What are the new rules around weddings – how many guests can attend and can you have a reception or party?

Couple getting married in church
Couples must wash their hands before and after exchanging rings in just one of the new rules for weddings in 2020 (Picture: Getty)


Weddings have always had rules – don’t let the groom see the bride before she’s walked down the aisle or it’s bad luck, don’t wear white if you’re a guest and don’t post photos before the bride have said you can.

However, weddings during the time of coronavirus carry a different set of rules entirely – and these aren’t just rules of etiquette, these are government-mandated.

Weddings across the world have been affected by the pandemic, but when will they get the go-ahead to return? And when they do, what is the new government advice on weddings?

Yes, wedding and civil partnerships can go ahead from 4 July, when the country will also see the reopening of pubs and restaurants.

Since lockdown began on 23 March, weddings have been banned in nearly all circumstances in England – an obstacle not even the greatest of romcom heroes could overcome.

But – because who doesn’t love a happy ending? – happy couples will get to say I Do again soon, with some rules and regulations they must follow.

Bride on wedding day
Weddings can host up to a maximum of 30 people altogether (Picture: Getty)


To begin, weddings can only go ahead with a maximum of 30 people attending.

This means 30 people overall, not 30 guests.

Included in the figure will be the couple getting hitched and any staff involved in running the big day – photographers, vicars, etc.

Following the one-metre-plus rule – which has replaced the two-metre rule – unless a father lives with his daughter, the tradition of walking her down the aisle will also likely be forbidden.

gay couple getting married
No food, drink or music could make some wedding guests regret their RSVP (Picture: Getty)


Other rules include:

  • Ceremonies should be kept ‘as short as reasonably possible’
  • No food or drink should be consumed as part of the event
  • Hands must be washed before and after the exchanging of the rings
  • Singing, shouting or playing music at a volume that makes people raise their voice should be avoided
  • Speaking during the ceremony – for example saying the responses to the vows – should not be done with a raised voice
  • Playing instruments that are blown into should be avoided
  • When singing or chanting is required, only one person is allowed to do so
  • Venues should try to help people keep social distance with markings on the floor as guidance

Elsewhere in the UK, the rules remain that in Northern Ireland, weddings of up to 10 people are allowed outdoors.

In Wales, ceremonies can also take place, but social distancing must be observed, while outdoor marriages and civil partnerships can take place in Scotland with ‘a minimal number of guests’.

At this time, a traditional wedding reception is impossible.

The guidance states receptions that ‘typically follow or accompany marriages or civil partnerships are strongly advised not to take place at this time’.

You could do what one couple did and throw a socially distanced street party instead, though that might not have been what quite what you had in mind.

Wedding party outdoors
Receptions will face the same rules as pubs and restaurants as they reopen this weekend (Picture: Getty)


It says small celebrations should only take place if they follow social distancing guidelines, such as groups of up to two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors – the same rules for the reopening of the pubs.

Venues that do not follow the guidance could face action from the Health and Safety Executive or the local authority, the Government warned in their guidelines.

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