Ceremony restrictions during the pandemic

How marriage and civil partnership ceremonies are affected by coronavirus restrictions.

1 Overview and roadmap

Your wedding or civil partnership ceremony is personal to you and we know you will have been planning and looking forward to sharing your big day with loved ones for some time.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed weddings and ceremonies with many being postponed and couples waiting for a time when more guests can attend and celebrate with them. The Government roadmap out of the pandemic means regular changes as we reach each new stage. This will affect the number of people who can attend ceremonies for the foreseeable future and you should consider this when planning your day.

Ceremonies roadmap

Easing of restrictions relating to ceremonies:

  • From 17 May 2021 - A maximum legal limit of the couple, 2 witnesses and up to 26 further guests in attendance (30 attendees) 
  • From 21 June 2021 - More than 30 may attend provided that the venue is able to accommodate the guests socially distanced
  • No earlier than 19 July 2021 - There may be no limit on attendee numbers or social distancing requirements, however, this is subject to the next Government review.

Each stage of relaxing rules is dependent on the stage before. Where social distancing measures are in place, this will affect how many guests are allowed regardless of any maximum numbers given in the roadmap. Check with your venue or see our information for WSCC ceremony rooms.

Government guidance

See GOV.UK for the latest Government guidance on ceremonies.

We must follow any local and Government guidelines that are in place at the time of the ceremony. You will be made aware of the restrictions that are in place at the time of booking, but be aware that regulations affecting your ceremony can change at any time. We have no advanced notice of changes to restrictions.

We must wait for detailed guidance to be issued from the Government to understand how announcements will affect ceremonies before we can answer questions directly or update these pages. We have no control over the restrictions set.

Moving your ceremony date

We understand that couples may wish to move their ceremony date to avoid it taking place at a time of tighter restrictions. This can be done, however be aware that changing a date will not guarantee there being no restrictions in place at the time of the new date. To move or cancel a ceremony, contact us.

2 Restrictions at venues

Government guidance says that ceremonies should proceed only where they can be carried out in a COVID-secure environment.

Ceremonies in a licensed venue (hotels, town halls, country houses and so on)

From 21 June 2021, more than 30 may attend a wedding or civil partnership provided they can be accommodated in accordance with rules on social distancing. To check what numbers your venue can accommodate within the current Government guidelines, please contact your venue.

Ceremonies in WSCC ceremony rooms

All our ceremony rooms have been risk assessed as COVID-19 secure. The maximum number of attendees in accordance with social distancing for each room is listed below. We anticipate that these will now remain unchanged until at least 19 July 2021, according to the Government roadmap.

After this date it is possible that the number of attendees permitted in our rooms will increase but this will be subject to a risk assessment and any further national guidance. It is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic numbers this summer.

Numbers of attendees and restrictions will be updated when we have information and can assess our rooms. Figures reported in the media may not be applicable if social distancing or other safety measures are required. Guidance is often published some time after any headline announcements.

The Government stated that from 17 May restrictions are to be eased and more responsibility placed on friends and family to be sensible.

Therefore, we have carefully assessed the numbers that each WSCC ceremony room will safely contain with a one metre distance plus mitigating factors, such as face coverings for guests and sanitiser rather than two metres, as per our previous risk assessment, whilst still allowing at least two metres between the registrars and couple.

They are your family and friends at your ceremony and, if you would prefer to remain with plenty of room (or if they are vulnerable/unvaccinated), then you may not wish to invite any more than can socially distance at two metres.

You may also wish to take additional steps and encourage your family to take COVID-19 lateral flow tests (freely available from pharmacies) to ensure that you all feel safer, both at the ceremony and at any celebration you may be planning afterwards, particularly if you are mixing age groups with different vaccination status. However, a negative lateral flow test does not mean anyone can get closer than two metres to the registrars.

During this period, you will need to bring your own device and speakers to play your chosen music. Your guests are legally required to wear face coverings, unless they are exempt. The couple do not need to wear a face covering.

Numbers of guests in our ceremony rooms

Who counts as a guest? All those you invite, such as:

  • guests
  • witnesses
  • any other person you invite to be present (including children of any age, or those employed by you, such as a photographer).

Registration officials are not counted in these numbers.

Chichester

  • Richmond Room - 20 guests.
  • Warnham Room - not currently available, with ceremonies taking place in the Richmond Room.
  • Cowdray Room - not currently available, with ceremonies taking place in a larger room where 6 guests are permitted.

