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Wedding receptions reduced to 15 people in England due to a rise in coronavirus cases

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced additional restrictions to curb the second wave of COVID-19

Wedding receptions reduced to 15 people in England due to a rise in coronavirus cases

The number of people who can attend wedding receptions in England will be cut from 30 people to just 15 from Monday 28 September.

The change in rules was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 22 September, and is one of several changes to restrictions in response to increasing numbers of coronavirus infections across the country.

Larger weddings of 30 people have been permitted since 15 August, but will no longer be allowed after this weekend. Other restrictions will also still apply; for instance, venues must have social distancing measures in place.

The Prime Minister warned these new restrictions would need to remain in place for at least six months to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Many people have already had to cancel or postpone their weddings this year, at a time when several wedding insurers stopped selling cover or excluded cancellation due to coronavirus as part of their terms.

We asked 12 of the UK’s biggest wedding insurance providers how coronavirus is affecting their policies and what your rights are if your wedding gets cancelled.

We’ll update the story if and when policies change, or when additional insurers respond.


When will weddings be allowed again?

The government has said that groups of just 15 people are permitted to attend weddings and receptions in England from 28 September.

This number of people includes the couple getting married, witnesses, whoever is responsible for officiating the ceremony, guests and additional people such as photographers, but it doesn’t include venue staff or third-party catering staff.

Ceremonies should take place in venues that can be made COVID-19 secure, and where social-distancing measures can be implemented for all guests.

Activities such as singing should be avoided, but indoor performances can take place in accordance with guidance for people working in the performing arts.

Face coverings must also be worn, as they became a requirement in places of worship and registry offices on 8 August. The only people who are exempt are the couple getting married, those officiating the wedding and anyone who is already exempt from having to wear a mask.

At the reception, dancing should not take place, and any food or drink should be served by staff, adhering to guidance for restaurants, pubs and takeaway services.

At the time of writing, the First Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not announced further changes or restrictions for weddings.

In Northern Ireland, wedding ceremonies have been allowed since early June, but only for ceremonies held outdoors and with a maximum of 10 people present.

Wales began allowing wedding ceremonies on 22 June, but social distancing rules must be followed and, again, only 30 people are allowed. People are permitted to travel any distance to attend a wedding ceremony.

Weddings in Scotland have been allowed to take place since 29 June, and the restrictions have been frequently reviewed. At the time of writing, rules state there should be no more than 20 people in attendance at the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses, guests and professionals such as photographers. Social distancing must be in place, and social gatherings before or after the ceremony must adhere to the Scottish restrictions on how many households are allowed to mix.

Can I get a payment holiday or refund on my wedding insurance?

On 18 May, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) told insurers that they must help customers with general and protection who are struggling with payments due to effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Insurers must accept applications for payment holidays from now until 18 August, as well as ensuring that all customers are receiving value for money – that is, not having to pay for an insurance service they are not or cannot receive due to coronavirus.

Some car, home and private medical insurance providers have already offered to refund premiums or offer policy adjustments, but now all types of insurance providers will have to do this proactively. This includes wedding insurance.

Our dedicated news story explains how to apply for help with insurance payments and other ways to cut the cost of insurance premiums.

What if your wedding contravenes public gatherings rules?

If your wedding is larger than 30 people in England on or before 27 September, or 15 people from 28 September, 30 people in Wales, 20 people in Scotland or 10 people in Northern Ireland, it won’t be able to take place.

If you can’t reschedule it for another time, you may find it difficult to make an insurance claim as policies don’t tend to cover governmental regulations.

Here’s what we found when we looked at some of the biggest insurance providers:

Provider Policy
Debenhams Losses arising from prohibitive regulations by the government of any country are excluded.
Emerald Life Claims arising from government acts are excluded.
Events Insurance Government-regulated acts are excluded, which means there would be no cover if the government forces venues to close as part of a national ban or if it restricts the size of a gathering.
John Lewis If the venue is not permitted to hold the wedding due to any specific government legal measures in relation to public gatherings (that includes weddings), there will be cover under the policy subject to the policy holder minimising their costs.
The Insurance Emporium No claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
Wedinsure Claims directly or indirectly caused by government regulations or acts are excluded – this includes bans on social or public gatherings.

Are any wedding insurers still providing cover?

Debenhams, Events Insurance, The Insurance Emporium and John Lewis have stopped offering wedding insurance policies to new customers due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As of 8am on 19 March, Emerald Life and Wedinsure also stopped selling new policies. Emerald Life says it hopes to be back online as soon as possible.

Provider Policy
Debenhams All new Debenhams Wedding Insurance applications have been suspended while the effect of the virus is being assessed.
Emerald Life Suspended selling new policies as of 19 March 2020.
Events Insurance Suspended wedding package policy for the foreseeable future, pending full confirmation on the government’s stance on gathering and venue restrictions. It’s not able to process any new wedding insurance applications.
John Lewis Suspended new applications for wedding and event insurance while the effects of travel and public health advice around coronavirus is assessed.
The Insurance Emporium Has temporarily suspended selling new wedding insurance policies.
Wedinsure Suspended selling new policies as of 19 March 2020.

Will my existing wedding insurance change?

If you’ve already bought wedding insurance, the providers we’ve spoken to have all said the policies will remain in place and – for the most part – unchanged.

