United Kingdom

Couples turn to rounders, quiz nights and comedy for Covid weddings

Couples getting married should turn to stand-up comedy, jazz nights and quizzes for their wedding this summer to comply with social distancing restrictions, planners said today after Freedom Day was pushed back by a month.

The UK Alliance of Wedding Planners has suggested traditional games such as Mr and Mrs, which sees couples answer questions to establish how well they know one another, will keep guests entertained safely.

The Government announced on Monday that the 30-person limit on wedding guest numbers would be lifted from June 21, but ceremonies and receptions must still follow strict rules until at least July 19 to stop infections.

One idea put forward to enjoy a Covid-secure wedding during the pandemic is playing outdoor sports, with Sky News producer Sabah Choudhry, 26, revealing she played rounders with her family and friends at her wedding.

She shared a video on Twitter yesterday of her running past all four bases after batting the ball in a traditional Pakistani dress weighing 52lbs (24kg) and heels after her wedding to Aaron McDonnell, also 26, last September.

Sabah Choudhry, 26, played rounders with her family and friends at her wedding to Aaron McDonnell, also 26, last September

Sabah Choudhry ran past all four bases after batting the ball in a traditional Pakistani dress at her wedding last September

Sabah Choudhry played rounders in a dress weighing 52lbs (24kg) and heels after her wedding to Aaron McDonnell in 2020

Ms Choudhry told the Times: 'Everyone had a great time. For me, the formal stuff of a wedding is the most boring part. I just wanted to have fun. At that point I just felt like I don't care about how I look or what people think.'

It comes as the Government warned couples face fines of up to £10,000 if they hold big outdoor weddings without carrying out Covid risk assessments first.

Couple are considering postponing their wedding on July 24 because of social distancing rules 

Emily Roome and Andrew Love

Emily Roome and Andrew Love are considering postponing their July wedding because of the social distancing rules – even though it would be 'devastating'.

Miss Roome, 30, a solicitor from east London, said she and Mr Love would 'seriously consider' delaying their wedding at Sibton Park Estate in Suffolk on July 24 if they cannot have a band or a dance floor.

She said: 'We're a family that loves singing and dancing and giving each other a hug, and if the guidelines mean that the venue can't go ahead without a band or a dance floor that would make us seriously consider what to do.

'If we got to the stage of feeling like postponing is what we have to do, it would be devastating to have got so close. It's not just our emotions, it's not just the day that we've planned and we've dreamed of, there are thousands of pounds that have gone into the planning and that have gone into making it our dream.'

Miss Roome said it was 'hard to stomach' watching football fans celebrating over the weekend while couples cannot sing and dance at their weddings.

New rules state that anyone holding large ceremonies or receptions over the next month must work out how many people they can safely invite while maintaining social distancing.

Even if the event takes place in a private garden or marquee, the organisers must fill in a detailed form setting out what the infection dangers are and how they will control them.

Planners must consider putting in place one-way systems in venues, stopping people 'congregating together' and installing air conditioning units to improve ventilation.

And the guidance warns: 'You could get a £10,000 fine for organising a gathering of more than 50 people outdoors or 30 people indoors, if you do not consider the risks, conduct a risk assessment and take action to minimise the risk.'

The unprecedented threat came after the Government announced that the 30-person limit on wedding guest numbers would be lifted from Monday, while insisting that ceremonies and receptions must still follow strict rules to stop infections.

It means thousands due to marry in England this summer must decide within days whether to go ahead but tell guests they must wear face masks and cannot dance – or cancel and risk not finding another free venue until next year.

Emily Roome, 30, a solicitor from east London, said she and her fiance Andrew Love would 'seriously consider' delaying their wedding at Sibton Park Estate in Suffolk on July 24 if they cannot have a band or a dance floor.

She said: 'We're a family that loves singing and dancing and giving each other a hug, and if the guidelines mean that the venue can't go ahead without a band or a dance floor that would make us seriously consider what to do.'

Miss Roome added: 'If we got to the stage of feeling like postponing is what we have to do, it would be devastating to have got so close.'

There is a growing backlash at the new rules for weddings with politicians and businesses complaining they are much tougher than those imposed on sporting events such as football matches, with more than 20,000 fans allowed in to Wembley to watch England play at the weekend.

Last night Tory MP Pauline Latham told the Daily Mail: 'I just think this is over-the-top guidance, especially for those weddings that are outdoors.  

Megan Swan, 29, who is due to marry fiance Dexter Hurlock, 30, in Cornwall next Saturday, had previously cut her 110-strong guest list to 70 people and now faces cutting further due to the ceremony being indoors 

Sam Penney and Steve Weaver, from Hertfordshire, were hoping to marry on June 25 with 139 guests after a year's delay

Tory MP Elliot Colburn (right) and his fiance, councillor Jed Dwight (left), were due to marry in front of 300 guests at a country house but will put it off until next year rather than try to go ahead under the current restrictions

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie are pictured at Downing Street after a Covid-restricted ceremony on May 29 

'I thought the Conservatives were the part of family and marriage and yet we are putting every barrier we can in the way.

