government act", so it is unlikely to pay out if the lockdown affected your wedding.

However, a few wedding insurers are paying out under some circumstances.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionIt's a good idea to check the rules on cancellation or date changes

Many insurers are not selling new wedding policies, so this only covers existing agreements.

If not, you may have to register a claim with the administrator or can claim up to £30,000 per supplier from your credit card company for services not rendered, under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

If you paid on debit card, you may be able to secure a refund under the chargeback scheme.

Can suppliers and venues charge me more if I postpone?

Businesses are not allowed to just hike up prices.

Ms Dunkley says some couples have found venues are charging them far more for a postponed wedding than if they were a new customer. This is unlikely to be deemed reasonable.

The CMA has set up a taskforce to investigate harmful pricing practices during the pandemic. Consumers can fill in this form if they feel a business has treated them unfairly.

Some insurance policies will pay out if your supplier or venue goes bust.

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