Provider Policy
Debenhams Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.
Emerald Life Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged, except cover has been limited in relation to the bankruptcy of wedding suppliers so that Emerald Life doesn’t cover any bankruptcy within the first 10 days of taking out the policy.
Events Insurance Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.
John Lewis Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.
The Insurance Emporium Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged. However, policies are subject to a general exclusion in respect of ‘notifiable diseases’. This exclusion includes COVID-19, since it’s now an officially registered notifiable disease in the UK.
Wedinsure Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.

What if the venue or other services cancel on you?

Even if your event is able to go ahead, it may be that a service you’ve booked is unable to deliver what you’ve paid for.

In the first instance, you should try to come to some kind of agreement with the business itself. If that’s not possible, here’s what the insurers say:

Provider Policy
Debenhams Those with existing policies are covered if the booked venue for the wedding or wedding reception is unable to hold your wedding due to an outbreak of infectious or contagious disease; the total non-appearance on the wedding day of any booked and paid-for professional wedding services; the non-appearance of the officiating minister or registrar.
Emerald Life Doesn’t cover the bankruptcy of wedding suppliers within the first 10 days of taking out the policy. Otherwise, there is cover if a wedding services supplier goes bankrupt and there may be cover if a significant supplier fails to arrive on the day, which may allow for cancellation or rearrangement.
Events Insurance Advising people to speak to their suppliers and check their contracts. Events Insurance says venues and suppliers don’t want to lose out on bookings, and have generally been offering rearrangement options to people hoping to postpone.
John Lewis Those with existing policies should be covered for the booked venue for the wedding or wedding reception being unable to hold your wedding due to an outbreak of infectious or contagious disease, and the total non-appearance on the wedding day of any booked and paid-for wedding services.
The Insurance Emporium No claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
Wedinsure Cover includes instances where the booked venue for the wedding or wedding reception is unable to hold the event due to an outbreak of infectious disease (eg coronavirus), or its closure by a relevant authority – except where the closure or their inability to hold your wedding is due to any form of government act or regulation.

What if travel to the wedding venue has been restricted?

The government has advised to reduce travel where possible and is encouraging people to stay local whenever they can, but roads and the majority of public transport services are currently still running.

If this changes, and your wedding has to be cancelled as a result, it’s unlikely that any wedding insurance policies will cover it:

Provider Policy
Debenhams Losses arising from prohibitive regulations by the government of any country are excluded.
Emerald Life Claims arising from government acts are excluded.
Events Insurance Government-regulated acts are excluded, which means there would be no cover if it restricts freedom of movement.
John Lewis Claims arising directly or indirectly from government regulation or act are excluded.
The Insurance Emporium No claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
Wedinsure Claims directly or indirectly caused by government regulations or acts are excluded – this includes travel bans or restrictions.

What if the bride, groom or guests are ill or self-isolating?

The government is currently advising anyone who is showing COVID-19 symptoms to self-isolate for 10 days, and those who have been in direct contact with someone showing symptoms to self-isolate for 14 days.

It’s also advised all people over the age of 70, or who would be considered ‘vulnerable’, to take particular care to minimise contact with those outside of their own households.

With this in mind, it may be that some people will be unable to make it to weddings once they are able to take place.

In general, wedding insurance policies are only likely to cover health issues affecting the couple or their close relatives.

Provider Policy
Debenhams The policy does not mention coronavirus explicitly, but it doesn’t cover any claims where the person with an illness has acted against medical advice, or is awaiting the results of any tests or medical investigations.
Emerald Life Actual illness of the bride or groom is covered, but not with self-isolation, as it would be impossible to prove if it were genuine; if a close family member is ill, then that may merit cancellation or rearrangement.
Events Insurance Two scenarios are covered: if the bride, groom or a close relative is diagnosed with the virus and is suffering with it at the time of the wedding, which causes the wedding to be cancelled; or the venue has a case of coronavirus and they are forced to cancel all events and close – on the basis that the contract you have with them permits them to cancel for that reason and it’s not the result of a blanket government shutdown.
John Lewis You’re covered in the event of the death, injury or sickness of the prospective marriage or civil partners, or close relative or members of the wedding party which would make it inappropriate to continue the wedding.
The Insurance Emporium No claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
Wedinsure Covers the unavoidable cancellation of the wedding due to the death or sickness of the wedding participants or their close relatives, as defined under the policy, which would make having or continuing with the wedding and/or wedding reception impossible. But if you buy the policy knowing you or a close relative has already contracted coronavirus, then that wouldn’t be covered.

Getting your money back by other means

If you don’t have wedding insurance, or your claim is refused, you should contact your bank or credit card company (if you paid using a credit card).

Make it aware of the situation and the complaint you’ve made, and you may be able to get reimbursed for at least some of the costs.

If you paid by credit card

Anything you’ve bought costing between £100 and £30,000 using a credit card has additional protections if something goes wrong.

It’s covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which means that your credit card company is jointly liable for any breach of contract (such as event cancellation) and you can claim your money back directly from it.

If you paid by debit card

You may be able to ask your card provider to reverse a transaction on your credit or debit card in a process called chargeback.

Chargeback isn’t a right or law such as Section 75 is, but banks are often willing to help. It can also be useful if you’re trying to recoup costs of less than £100, where Section 75 doesn’t apply.

Which? coronavirus advice

Experts from across Which? have been compiling the advice you need to stay safe and make sure you’re not left out of pocket.

You can keep up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?


This story was originally published on 18 March and has since been updated. The last update was on 22 September with details on the altered guest restrictions in England following a rise in coronavirus cases.


 

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