Face masks, table service and no dancefloors: How weddings will look for at least the next month 

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson briefly outlined how delays to 'Freedom Day' on June 21 meant weddings after this date must follow social distancing regulations until at least July 19. The Government has now published an almost 7,000-word guide on the new rules - so what will weddings look like now?

- What are the main changes in a nutshell?

The current 30-people cap on weddings will still be lifted on June 21, but venues are now being asked to limit numbers based on space and to enforce social distancing measures, including the wearing of face coverings indoors.

- What are the new rules on numbers?

Guestlist limits will be determined by 'how many people a venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place', according to the Government website. Venue staff, bands, photographers and anyone else involved in the wedding must be included in the headcount, as well as guests of all ages. The guidance on numbers applies to both wedding ceremonies and receptions held in 'Covid-secure' venues and private outdoor spaces.

- What is a 'Covid-secure' venue?

A Covid-secure venue is one where a risk assessment has been carried out with a maximum capacity set to allow for social distancing, and where measures such as adequate ventilation and frequent cleaning are in place. This includes sites operated or used by a business, charitable or philanthropic institutions, places of worship and registry offices.

- Can people hold their own outdoor weddings?

Yes - weddings in private gardens and fields or in public outdoor places can go ahead with more than 30 guests. If there are more than 30 people attending the outdoor wedding, the organiser is legally obliged to carry out a risk assessment in the same way as the owner of a Covid-secure venue. For weddings with fewer than 30 guests, the couple or organiser do not need to carry out a risk assessment. If a marquee is involved, 50 per cent of the perimeter must be open for the wedding to be classed as 'outdoor'.

- What about weddings held inside private homes?

Weddings held inside private homes or 'enclosed spaces' that are not formal venues are limited to six people or two households. Only 'deathbed weddings' - cases where one partner is seriously ill and not expected to recover - are exempt from this rule, and can host up to 30 people.

- What are the rules on social distancing?

Since guidance on meeting family and friends was updated on May 17 with a greater emphasis on personal responsibility, friends and family can also choose not to distance at weddings. However, venue managers and organisers should consider how to enable social distancing between attendees who do want to maintain a two-metre distance. Hosts serving food and drinks must provide table service, and snacks and beverages cannot be consumed as part of the ceremony unless required for religious purposes.

- What about face coverings?

All guests and staff at indoor wedding ceremonies and receptions must wear a face covering except when eating or drinking. This excludes the person officiating the service, the couple, and anyone exempt. Police can enforce the wearing of face coverings and may issue fines of £200 for the first breach, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £6,400. However, there is no legal requirement to wear a mask at outdoor weddings.

- What does this mean for singing, dancing and speeches?

Professional bands comprising any number of musicians are allowed to play at weddings, as long as the venue can safely provide for the numbers. Amateur bands must be limited to six-strong indoors, or up to 30 performers outdoors. Communal singing by the guests should not take place indoors, according to Government guidance. Dancing is also 'advised against' due to the increased risk of transmission, except the newly married couple's 'first dance'. Dancefloors must be closed but can be repurposed for additional seating space. The guidance advises that speeches are held outdoors or in well-ventilated areas, using a PA system where possible so the speaker does not need to project their voice.

- What if more than the allowed number of guests turn up to a venue?

The Government has said venue owners should notify the police or their local authority if numbers 'significantly breach the safe capacity of the venue'. It will be up to the 'enforcing authority' to decide the 'most appropriate enforcement' if this happens.

- Are there any other limits?

The Government guidance on completing a 'risk assessment' states that organisers should consider whether any guests or staff are at higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus, and how to reduce potential transmissions. It also warns that organisers could be hit with a £10,000 fine for gatherings involving more than 50 people outdoors or 30 people indoors if they 'do not consider the risks'.

- What did the Prime Minister say about weddings during the coronavirus press conference?

When a bride-to-be who has had to postpone her wedding twice asked why testing and vaccination status cannot be used to open up weddings in the same way as it is being used for football matches, Boris Johnson said: 'I'm very, very sorry to hear about your wedding plans being postponed twice... All I can say is I'm sorry for the disappointment that this will certainly bring to weddings, to many, many businesses, but it's a few weeks that I think is worth it to get those jabs in.'

'I really feel for those poor people, and the businesses who haven't been able to make money for over a year. 

'It seems unfair when sporting events are being allowed to go ahead with minimal social distancing.' 

Another backbench Tory MP, Elliot Colburn, has postponed his own wedding for the second time rather than going ahead under the current restrictions on celebrations.

He told Times Radio: 'It's incredibly frustrating because everyone's seen the images coming out from over the weekend of people quite rightly celebrating England's success in the Euros, but for some reason a wedding is seen as a much more dangerous event to take place.' 

