Coronavirus (COVID-19): weddings and civil partnerships

Weddings and civil partnerships are celebratory social events, which are particularly prone to the spread of COVID-19 and restrictions are therefore necessary to reduce the risk of transmission.

Guidance

The arrangements for weddings are as set out in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021.

A frequently asked question document is available on the Executive's website:

Guidance for places of worship is also available at:

When not to attend a ceremony

You should not attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony if you are unwell with symptoms of COVID-19.

You must stay at home and arrange a COVID-19 test if you have:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of or change in sense of smell or taste

If either of the couple has symptoms of COVID-19 the ceremony should not go ahead.

Numbers

Numbers attending ceremonies in places of worship, a local government venue, or other venues such as hotels, are decided by risk assessment for the venue specific to a marriage/ civil partnership ceremony.

This applies regardless of whether the ceremony is taking place indoors, outdoors, or at a place of worship.

A marriage or civil partnership where one partner is terminally ill can take place in a private dwelling. A maximum of 10 people can attend, including all participants and the officiant.

Organising a ceremony

If you are organising a wedding or civil partnership it is important that you work closely with the venue to understand what limitations exist.

Venues are being asked to help manage the risk by:

  • making sure that social distancing is adhered to
  • making sure face coverings are worn throughout the service by everyone, with exemptions for the officiant, the couple and children aged 12 or less
  • collecting contact details for each guest at the ceremony

Consideration should be given to how rites and rituals are observed as part of marriage ceremonies at this time, given the potential for transmission of COVID-19.

Food and drink should not be consumed at the ceremony unless this is essential for religious purposes.

Social distancing

All individuals involved in the ceremony (including attendees, guests and officiants) should observe social distancing from those they do not live with, except where they are part of the same support bubble.

Wherever possible, keep to social distancing of at least two metres between households.

Consideration should be given to avoiding any face-to-face seating, improving ventilation, and closing non-essential social spaces.

Face coverings

The wearing of a face covering is now mandatory in certain indoor premises. This includes hotels, places of worship, registration offices and any indoor public place or part of an indoor public place where a marriage ceremony is taking place.

Exemptions apply for the officiant, the couple and children aged 12 and under. 

Guests must wear a face covering during the ceremony, unless exempt.

The wearing of face coverings must not be used as an alternative to other precautions, including physical distancing, hand washing, and covering coughs and sneezes.

Singing, chanting and music

Singing, playing musical instruments, and chanted prayer are an important part of many religious services but can increase dispersal of the virus through aerosols and droplets. This is especially the case at loud volumes.

Refraining from singing and chanting will reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Where singing or chanting is deemed to be essential to an act of worship, this should be limited to one person wherever possible.

Communal singing should be avoided if possible, even if social distancing is being observed and face coverings are used. 

Wedding and civil partnership receptions and celebrations

Wedding and civil partnership receptions, celebrations and post ceremony gatherings are not permitted.

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