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Outdoor weddings to be allowed in England and Wales from July

Find out the latest restrictions for wedding receptions across the UK and if your insurance will cover you

Outdoor weddings to be allowed in England and Wales from July

In another shake up to wedding and civil partnership rules, ceremonies have been given the go ahead to take place outside from 1 July in England and Wales.

The rule change only covers approved premises, such as hotels, and will mean the whole event can take place outside. Current laws require the ceremony to take place in an approved room or permanent structure, where fewer people are likely to be able to attend due to social distancing restrictions.

It’s said that up to 75% of non-religious couples could benefit from the change.

In addition, Wales First Minister Mike Drayford has also announced that from 21 June there will no longer be specific restrictions on the number of people who can attend weddings or civil partnership ceremonies in Wales. Instead, the numbers should be dictated by the venue following a risk assessment.

This puts Wales in-line with the rules announced for English ceremonies last week, which also come into effect on 21 June.

At the same time, restrictions in Scotland are also expected to remain for an extra three weeks until mid-July, pending a review on 28 June.

Many people have had to cancel or postpone their weddings since coronavirus restrictions were first put in place in March 2020. Around the same time, 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.


What wedding restrictions are in place?

The rules vary depending on where you’re getting married.

England

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies can now take place in England at Covid-secure venues and outdoor venues, with no set restriction on the number of guests allowed to attend.

Instead, maximum capacities will depend on how many people the venue can hold with social distancing measures in place. A Covid-19 risk assessment must have been carried out as a legal requirement to determine the venue’s capacity.

From 1 July, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions will be able to take place outdoors.

If a ceremony or reception is taking place in a marquee, at least 50% of its walls must be open for it to count as ‘outdoors’.
Weddings should not take place in private households, unless the rule of six/two households is adhered to. If the marriage is urgent (ie, one of the couple is seriously ill and not expected to recover) and must take place in a private household, the rule of 30 applies.

However, some activities still can’t take place as normal. For instance, congregational and communal singing is strongly advised against; dancing is advised against (other than the couple’s first dance), speeches should take place outside where possible and social distancing at tables should be adhered to. Face masks should be worn by staff and guests while indoors, except while eating and drinking.

For further details, see gov.uk.

Wales

Couples getting married or having a civil partnership in Wales will also have to look to their venue for the maximum number of guests allowed to attend the ceremony and reception.

The venue must have followed a risk assessment of its premises to calculate the maximum number of people it can accommodate safely with social distancing in place.

From 1 July, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions will be able to take place outdoors.

There should be no physical contact unless you’re in the same bubble, no dancing – except for the couple during their first dance, no singing or chanting, and no close group photographs. Background music can only be played at a low level during the ceremony and reception.

Wedding venues are also allowed to let prospective customers view their premises, but only by appointment.

For further guidance, see the gov.wales website.

Scotland

Rules on getting married in Scotland will vary depending on where you’re getting married, as different parts of the country are at different Covid-19 levels. Most of Scotland is in Covid-19 level 1and 2, with some islands at level 0.

Weddings in level 0 areas can have up to 200 people in attendance; in level 1 areas it’s up to 100 people; in level 2 it’s a maximum of 50 people.

At all levels, the limits include the couple, witnesses, guests (including children of any age), carers and staff not employed by the venue (such as photographers).

If a ceremony takes place inside a private dwelling, which should only happen if one of the couple is seriously ill or has a disability that means they can’t get married elsewhere, no more than six people should attend. This means the couple, two witnesses, a celebrant and an interpreter, if necessary.

Scotland’s current Covid-19 restrictions are due to be reviewed on 28 June, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already warned that measures are likely to stay as they are for an extra three weeks due to the rise in coronavirus cases. Find further guidance at gov.scot.

Northern Ireland

Weddings and civil partnerships are permitted to take place in Northern Ireland, but the number of people allowed to attend will vary, as each venue must have undergone a risk assessment.

Face coverings must be worn by everyone, apart from those who are exempt or in the wedding party.

Social distancing must be in place and the number of people allowed to attend will vary depending on the size of the venue.

There will be no restrictions on the number of people allowed to sit at the ‘top table’, but other tables must be restricted to 10 people. No dancing is permitted, apart from the married couple’s first dance, and there should be no live or loud music. Ambient live music may be permitted from 5 July, pending a review on 1 July.

