Aisle be back! Nearly 75,000 couples postpone their weddings in just three months due to coronavirus lockdown
- Weddings will be allowed to take place again from tomorrow on ‘Super Saturday’
- But only 30 people can go to ceremonies and must maintain social distancing
- 73,400 marriages postponed plus 300 same-sex civil partnerships up to today
- Couple from Staffordshire will be among first to get married since lockdown
- Sarah Williams and Richard Cunningham, 39, ‘didn’t want to wait any longer’
Nearly 75,000 weddings and same-sex civil partnership ceremonies have been postponed in England since lockdown began more than three months ago.
Weddings will be allowed to take place again from tomorrow on ‘Super Saturday’ with a maximum of 30 people who must maintain social distancing measures.
But the Office for National Statistics has estimated that 73,400 marriages have been postponed along with 300 same-sex civil partnerships between March 23 and today.
Guests at post-lockdown weddings must avoid singing unless behind a screen, not consume any food or drink and avoid playing instruments that must be blown into.
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.
It comes as a couple from Staffordshire who will be among the first to get married in England since lockdown began said they ‘didn’t want to delay it any longer’.
Sarah Williams and Richard Cunningham, of Staffordshire, who will be among the first to get married in England since lockdown began, said they ‘didn’t want to delay it any longer’
Ms Williams and Mr Cunningham, both 39, will be tying the knot on ‘Super Saturday’
From tomorrow, weddings can take place, and, while their original plans have had to change, Sarah Williams and Richard Cunningham, both 39, will be tying the knot.
‘The most important thing for us was to get married,’ said Mr Cunningham.
At a glance: What are the rules for weddings from tomorrow?
- Members of different households must maintain social distancing, so fathers cannot walk daughters arm-in-arm down the aisle
- Couples must wash their hands before and after exchanging rings
- Receptions are limited to two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors
- Up to 30 people are allowed at the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses, officiants and guests, and staff not employed by the venue
- No food or drink is allowed to be consumed ‘unless required for the purposes of solemnisation’
- There should be no singing during the service or use of instruments which have to be blown into
- Spoken responses should ‘not be in a raised voice’
- If a small child is involved, they should be held a parent, guardian or member of that child’s household
- Couples should consider using recordings instead of singing
- Organs music is allowed but they must be cleaned before and after
- Books, reusable and communal resources such as service sheets, prayer mats, or devotional material should be removed from use
‘Whether that was (with) five people or a hundred, it was about getting married. We’d been planning this for so long that we didn’t want to delay it any longer.’
The couple, who live near Lichfield, booked July 4 as their wedding day more than two years ago, but had originally intended to have more guests than they now can.
‘I’ve got a big family, more down in London, and we had family coming from Canada, America and some friends from Germany,’ said Mr Cunningham.
‘They had this big holiday planned to come over and spend time with us, and we haven’t been able to do that … so it’s probably having the extra people there that we’ve had to compromise on.’
Ms Williams said: ‘You can’t have bell ringers, so we can’t have any church bells – (and) we can’t have any singing.’
Ms Williams had been keeping on top of lockdown announcements in anticipation that weddings would be included in the easing of restrictions.
Eventually, in late June, the Government announced that weddings and civil partnerships could take place from July 4.
Such short notice provided an obstacle in the form of obtaining a marriage licence but, fortunately, a helpful vicar was at hand.
‘Straightaway he was into action,’ said Ms Williams. ‘By the next day we were in the main church in Stafford, swearing an oath on the Bible, doing an affidavit.
‘We only actually got a marriage licence on Tuesday night, which was a bit scary!’
The couple have sent a seating plan to guests ahead of the big day to ensure social distancing is observed, and a three-hour rehearsal was completed to work out how people can move around safely.
And while their wedding day will not look quite as they had envisaged in 2018, Ms Williams is adamant that restrictions will not have any bearing on their enjoyment.
‘It’s brilliant,’ she said. ‘After all this doom and gloom that we’ve had, hopefully it’s the first sign of a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.’
Sarah Williams (pictured with husband-to-be Mr Cunningham) had been keeping on top of announcements in anticipation that weddings would be included in the easing of restrictions
Receptions at post-lockdown weddings will be limited to just two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors
The ONS figures are the four-year average of weddings between March 23 and July 3, 2014 to 2017, plus same-sex civil partnerships between the dates in 2015 to 2018.
They do not include residents who got married abroad or same-sex couples who have converted civil partnerships into marriages following legal changes in 2014.
The data does also not include civil partnerships among opposite-sex couples which have been possible from New Year’s Eve last year.