The 28-year-old pointed out that it would be easy for the authorities to trace any Covid outbreaks from weddings because all the guests' contact details will be known to the organisers.

Mr Colburn and his fiance, councillor Jed Dwight, were due to marry in front of 300 guests at a country house but will put it off until next year rather than try to go ahead under the current restrictions.

'You don't want a venue to risk their own licence and by throwing caution to the wind and say well we don't agree with the regulation so you know what we're going to risk going ahead with it anyway.' 

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove was yesterday forced to deny that police would be called to stop guests dancing at weddings. Indoor venues must keep dance floors closed by law while dancing goes against the guidance for private functions.

He told ITV's Good Morning Britain: 'I think we'll use common sense. It is the case that the bride and groom are expected, allowed, encouraged to have a first dance, but it's also the case that we're not opening dance floors for weddings because we're not opening them elsewhere as well.' 

There remains confusion over whether or not there is a limit of six guests per table at weddings, after sources said there would be but it did not feature in the published guidance.

Jessie Westwood, co-founder of What About Weddings, said she had been inundated with queries from couples trying to decide whether they should go ahead with their planned events this summer or postpone. 

'It's been a really frantic day,' she said.

Her advice was to 'make the best of it' as they would still enjoy a special day, and the stress of postponing it again may be greater particularly if they lose deposits or struggle to find another available date at their chosen venue.

The Government website has been updated to state that 'some restrictions' will need to be enforced at weddings and commemorative events, including table service only, social distancing, face coverings and 'restrictions on singing and dancing', amid a delay to the planned final stage of lockdown easing.

Emma Ward, 30, who has had to postpone her wedding with fiance John Bennett three times due to coronavirus restrictions, has called for more clarity on the rules.

Miss Ward, a project manager from Sheffield who lives in Newcastle, said: 'With the lack of clarity and lack of acknowledgment about what we've all been through in the last 18 months, it feels like a bit of a slap in the face.

'Seeing Boris get married recently and seeing all of this weekend's antics with the G7 and the Euros with people celebrating in different capacities but meanwhile we're being told we can't celebrate in a secure capacity - they haven't really considered us.

'If you're doing lateral flow tests for sporting events, why not do that for weddings?'

'We're a family that loves singing and dancing and giving each other a hug, we're a very affectionate family, and if the guidelines that are in place mean that the venue can't go ahead without a band for example or a dancefloor that would make us seriously consider what to do.

Miss Ward, who is still planning to go ahead with her ceremony at Newton Hall in Alnwick, Northumbria, with 45 guests on July 14, welcomed the 30-person limit being lifted but added couples are still unsure on how many people they can have at evening events following the ceremony.

When asked by another bride-to-be at the Downing Street briefing why testing and vaccination status could not be used to open up weddings in the same way as it is being used for football matches, Mr Johnson said: 'All I can say is I'm sorry for the disappointment that this will certainly bring to weddings, to many, many businesses, but it's a few weeks that I think is worth it to get those jabs in.'

Megan Swan, 29, who is due to marry fiance Dexter Hurlock, 30, in Cornwall next Saturday, had previously cut her 110-strong guest list to 70 people and now faces cutting further due to the ceremony being indoors.

She said: 'We have now got 10 days to scramble a plan together - and we have already spent thousands of pounds gearing up and changed venues three times.'

Miss Swan added that although she considered singing and dancing a key part of the celebration, changing the date at one of her local venues now would mean joining a two-year waiting list.

Founder of event management company Sauveur, Matthew Shaw, added: 'While people dance in bars and pubs, pack out stadiums, and hold large gatherings across the country, weddings must still be fully seated with no entertainment, dancing, or standing receptions.

'The events industry has demonstrated time and again that these events can be operated safely.

'If the Government is prepared to allow thousands of mask-less fans into Edgbaston or Wembley, then it is unclear whether it is disrespect for or a misunderstanding of the wedding industry that means the same measures are not extended to us.'

Another couple said the uncertainty surrounding wedding restrictions has 'ruined' an experience they are 'supposed to be enjoying'.

Sam Penney and Steve Weaver, from Hertfordshire, who were hoping to marry on June 25 with 139 guests after delaying their ceremony by a year, told ITV's Good Morning Britain: 'We're clinging on to some hope that there might be an element of easement for weddings.

'But it's a complete guessing game, we've kind of gone around in circles giving ourselves various circumstances and scenarios that might happen, but we have no idea. 

'So if it stays where it is with 30 (guests), for us as a couple we will have to postpone again, but we're just clinging on to some hope.'

They added: 'It's been crazy from one day to the next we don't know what's happening, it's all we ever talk about, just consumed by it. 

'It's just the uncertainty that's ruining the whole experience that we're supposed to be enjoying.'

** Are you planning something unusual for your wedding this summer? Please email: [email protected] ** 

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