It’s a testing time for all of us, but if you’re planning a wedding and faced the tough decision of canceling or postponing your big day amid the COVID-19 crisis, we’re here to help.
We’ve consulted wedding planners and consumer rights experts to educate you on the processes and your legal rights if you have to cancel your wedding amid the coronavirus crisis.
Weddings and Covid-19: Cancellations, Legal Rights and Bans 3.
UPDATE: The government has released new guidelines for weddings and civil ceremonies
When will weddings be allowed?
The UK government has finally released new guidelines setting out the rules for weddings and civil ceremonies in England for each step of the roadmap.
Step 1 – By March 29, 2021
- Wedding ceremonies and civil ceremonies with up to 6 people can only take place in exceptional cases.
- Receptions are not permitted.
Weddings are no longer permitted after a third National Lockdown was held in England on January 6th. Marriages and civil partnerships can only take place in very exceptional circumstances (when one of the couples is sick and no recovery is expected). Only six people are allowed to attend these death bed weddings – this does not apply to anyone working on the event.
Other UK countries have slightly different rules for weddings in the lock. At the time of writing, Northern Ireland weddings can host up to 26 people but receptions are still prohibited. In Scotland’s lockdown, weddings can take place with as few as five people present, while Wales allows weddings. However, the size of the ceremony will depend on the capacity of the venue as per the new Alert 4 restrictions.
Step 1 – March 29th to April 11th, 2021
- Wedding ceremonies and civil ceremonies with up to 6 people can take place please. These no longer have to be under exceptional circumstances.
- Receptions are not permitted.
- However, in accordance with the relaxation restrictions, gatherings of up to 6 people or between two households can now take place in public spaces and outdoors.
Step 2 – April 12th to May 16th, 2021
- Weddings and civil weddings with up to 15 people can take place in safe locations in Covid-19.
- Receptions can take place. Receptions must be seated meals and can be held in safe, outdoor locations from Covid-19. However, they are not permitted in a person’s private garden or in public outdoor areas (e.g. parks and public gardens).
Step 3 – May 17 to June 21, 2021
- Weddings and civil ceremonies of up to 30 people are now permitted.
- Receptions of up to 30 people can also take place indoors or outdoors.
Step 4 – From June 21, 2021
- The government is committed to lifting all restrictions on weddings, civil partnerships, ceremonies and receptions beginning June 21.
NB: During each of these steps, anyone working at the venue or for the wedding is not included in the maximum number of participants. In addition, the ceremonies and receptions can only take place in locations that are allowed to be open outside the embargo at each step of the roadmap.
Read the full guidelines for small marriages, weddings and civil ceremonies in England here.
Regarding weddings in Step 2 (April 12 to May 16), the Task Force released the following statement:
“We have now received confirmation that weddings and receptions between April 12th and May 16th are only permitted for 15 guests in: places of worship, public buildings, places and outdoor areas that are already open. This does not include the vast majority of licensed wedding venues in England, where over 70% of weddings take place.
“The Task Force estimates this news will affect approximately 7,000 weddings scheduled before May 17th. We believe the government should adhere to the reasonable assumptions made by couples, venues, suppliers, and their own registrars (who have booked weddings for couples in licensed wedding venues over the same period of time).
“From May 17th this number will increase to 30 people. It is believed that there will be no legal restrictions or capacities on life events, including weddings, until June 21, 2021. However, in a recent press conference, the Prime Minister refused to confirm that these dates will be set in stone and that weddings could definitely be held at full capacity this summer. “
What is the UK Wedding Taskforce?
The UK Wedding Taskforce is a task force set up by wedding industry professionals and industry associations to help wedding businesses recover as we all navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are your statutory rights? Have they changed with the new guidelines?
“Couples’ legal rights have changed in both obvious ways – by reducing the number of guests from 30 to 15, for example – and in more subtle ways,” said Gary Rycroft, consumer rights expert and chair of the Law Society’s Digital Assets Working Group.
However, the decision to postpone your wedding rather than not being able to marry at all has different legal implications. According to Gary, this makes the situation less clear.
“Changing the scope of weddings can change the type of event originally booked so that it is no longer viable for couples or venues,” he adds. “What I’m talking about here is that the wedding may have been so small that there are reasons to cancel or postpone it.”