Post-lockdown wedding rules are unveiled: Father can’t walk his daughter arm-in-arm down the aisle, couples must wash hands after exchanging rings and receptions are banned
Fathers cannot walk their daughter arm-in-arm down the aisle and couples must wash their hands before and after exchanging rings in post-lockdown weddings.
New rules issued by the Government on Monday also ban receptions when the ceremonies are allowed to restart with up to 30 people in England from tomorrow.
The plans are intend to maintain social distancing at weddings as the coronavirus pandemic continues but will reduce the big day to little more than a formality.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week gave permission for weddings to recommence as part of a widespread easing of lockdown restrictions.
Here are some of the new rules which will make for very different weddings:
CEREMONIES – Keep distanced during ‘short’ ceremonies
The new rules urge people from different households to maintain social distancing between one another, which will be ‘one metre plus’ from tomorrow.
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 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.
Fathers will not be able to walk their daughter arm-in-arm down the aisle as part of social distancing measures to keep people from different households at least one metre apart
Small reception celebrations can only be held if they are groups of up to two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors
RECEPTIONS – Maximum of only two households indoors
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.
DURING THE SERVICE – No singing or shouting allowed
Meanwhile people have been told to avoid ‘singing, shouting, raising voices and/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 plexi-glass 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.
People have been told to avoid ‘singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult’ – which means sung hymns will be banned
For the exchanging of rings during the ceremony, hands ‘should be washed before and after’ – otherwise they would not be permitted
RITUALS – no full immersion or washing others’ body parts
Any washing rituals should now be done before arrival at the venue, and people ‘should not wash the body parts of others’, according to the rules.
Full immersion should also now be avoided, and all others present should stand distant from any splashes and stay socially distanced.
Concerns raised over possible surge in forced marriages as lockdown is eased
Campaigners fear there could be a spike in forced marriages as coronavirus lockdown restrictions continue to relax in the UK and once quarantine rules are lifted.
Charities say during the pandemic they have seen a surge in calls from people worried their parents are increasingly intent on marrying them off after living in close quarters amid the crisis.
They warn parents could now be planning to take their children abroad for weddings against their will as soon as laws on self-isolating for 14 days on return to the UK are scrapped.
The warnings came as data gathered by the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) leading the Government’s work on tackling the crime indicated a rise in the number of LGBT victims and revealed more than a quarter of cases for which the unit provided advice last year involved children.
Figures indicated the largest number of cases were linked to Pakistan.
The FMU dealt with 1,355 suspected cases last year.
Between 2008 and 2019, 2,452 Forced Marriage Protection Orders were granted in UK courts in a bid to rescue victims.
The Government branded forced marriage a ‘hidden crime’, admitting that the figures fell short of revealing the true scale of abuse.
Full immersion can sometimes take place before Jewish wedding ceremonies, when a woman goes into a mikveh pool before the ceremony to achieve purity.
Christians can also be baptised through full immersion, but this would be unlikely to take place at a wedding itself.
Washing of feet can also happen at Christian ceremonies to represent Jesus Christ washing the feet of his disciplines as a symbol of humility.
Venue managers have also been urged to take steps to prevent visitors from touching or kissing any objects which are handled communally.
Books, reusable and communal resources such as service sheets, prayer mats, or devotional material should also be removed from use.
But single use alternatives can be provided as long as they are removed by the attendee, and people can also bring personal prayer mats or religious texts.
Venue managers have also been asked to discourage cash donations and continue to use online giving resources where possible.
Religious communities have been told to adapt traditional aspects which might have seen celebrations take place over many hours or even days.
No food or drink is allowed to be consumed at the ceremony ‘unless required for the purposes of solemnisation’, according to the rules.
DRESS FITTING – Dresses in quarantine and face masks
Bridal shops reopened on June 14, putting in measures such as plastic Champagne flutes, dresses put in quarantine and face masks for fittings.
Since reopening, the Bristol branch of third-generation family business Allison Jayne Bridalwear has introduced a range of measures to comply with new rules.
Face coverings are worn by bride to be Jessica Letheren and bridal consultant Felicity Gray during a dress fitting appointment at Allison Jayne Bridalwear in Clifton, Bristol, last Thursday
Customers must book in for an appointment, which lasts between 90 minutes and two hours – with a 30-minute clean taking place before the next slot.
Brides-to-be choosing their gowns are allowed to bring one person with them, with FaceTime and Skype used to include other friends and family members.
Hand sanitiser, face masks and disposable gloves are available, with face coverings worn by both brides-to-be and staff in the changing rooms.
Once a dress has been tried on, it is sprayed with disinfectant fabric spray and quarantined for 72 hours.
Champagne is poured into glittery plastic disposable glasses, with a poster displaying coronavirus guidelines on view as people enter the shop.
Customers showing symptoms or feeling unwell are instructed to reschedule their appointments.
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