It’s a testing time for us all, but if you’re planning a wedding and are facing the tough decision of having to cancel or postpone your big day amid the COVID-19 crisis, we’re here to lend a helping hand.
We’ve consulted wedding planners and consumer rights experts to talk you through the processes and your legal rights when it comes to cancelling your wedding amid the coronavirus crisis.
Weddings and Covid-19: Cancellations, Legal Rights and Lockdown 3.
UPDATE: The government has released new guidelines on weddings and civil ceremonies
When Will Weddings be Allowed?
The UK government has finally published new guidelines outlining the rules on weddings and civil ceremonies in England at each step of the roadmap out of lockdown.
Step 1 – Until 29th March 2021
- Wedding ceremonies and civil ceremonies with up to 6 people can take place but only under exceptional circumstances.
- Receptions are not permitted.
Following implementation of a third National Lockdown in England from 6th January, weddings are no longer permitted, marriages and civil partnerships will only be allowed to take place under very exceptional circumstances (where one of the couple is ill and not expected to recover). Only six people may attend these deathbed weddings – this does not include people working at the event.
Other countries within the UK have slightly different rules on weddings in lockdown. At the time of writing, weddings in Northern Ireland can take place with up to 26 people, but receptions remain banned. In Scotland’s lockdown, weddings can take place with only five people present, while in Wales weddings are permitted but the size of the ceremony depends on the venue’s capacity under new Alert 4 restrictions.
Step 1 – 29th March up to 11th April 2021
- Wedding ceremonies and civil ceremonies with up to 6 can take please. These no longer have to be under exceptional circumstance.
- Receptions are not permitted.
- However, in accordance with easing lockdown restrictions, gatherings of up to 6 people or between two households may now take place in public and outdoor spaces.
Step 2 – 12th April to 16th May 2021
- Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies with up to 15 people can take place in Covid-19 secure venues.
- Receptions can take place. Receptions must be sit down meals and can be held at Covid-19 secure outdoor venues. However, they are not permitted in someone’s private garden or in public outdoor spaces (e.g. parks and public gardens).
Step 3 – 17th May to 21st June 2021
- Weddings and civil ceremonies with up to 30 people are now permitted.
- Receptions of up to 30 people can also take place in either indoor or outdoor venues.
Step 4 – From the 21st June 2021
- The government aims to remove all limits on weddings, civil partnerships, ceremonies and receptions from 21st June.
NB: Throughout each of these steps, anyone working at the venue or for the wedding is not included in the maximum number of attendees. Additionally, the ceremonies and receptions can only take place at venues that are permitted to be open at each step of the roadmap out of lockdown.
Read the full guidelines on small marriages, weddings and civil ceremonies in England here.
View this post on Instagram
In relation to weddings in Step 2 (12th April to 16th May), the taskforce released the following statement:
“We have now received confirmation that weddings and receptions are only permitted for 15 guests between 12th April and 16th May in: places of worship, public buildings, locations and outdoor settings that are already permitted to open. This does not include the vast majority of England’s licensed wedding venues where over 70% of weddings take place.
“The Taskforce estimates this news affects circa 7,000 weddings planned before 17th May. We believe Government should honour the reasonable assumptions made by couples, venues, suppliers and their own Registrars (who have been booking weddings for couples in licensed wedding venues in the same period)
“From the 17th May, this number will increase to 30 people. It’s thought by 21st June 2021 there will be no legal limit or capacity on life events, including weddings. However, in a recent press conference the Prime Minister refused to confirm that these dates would be set in stone and that weddings could definitely go ahead at full capacity this summer.”
What is the UK Wedding Taskforce?
The UK Wedding Taskforce is a taskforce set up by wedding industry professionals and sector associations, to support the recovery of wedding businesses as we all navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are your legal rights? Have they changed with the new guidelines
“Couples’ legal rights have changed in both obvious ways – such as the number of guests allowed reducing from 30 to 15 – as well as in more subtle ways,” says Gary Rycroft, a consumer law expert and chair of the Law Society’s digital assets working group.
However, in deciding to postpone your wedding, rather than not being able to get married at all, there are different legal implications. According to Gary, this makes the situation less clear cut.
“The change in scale of weddings may change the nature of the event originally booked to the extent it is no longer viable for the couples or venues,” he adds. “What I mean here is that the wedding may have been forced to be so small that there are grounds to cancel or postpone it.”
Moreover, as the global situation develops, the timing of your initial booking can play a big part in your ability to cancel or postpone and little or no cost.
“We have to divide the advice for couples looking to cancel or postpone their weddings into those who booked pre- and post-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] booked through an ABTA registered travel agent, you should get the cost of the fights and hotel back in full,” says Bernadette. However, this will only cover the ‘holiday’ aspect of your destination wedding. Again, you should speak with your insurers as soon as possible with regards to claiming refunds for the wedding.
“If you plan to postpone your wedding, speak with your wedding planner and the venue, as soon as possible,” Bernadette adds. “Some international weddings are being postponed free of charge, but some venues and suppliers are classing this as cancellations and so you will need to book and pay again (unless this is covered by your insurance.”
What about guests coming from abroad to a wedding in the UK?
According to consumer law expert, Gary, the ‘usual rule is that if a flight is cancelled by the airline the passenger is entitled to a full refund.’
“In the UK, if the Foreign & Commonwealth Office recommend not to travel to a destination, flights often get cancelled,” he adds.
“If flight is not cancelled travel insurance becomes key and whether guests are entitled to a refund will all depend on what their particular policy covers and when it was taken out.”
Weddings and Covid-19: How will coronavirus affect the wedding industry?
Although brides are baring the brunt of the disappointment and emotions, this has also been devastating for wedding businesses.
“With weddings cancelling and moving to prime 2021 dates, it means [businesses] have already missed almost a season’s worth of revenue,” Bernadette explains.
“We would urge any couples postponing, whose suppliers have done so with no extra charge, to stick the original payment terms for 2020.”
We’ve been looking into our Wedding Ideas crystal ball to come up with some theories and trends set to take hold in the wedding industry following on from the coronavirus pandemic.
- 110 Wedding Entertainment Ideas
- Top Tips for Proposing at Home
- 7 Things to Consider Before Setting Your Wedding Date