Additionally, given the global situation, the time of your first booking can play a huge role in your ability to cancel or reschedule, at little or no cost.
“We need to split the advice for couples who want to cancel or postpone their weddings into those who booked before and after Covid [i.e. pre or post March 2020),” said Mr Rycroft.
“If they booked pre-Covid, couples can discuss how the event has changed so fundamentally in nature and scale that the original contract is ‘frustrated’ which would equate to a full refund.
“For events booked post-Covid, clearly these arguments do not apply as the couples were on notice of the potential risk of change to the rules. That said, the wise counsel remains that negotiation is the best way forward as reaching an agreement which feels fair to everyone.”
You should make sure you’ve scanned through your contracts with suppliers with a fine-toothed comb, as the new terms around weddings in lockdown could render your contracts void. Communication is key, and it’s important you are in regular context with your venue and vendors to make sure both parties are up to speed on the latest guidelines and wedding protocol.
What about your wedding insurance?
The position with insurance will be as it was when there was a total ban – whether couples are covered depends on the wording of their policy and what exclusions there may be.
Will wedding insurance policies cover the cancellations of weddings due to Covid-19?
As with all types of insurance, it really depends on your policy. According to Bernadette, some insurance providers are covering the costs of cancelling or postponing your wedding, however others are saying it depends on the date of wedding, while some are even suggesting the decision to cancel won’t be covered at all.
“If venues cancel there should be no doubt a full refund should be paid – minus only minor admin charges or costs incurred to date, such as menu tasting,” says Gary Rycroft
He adds: “Any shortfall in loses should be claimed on insurance subject to the terms of the policy concerned. Always read the T&C’s of policies as they are all different!”
You should contact your wedding insurance provider immediately for a clear outline of what is and isn’t covered in your policy before you make any big decisions.
What processes should be followed when cancelling or postponing your wedding?
“When cancelling or postponing, speaking to wedding businesses, venues and caterers directly should always be the first port of call,” says Gary.
“In the current circumstances, any sensible business will be open to a postponement. If cancellation or a refund is not possible through talking to the business and couples need to contact their insurer, they should always check the terms and conditions of their wedding insurance to see exactly what circumstances it covers.”
What should venues be doing to help?
Following the latest lockdown announcement and stricter measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, many venues that have been forced to close will be offering a change of date. However, this again depends on the venue and you should contact them immediately to find out what contingency plan is in place at your chosen venue.
What about destination weddings? Will couples be able to claim full refunds due to travel bans?
“Provided [you] If you book through a travel agent registered with ABTA, you should get the cost of the fights and the hotel back in full, ”says Bernadette. However, this only covers the vacation aspect of your wedding in your destination. Again, you should speak to your insurers as soon as possible to request refunds for the wedding.
“If you plan to postpone your wedding, speak to your wedding planner and venue as soon as possible,” adds Bernadette. “Some international weddings are postponed for free, but some venues and providers consider this a cancellation, so you will have to book and pay again (unless this is covered by your insurance.”
What about guests coming from abroad for a wedding in the UK?
According to consumer rights expert Gary, the “common rule is that the passenger is entitled to a full refund if a flight is canceled by the airline”.
“When the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in the UK recommends not traveling to a destination, flights are often canceled,” he adds.
“Unless the flight is canceled, travel insurance becomes key and guests are eligible for a refund based on what their policy covers and when it was taken out.”
Weddings and Covid-19: How will the coronavirus affect the wedding industry?
Although brides bear the brunt of disappointment and emotion, it has been devastating for wedding companies as well.
“If weddings are canceled and moved to the best dates for 2021, it means [businesses] I’ve already missed sales for almost a season, ”explains Bernadette.
“We would like to urge all couples who have postponed this and whose suppliers have done so at no extra charge to respect the original 2020 payment terms.”
What will weddings look like after Covid-19?
We looked at our wedding ideas crystal ball to develop some theories and trends that will prevail in the wedding industry after the coronavirus pandemic.
Read our thoughts on what weddings might look like after COVID-19 here.
Would you like more information and inspiration about the wedding? Just click the “Like” button on our Facebook page for wedding ideas and the “Follow” button on our page @wimagazine Twitter account participate in the conversation.