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COVID-19: New law permitting outdoor civil weddings and partnerships in England and Wales given green light

Written by on 21 June 2021

Outdoor civil weddings will become legal in England and Wales for the first time from next month.

Approved venues such as hotels will be allowed to host the ceremonies from 1 July until next April in a move designed to allow more guests to attend events impacted by social distancing rules.

The change will also apply to civil partnerships and the government will launch a consultation to see if it should extend beyond April 2022 and become permanent.

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Buckland: ‘Having a wedding outdoors will allow for greater flexibility’

At present, legal wedding or civil partnership ceremonies must take place in an approved room or permanent structure.

The government says the change will benefit almost 75% of all weddings in England and Wales that are non-religious and which take place on approved premises.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the move will allow couples to celebrate their partnership “the way that they want” despite the pandemic.

“The reforms that I have announced today relate to the flexibility within existing approved premises to have the wedding ceremony outdoors,” he told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday.

“That does create greater flexibility for premises in order to have more guests in a safe way.

“Having a wedding outdoors, it would be a civil wedding – it can’t be a religious or a Church of England wedding – but a civil wedding or a civil partnership ceremony being able to take place outdoors as opposed to inside the premises will indeed allow for that greater flexibility.

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What are the new outdoor wedding rules?

“Obviously each premises will have its own guidance and its own rules, but it just allows couples to be more imaginative about the way in which they can accommodate friends and loved ones to what is the most special day in their lives.”

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has postponed the easing of lockdown for another four weeks beyond the original 21 June target date, a relaxation of some coronavirus restrictions will see an increase in the number of people allowed to attend weddings.

The present 30-guest limit on ceremonies in England will be lifted from tomorrow with venues instead asked to limit numbers based on social distancing requirements.

As part of the rules for weddings from Monday and before all restrictions are due to lifted on 19 July, guests will be told to sit at tables of up to six people and receptions will be table service only.

Dancing is “advised against due to the increased risk of transmission” but the couple’s first dance is allowed, and dancefloors must remain closed, the government said.

Congregational and communal singing is also “strongly advised against”.

For weddings taking place inside private homes, the limit of six individuals will remain, with an exception for 30 guests in place for deathbed ceremonies – where one partner is seriously ill and not expected to recover.

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