Updated guidance for the wedding industry was released on Monday following the PM’s announcement on capacities at weddings – here’s an overview for you on the rules as they currently stand in England:
What is the new maximum capacity at a wedding?
There isn’t one, the guidance says that ‘From 21 June, there will no longer be a maximum number cap for attendees set out in law. Instead, the number of attendees at weddings, civil partnerships and receptions will be determined by how many people the venue or space can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place. This will be based on the COVID-19 risk assessment of the venue or outdoor space, and the measures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.’ The capacity number should enable members of staff, anyone conducting or supporting the event, and customers or guests (including children) to be socially distanced within the venue. Space in communal areas like waiting areas and corridors should be considered when setting the safe maximum number of attendees.
What does this mean?
You must calculate the capacity based on social distancing measures (2m, or 1m+ with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable)
Can someone tell me what the capacity is?
In a COVID-secure venue, where the premises are operated or used by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body (such as a place of worship or a hospitality venue) your venue manager will need to tell you the maximum number of people who will be able to attend.
What if it is taking place on private land?
For events taking place in other venues, (such as a garden of a private home or on private land), organisers will need to make the space as safe as possible. A marquee or other structure in a private garden must have at least 50% of its walled area open at any time for it to be classed as ‘outdoors’ and for the limit based on safe capacity to apply.
What do I have to do?
If you plan on having more than 30 people in your chosen venue or outdoor space, you must do this by completing a COVID-19 risk assessment to determine how many attendees will be able to attend, and following this guidance to make the event as safe as possible. Please see information below on what a risk assessment is and how to complete one.
What about weddings indoors in private houses?
Weddings must not happen indoors at private dwellings, unless they are urgent marriages where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover. These can take place in private dwellings with up to 30 people. This includes enclosed structures in gardens of private homes.
What are the rules for serving food & drink?
Staff and attendees should follow the guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services. This includes informing people of the requirements in relation to face coverings and ensuring that employers do not knowingly allow a worker (including agency workers) who is required to self-isolate to come to work. Regulations now require certain businesses to implement specific aspects of this guidance, or pay a fine of up to £10,000 (fixed penalty notice).
What if the wedding is in inside a licensed venue and I am providing drinks?
All food and drink (including non-alcoholic drink) must be ordered, served and consumed by the customer while seated at a table. If you sell alcohol, you must introduce systems to take orders and payment from seated customers, instead of at a bar or counter. Any premises wishing to avoid this requirement would need to stop serving alcohol. This has been introduced to prevent crowding and social contact. We advise that this guidance should also be followed where events take place in gardens of private homes, public outdoor places, and private land.
If there is alcohol being served do you have to do table service?
Under Step 3, if the event is taking place at a COVID-secure venue where alcohol is served, all food and drink (including non-alcoholic drink) must be ordered, served and consumed by the customer while seated at a table.
Businesses that sell alcohol must introduce systems to take orders and payment from seated customers, instead of at a bar or counter. Any premises wishing to avoid this requirement would need to stop serving alcohol. This has been introduced to prevent crowding and social contact. The Government advise that this guidance should also be followed where events take place in gardens of private homes, public outdoor places, and private land.
What if I am just providing food?
Businesses that do not provide alcohol but serve food or drink (licensed or not) must take all reasonable steps to ensure customers remain seated while consuming food or drink on the premises. This means that in unlicensed premises, food and drink can be purchased or ordered at a counter, but customers must sit down to consume it, even in outdoor settings. We advise that this guidance should also be followed where events take place in private gardens, public outdoor places, and private land. There is no requirement for guests to be placed on socially distanced tables, though they should consider the risks of not doing so, as set out in new guidance on meeting friends and family.
If the event is not taking place in a COVID-secure venue, the organiser must still take all reasonable steps to limit the risks of transmission. Where food and drinks are consumed, the guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services should be followed to reduce the risk of transmission.
Do I have to do a Risk Assessment?
If you are a bar / caterer you must carry out your compliance as normal including a Covid-19 Risk Assessment (https://www.ncass.org.uk/resources/legal-compliance/cv19-compliance-for-members/), insurance certificates etc and any other documentation your event organiser requests. If you are the organiser or venue manager, It’s a legal requirement for a COVID-19 risk assessment to be completed for the COVID-secure venue at which a wedding, civil partnership ceremony, reception or celebration is being held.
Do I have to wear a facemask?
Yes, it is best practice to do so.
What about staff and guests?
Face coverings are required by law to be worn in many indoor settings, including places of worship. Attendees and staff at a wedding ceremony or reception must wear a face covering (except when eating or drinking), unless exempt.
There are valid exemptions for some individuals and groups to not wear a face covering in these settings. In particular, those who are leading services or events in a place of worship. Those exemptions will also cover the couple being married or joined in a partnership and those officiating at the wedding. This exemption does not apply to those observing the wedding, who should wear face coverings consistent with the requirements for any other public space.
There is no legal requirement to wear a face covering when outdoors at a ceremony or reception. This includes when taking place in a marquee, provided at least 50% of the walled area is open for it to be classed as ‘outdoors’.
Do I have to do Track & Trace?
This is the responsibility of the venue manager or event organiser. If you are the event organiser and/or are in a venue being operated or used by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body, should assist this service by keeping a temporary record of visitors for 21 days, and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed for contact tracing and the investigation of local outbreaks. You should also display official NHS QR code posters so that those with the app can scan in if they choose. Find further information on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.
What happens if I don’t follow the rules?
Where the enforcing authority, such as the Health and Safety Executive, your local authority, or the police, identifies employers, venues or people responsible for events that are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation to control public health risks, or with health and safety legislation, they are empowered to take a range of actions to improve control of venue risks. This includes events held in gardens of private homes. Enforcement officers will take relevant guidance into account.
Businesses and others obligated to conduct a risk assessment should ensure it takes into consideration the relevant Covid-19 guidance for the event type. Failure to do so, or after completing a risk assessment, failing to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk of COVID-19, could constitute a breach of existing health and safety legislation.
The actions the enforcing authority can take include the provision of specific advice to venues to support them to achieve the required standard, through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements. Breaches of the legal requirements and failure to comply with enforcement notices can constitute a criminal offence, with serious fines and even imprisonment for up to 2 years. Penalties increase for repeated breaches under the various regulations in place for COVID-19 measures. There is also a wider system of enforcement, which includes specific obligations and conditions for licensed premises.
Venue managers are expected to respond to any advice or notices issued by enforcing authorities rapidly and are required to do so within any timescales imposed by the enforcing authorities. Our expectation is that venues and venue managers will act responsibly and join with the UK’s fight against COVID-19 by working with the government and their sector bodies to protect their workers and the public. However, regulators are carrying out compliance checks nationwide to ensure that employers and venues are taking the necessary steps.
Gardens of private homes, public outdoor places and private land
Organisers of events in gardens of private homes, public outdoor places and private land (where this is not operated or part of premises used for the operation of a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body) may be liable for a £10,000 fine (fixed penalty notice) where they fail to take the required precautions when holding an event.
This includes the need to take all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission by completing and following a risk assessment, and following the relevant COVID-secure guidance.