Ceremonies or receptions in private gardens can include up to 15 people (including children) from no more than three households.

According to nidirect.gov.uk these restrictions will next be reviewed on 8 July.

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.

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 Is selling new wedding insurance policies.
John Lewis Suspended new applications for wedding insurance..
The Insurance Emporium Has temporarily suspended selling new wedding insurance policies.
Wedinsure Is selling new wedding insurance policies – it stopped between March and October 2020. All policies from 23 October 2020 onwards specifically exclude all claims and losses arising directly or indirectly from any pandemic or epidemic, including Covid-19.

Correct as of June 2021.

What if your wedding party is larger than the venue allows?

If your wedding party has more people than the venue has deemed safe in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, it won’t be able to go ahead – or you’ll have to make cuts to the number of guests. The same applies for weddings with more than 200, 100 or 50 people in Scotland (depending on which Covid-19 level your area is in).

You may be able to reschedule the event for another time, but if you can’t you might find it difficult to make an insurance claim, as policies don’t tend to cover government 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 (including 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 For policies bought on or after 1 March 2021, losses arising from the law or regulations by the government of any country are excluded.

Correct as of June 2021.

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 – will be 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, as it’s now an officially registered notifiable disease in the UK.
Wedinsure Existing customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.

Correct as of June 2021.

What if the venue or other services cancel on you?

Even if your event is able to go ahead, it might be that a service you’ve booked is unable to provide 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 reception is unable to hold your wedding due to an outbreak of infectious or contagious disease. Existing policies will also cover the total non-appearance on the wedding day of any booked and paid-for professional wedding services, and 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 might be cover if a significant supplier fails to arrive on the day, which might allow for cancellation or rearrangement.
Events Insurance Advises 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 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 For policies bought on or after 1 March 2021, claims are covered if the venue cancels due to ceasing to trade, damage to the venue from natural disaster or adverse weather, murder, death or suicide at the venue, an act of terrorism at the venue and closure by a relevant authority. However, a relevant authority does not cover government acts, regulations or changes of law that are enforced nationally or regionally.

Correct as of June 2021.

What if travel to the wedding venue has been restricted?

Travel should still be minimised where possible, however the ‘stay at home’ orders have now been lifted across the UK. It’s now possible for most people in the UK to travel to or from England, Scotland and Wales – however, non-essential travel to Scotland from the English cities of Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Manchester and Salford due to the coronavirus cases in these areas.

Those travelling to Northern Ireland from the ‘Common Travel Area’ (including the UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands), and vice versa, should take a rapid lateral flow device test before travel, and only go ahead if the result is negative. These tests should also be taken on day two and day eight of your stay.

If your wedding has to be cancelled as a result of government-imposed travel restrictions, 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.

Correct as of June 2021.

What if the couple or guests are ill or self-isolating?

The government is currently advising anyone who is showing Covid-19 symptoms, has been in direct contact with someone showing symptoms or has tested positive, to self-isolate for 10 days after the symptoms began.

With this in mind, it could be that some people will be unable to make it to weddings once they’re 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 doesn’t 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 couple 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 might merit cancellation or rearrangement.
Events Insurance Policy only mentions cover for ‘bodily injury’ (death, illness, disease or physical damage to a person’s body) that occurs within 24 hours before and after the wedding date.
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 For policies purchased on or after 1 March 2021, any claim arising from any illness or medical condition of the couple or a close relative that was first reported, under investigation and/or diagnosed within 30 days after the date of purchase of this insurance is not covered. It also excludes losses arising directly or indirectly from any pandemic or epidemic, including any mutations.

Correct as of June 2021.

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

On 1 November 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) set out new guidance on how firms should offer tailored support to those who have already received a payment deferral, or those who have newly come into financial difficulty.

The regulator says support on offer should reflect the ‘uncertainties and challenges’ many customers will face in the coming months, and could include firms reducing monthly payments, or suspending, reducing, waiving or cancelling interest or charges.

Our dedicated story on the FCA guidance for insurance providers goes into more detail on this.

The new guidance supplements FCA measures from 18 May 2020, when it told insurers that they must help customers with general insurance protection who are struggling with payments due to effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

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 might 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 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 might 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, 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 2020 and has since been updated. The last update was on 21 June 2021, with updates on restrictions to wedding ceremonies under the latest coronavirus rules and measures in each UK nation.


 

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