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Singing, touching, and “instruments that are blown into” are all off limits under new government guidance for coronavirus-safe weddings.
Large receptions after the ceremony, food for guests and loud music have also been specifically advised against in the guidance, which was published on Monday morning.
Even the process of exchanging rings has been sanitised, with the new advice specifically advising that “hands should be washed before and after”, with the wedding bands themselves “handled by as few people as possible”.
As restaurants, cinemas and hotels open their doors, from July 4 up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings or civil partnerships in licensed venues in England.
Weddings in England had previously been banned in almost all cases. Northern Ireland has allowed outdoors weddings with 10 people present, Wales has now permitted small ceremonies and weddings in Scotland are still off limits unless there are exceptional circumstances, for example if one partner is seriously ill.
From July 4, ceremonies in England must take place in “Covid-19 secure environments” and should be “concluded in the shortest reasonable time”.
This means that some religious ceremonies, which can take place over the course of several hours or days, now have to be adapted to be as short as possible.
The tradition of young children acting as flower girls or page boys as we know it could also become a thing of the past, as the guidance states: “Where an infant is involved in proceedings a parent/guardian or member of the infant’s household should hold the infant.”
The new rules specifically state that people should avoid singing, chanting or shouting during the event “because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets.” Loud music that cannot be spoken over at a normal conversational volume has also been prohibited, to discourage guests from shouting at one another over the noise.
Any ceremonies involving washing or ablution rituals can no longer be done at the venue itself and should be done before arriving, and the guidance states that people should not wash the body parts of others.
The guidelines continue: “Where rituals or ceremonies require water to be applied to the body, small volumes can be splashed onto the body, but full immersion should be avoided. Others present should stand distant from any splashes and stay socially distanced. All individuals involved should thoroughly wash their hands before and after and ensure good hygiene.”
Attendees should not touch or kiss devotional objects that are handled communally, with barriers or clear signage putting in place if necessary. Similarly, books, reusable and communal resources such as service sheets, prayer mats, or devotional material should be removed from use, replaced with single-use items if possible.
Cash donations are also discouraged, with “online giving resources” promoted instead.
While couples might now be able to actually complete the ceremony aspect of their nuptials (albeit radically altered), receptions are still off limits.
Public Health England guidance states: “Large wedding receptions or parties after should not take place after the marriage ceremony or civil partnership formation.”
The traditional wedding breakfast, or any other food or drink, is also still forbidden “unless required for the purposes of solemnisation.”
As well as singing, chanting and shouting being banned, so too are instruments “that are blown into”. Organs are fine, but “should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use.”
Again, the new guidelines highlight that these activities could cause an increased risk of infection, even if social distancing measures are adhered to and face coverings are worn.
If the presence of music that would normally be sung or played during the wedding itself is non-negotiable, the guidance states that recordings should be used instead.
By now, most of us are used to seeing signs in supermarkets, screens at tills and distanced lines on the floors inside shops, but these features are also set to become part of every couple’s big day too.
Attendees from different households will still have to stand two metres apart (or at least one metre “with risk mitigation”, and frequently-used venues should introduce floor markings to help guests maintain their distance.
The guidance also outlines other “mitigations” to minimise the risk of your wedding sparking a Covid-19 outbreak, including avoiding any face-to-face seating, reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation and using protective screens and face coverings.