New rules issued by the Government ban wedding receptions when the ceremonies are allowed to restart with up to 30 people in England from Saturday.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week gave permission for weddings to recommence as part of a widespread easing of lockdown restrictions.
More than 250,000 weddings usually take place in the UK each year, but most couples have been affected by restrictions that came into force in March.
The plans are intended to maintain social distancing at weddings as the coronavirus pandemic continues but will reduce the big day to little more than a formality.
Fathers cannot walk their daughter’s arm-in-arm down the aisle and couples must wash their hands before and after exchanging rings in post-lockdown weddings.
The new rules urge people from different households to maintain social distancing between one another, which will be ‘one metre plus’ from Saturday.
They say this ‘may require marriages or civil partnerships to be adapted to remove practices that would otherwise have brought people into contact with one another unless required for the marriage or civil partnership to be legally binding’.
The guidance adds that ‘where this is the case precautions should be put in place to minimise contact and ensure the timeframe is as short as possible’.
This means that fathers will be unable to walk their daughter’s arm-in-arm down the aisle – and people from different households will be banned from hugging or kissing.
Couples have been told that ceremonies should only be done in a ‘Covid-19 secure environment’ and be ‘kept as short as reasonably possible’.
This means they should be limited to the parts of the ceremonies that are required so that the marriage or civil partnership can be legally binding.
The Government has asked that the number of attendees at the service should ‘ideally be kept to a minimum as far as possible’, but will allow up to 30 to attend.
This includes the couple, witnesses, officiants and guests, and staff not employed by the venue, which may include photographers, security, or caterers. However, it does not include staff employed by the venue.
The guidance adds that ‘any receptions that typically follow or accompany marriages or civil partnerships are strongly advised not to take place’.
Small celebrations can only be held if they are groups of up to two households indoors or up to six people from different households outdoors.
Meanwhile, people have been told to avoid ‘singing, shouting, raising voices, or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult’.
This is because of the potential for encouraging shouting which would raise an increased risk of transmission of Covid-19 from aerosol and droplets.
It means spoken responses ‘should also not be in a raised voice’ – and singing and playing of instruments that are blown into should be avoided.
If it is required for a ceremony, one person should be allowed to sing or chant, and the ‘use of plexiglass screens should be considered to protect guests’.
The Government has suggested couples consider using recordings instead of singing. Organs are also allowed but must be cleaned before and after.
All guests should follow social distancing guidance and venues should look at changing seating layouts, improve ventilation, and use face coverings.
The guidance also states: ‘Visitors should avoid touching property belonging to others, such as shoes which, if removed, should be placed and collected by their owner while adhering to social distancing principles.’
For the exchanging of rings during the ceremony, hands ‘should be washed before and after’ and the ‘rings should be handled by as few people as possible’.
And where a small child is involved, they should be held a parent, guardian, or member of that child’s household.