Yesterday (12th October), Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new local three-tier Covid Alert system which impacts wedding receptions. Depending on local lockdowns, those in England in an area of very high alert status are unable to have a reception after the wedding. The official number 10 twitter feed gave out the following images with a breakdown of what is allowed on each status level.
You can check your area status and at the time of writing the follow areas are very high risk and no wedding receptions are allowed:
Liverpool City Region
- St Helens
You can click on the image below for more details, and the guidelines are:
Up to 15 guests for weddings and 15 for receptions.
Up to 15 guests for weddings and wedding receptions not permitted.
Other parts of the UK were unaffected, which now means:
- In Wales, the maximum continues to be 30 guests.
- In Scotland, it is 20 guests and outdoor ceremonies are recommended.
- In Northern Ireland, small outdoor weddings are allowed based on the venue’s risk assessment.
In all cases, the maximum number given does not include venue staff or officials. Included in the maximum guest would be the couple, witnesses, guests, and any staff not employed by the venue directly like musicians, photographers and perhaps caterers.
Sit down receptions at “covid-secure” venues are also an exception of the rule of 6, but this now means also a maximum of 15 providing different households can socially distance.
Covid-19 has caused havoc with the wedding industry, and weddings were banned from 23rd March until reduced numbers were allowed. But there are still rules that have to be followed in England:
- Long Ceremonies should be avoided and no food and drink should be consumed.
- Venues must record all attendees as part of track and trace and follow guidelines on being Covid-secure including wearing masks and taking staff temperature.
- Group singing should be avoided
- A maximum of 15 can attend, only where safe to do so, and households should stay 1 metre apart.
The news is a hammer blow to the Wedding Industry, particularly the entertainment and catering companies who benefit from large weddings. Let’s face it, if you are limited to 15 people, you’d be unlikely to have anyone there other than close family and friends.
But this is good news for those who want to get married on a shoe-string budget. In essence, you only need the registrar and witnesses. Most people will likely want Weddings Rings although not a legal requirement. A photographer can also be replaced with guests taking pictures. Live Music is easily replaced by speakers. Sit-down meals can be replaced with a buffet.
For those who have weddings booked for the rest of 2020 and early 2021, it is a worrying time if a further lockdown and rule changes are imminent. And I feel for those who have painstakingly planned for a 30 person wedding to be hit with having to reduce that by half.
Firstly, there is something very romantic about having a small, intimate wedding with just the people that matter. But it is crucial to understand your rights, particularly if venues and suppliers go bankrupt which is likely.
Luckily you are well covered by consumer law, insurance and the consumer credit act if you paid by credit card. And a lot of smaller independent suppliers are now beginning to understand this a lot more, and may not have acted correctly in the first instance. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guidance is now widely circulated, in particular shedding more light on the law of frustration.
In summary, Consumer Law is pretty solid, you have to get what you pay for or it’s classed as goods and services not received. So if your ceremony and reception were in the time when weddings were cancelled March 23rd with lockdown, you are entitled to a refund on monies paid, minus any costs accrued (which need to be itemised with monitory value). This is regardless if a non-refundable deposit and terms and conditions do not supersede this fact.
From the point weddings were allowed again Saturday 4th July with limited numbers, most weddings were then considered to be radically different to what was arranged and also benefited from the refund requirement.
There are other avenues with Wedding Insurance, and also if you paid by credit card. If you did, you are very likely to be covered under the consumer credit act of 1974 which holds the credit card company jointly liable. This is even the case where companies have gone into administration.
This is a crucial point, as I suspect many companies will be unable to continue trading and facing bankruptcy. Limited companies cannot just cease trading if the company is insolvent. Going into administration is not closing, it’s just putting the administrators in charge. This does not change your rights.
Sole traders and partners in non-limited companies are also liable for company debts, although you might need to go to the small claims court. All registered companies should be on companies house, and most companies have the business number on the website.
Just be aware that these are unprecedented times. Those who work in the wedding industry have had very little income over the last 6 months and things are not looking rosy for the next 6. This does not alter any consumer rights, but worth bearing in mind when you communicate.