Crawley

  • Balcony Room, Southgate Avenue - 10 guests.
  • Henshall Ceremony Suite, Southgate Avenue - 26 guests.
  • West Sussex Register Office, Southgate Avenue - the couple and 2 witnesses only. This number is the maximum that may attend at any time. These ceremonies are currently held in the reception area, which is big enough to enable social distancing.

Horsham

  • Drawing Room, Park House - 18 guests.
  • Chairman’s Room, Park House - not currently available, with ceremonies taking place in the Drawing Room. When ceremonies resume in this room, it will hold 8 guests.

Worthing

If you have a specific question about our rooms that is not covered here, please contact us. We are very busy and dealing with requests about ceremonies already booked this year as a priority. We will do our best to get back to you within 10 working days.

3 New bookings for ceremonies

We are taking new bookings for ceremonies in our WSCC ceremony rooms this year. However, there is limited space for ceremonies and notice appointments. We are giving priority to those couples who have had ceremonies cancelled during the lockdown periods.

We have very little availability for these rooms before September and no availability for the statutory register office in Crawley before November.

If you would like to book one of our rooms, complete the ceremony enquiry form. Consider where you would like to hold your ceremony before completing the form. Information about our rooms is available through View our ceremony rooms. You can also find out what current restrictions at our venues are

We are taking bookings for registrars to attend ceremonies at licensed venues. Ensure you leave enough time to book your notice appointment as there are limited slots available. To check registrar availability for your required date, complete the ceremony enquiry form. We will contact you as soon as we are able.

4 Notices of marriage or civil partnership

About notice appointments

Appointments to give notice are only available in Chichester, Crawley, Horsham and Worthing to enable social distancing. Wear a face covering to enter the building for your booked appointment. Do not book or attend an appointment if you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

New notice appointments

We are giving priority to couples who have pre-booked ceremonies due to take place in the next four months.

You can find information about notice regulations and how to book a notice appointment on Arrange a notice appointment.

Expired notices

If your ceremony has been postponed and your original notice has expired, you will need to give notice again. Notices of marriage or civil partnerships are valid for one year from the date given and cannot be extended.

5 The ceremony during restrictions

From 21 June 2021, ceremonies will no longer be required to be shortened to include only the minimum legal requirements, as per Government guidance. However, whilst social distancing remains, and the country is still in a pandemic, please take note of below.

Affected aspects of the ceremony

Aisle/giving away

Making an entrance with an escort may not be advisable if you wish to maintain social distance from each other and all your seated guests. However, with the emphasis from 17 May being to allow family and friends more freedom to make their own assessment of personal risk to themselves and their loved ones, this is now allowed, provided you are content that the escort may be closer to yourself and your guests.

Readings

We are unable to include readings at ceremonies either in our WSCC ceremony rooms or at licensed venues. This rule is relaxed from 21 June 2021.

Ring exchanges

Couples are welcome to exchange rings. However, registrars cannot touch or hold the rings.

Hand hygiene

Hands should be sanitised or washed before anyone enters the ceremony room and before signing the legal paperwork.

Photographs

Any photographer you employ to attend one of our ceremony rooms counts as an attendee. Photographs must be taken with care to ensure social distancing, particularly for the registrars. Guests are welcome to take photographs from their seats.

Certificates

Certificates will be posted in the week following the ceremony after the registrar has completed the legal formalities.

What will happen at the ceremony

The marriage ceremony will consist of:

  • Welcome
  • The couple repeating declaratory and contracting words after the registrar
  • Exchange of rings
  • Signing of legal documents by couple, witnesses and registrars
  • Conclusion.

The civil partnership signing/ceremony will consist of:

  • Welcome
  • The couple reading legal declaration aloud (optional)
  • Signing of legal documents by couple, witnesses and registrar
  • Making formal promises to each other (optional)
  • Exchanging rings (optional)
  • Conclusion.

The following aspects are not able to take place in any ceremonies:

  • Readings and additional promises. This is allowed from 21 June 2021.

Before your ceremony you will be asked to complete a choices form. This will avoid delays on your day and allow you to indicate your choice of legal words.

Please do not complete this form if your ceremony is after 21 June 2021, as we are waiting for it to be updated.

If you have already completed your choices form and you wish to include readings or additional promises please email ceremonies with these stating the time, date and location of your wedding, and we will check and add them. These additions should not contain religious content.

6 Further questions

If you have any further questions contact us. Our team is currently extremely busy and we will get back to you as soon as we are able to.

If you have an urgent enquiry about a ceremony or notice appointment that is occurring in the next week (for example, if you are ill and unable to attend) please call us on 01243 642122.

Last updated:
15 June 2021
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