FROM 4th JULY 2020, THE GOVERNMENT HAS ALLOWED FOR WEDDINGS IN PLACES OF WORSHIP, PROVIDING CERTAIN PUBLIC HEALTH CRITERIA ARE MET AND NO MORE THAN 30 PEOPLE ARE IN ATTENDANCE
If you are intending to marry in a small, intimate wedding ceremony in a Church, please familiarise yourself with the Church of England’s interpretation of the Government guidelines and advice for Clergy conducting ceremonies, which are summarised here in this article.
Many couples will be looking forward to getting married in Church now that weddings in Church buildings will be possible from July 4th. At the same time, they might be concerned about what type of service they will be able to have, given on-going restrictions. Others will be trying to rearrange weddings that had to be postponed.
WHO CAN ATTEND THE SERVICE?
From 4th July the Government strongly advises that numbers are restricted to 30 for public health reasons. This maximum number includes all those at the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses, officiant and guests. It also includes any workers who are not employed by the Church such as Photographers. It does not include staff or volunteers employed by the Church such as Vergers or Churchwardens.
WHAT ABOUT THE LENGTH OF THE SERVICE?
In keeping with Government guidance, Church wedding ceremonies should be kept concise while still consistent with the nature of the occasion, focusing on those parts of the marriage that are required in order to be legally binding under the law of England and Wales.
Legally, if anyone wishes to lodge an objection to the wedding, they are entitled to do so, and provision must be made to enable them to make their point while observing physical distancing. While this is likely to be a very rare event, it emphasises the importance of having someone present to control access to the building during the service.
WHAT SPECIAL PROVISIONS HAVE TO BE MADE DURING THE SERVICE?
The Church building must be risk assessed and appropriate physical distancing and Public Health hygiene practices put in place so that the wedding ceremony is conducted in a safe way – please see the guidance for public worship.
Apart from the Bride and Groom, who join hands as an essential part of the marriage ceremony, a physical distance of 2 metres should be observed between individuals as far as is possible. Please note that the Minister does not have to touch the rings at the Giving of Rings, nor does he or she have to touch the couple’s hands as part of a prayer or blessing.
Where rings are touched by anyone other than the Bride and Groom alone, hands should be washed or sanitized before and after. The rings should be handled by as few people as possible.
During the service, those participating should not project their voices to minimise risk of droplet spread.
Hymns and singing are not advised as this may encourage droplet and aerosol spread.
The organist may play for the ceremony.
If the Bride is to be ‘walked down the aisle’ she should only be accompanied by a member of her household, while bridesmaids should be careful to observe physical distancing unless also from the same household.
Good public health hygiene should be observed throughout with hand sanitizers available at the door.
WHAT ABOUT SIGNING THE REGISTER?
All those signing the register should sanitize their hands before signing, complete all the signatures necessary for them and then sanitize them again. Apart from the Bride and Groom, all those signing should maintain physical distancing if practicable and, where available, individual pens for each signatory can be used.
WHAT ABOUT THE LEGAL ASPECTS?
The following should cover most situations;
• Please make sure that you know where you stand on the banns being read – and on the necessity for attendance to establish a connection if this was required. A Common Licence or a Special Licence may be appropriate in some cases, or a postponement of the wedding for others.
• If a couple want to cancel their wedding, the statutory fees will not be payable and will be refunded in full if already paid. Alternatively, they might wish to postpone their wedding to a mutually convenient date.
• If a wedding goes ahead with restricted numbers, there could be a blessing in the year ahead with all guests present.
WHAT ABOUT WEDDING RECEPTIONS?
Large wedding receptions or parties should not take place after the marriage ceremony. Small celebrations should only take place if physical distancing and Public Health hygiene guidelines can be observed.
PLANNING A SMALL, INTIMATE CHURCH WEDDING
Weddings which do take place under the current guidelines will undoubtedly be different, but they need not be any less beautiful, wonderful or memorable. Although the occasion may be smaller, the sheer intimacy of it can result in a very moving and lovely experience for everyone who is present.
Reducing the number of people involved does not necessarily detract from the overall significance. It will only be half a wedding if that is what you make it!
Arguably, planning a small, intimate wedding requires more attention to detail. The extent to which you personalise it will determine the extent to which it is truly memorable. A Wedding Planner can be a tremendous source of information, inspiration and ideas (not to mention stress relief!)
YOUR FREE CONSULTATION
If you do need any advice or support, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I offer an initial Wedding Planning consultation which is always entirely free of charge and comes with no obligation whatsoever. By all means give me a call to discuss your exciting plans on 01482 871053/07561 107888 or e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you.