Couples due to get married had hoped that from 1 August, receptions of up to 30 people would be allowed in England. That’s what the government had planned for the next stage of lockdown easing.
But last week, they put back the date, and receptions can still only be attended by a group of six people outside, or two households inside.
It means many brides and grooms have rehashed their plans once, and now have to cancel or change them again.
Others, however, have gone on to celebrate within the restrictions.
‘Heartbreaking to see her face’
For Justin Dew and his fiancee, Kay, their day on 14 August will be a far cry from the 90-guest wedding they had originally planned. The couple had cut the guest list to 30 but, following the latest announcement, have cancelled their reception completely. However, they are going ahead with the ceremony.
“We thought about it and we’ve decided that the most important thing is to get married,” says Justin, 43, from Essex.
“We we want something positive to come out of this so come hell or high water we’ll be husband and wife on 14 August.”
The couple plan to broadcast the ceremony – which will be attended by 10 people, the maximum that can fit safely in the small register office – via Facebook. “I’ve got family abroad so we’ve decided to stream the wedding as a Facebook Live so that if they can’t come to us they can be with us in another way,” says Justin.
“Our honeymoon is booked to Spain, would you believe. We’ll probably cancel that as we can’t isolate.”
Justin says he is gutted. “It’s been in planning for over a year and although we’ll get married we won’t share it with everyone.
“It’s heartbreaking, my missus has put so much effort into everything. It’s heartbreaking to see her face.”
But he adds: “I’m just happy that through technology we can still share the day with friends and family. It’s not what we could have had but luckily we can still share the day.
“August was meant to be the most exciting month for us but at least we can still get married, that’s the main objective.”
‘We’ve had an amazing day’
The announcement that restrictions would no longer be easing on 1 August – and therefore no wedding receptions – came only the day before Steph Taylor’s wedding.
But Steph, and her groom Rob, decided they could still get married – despite having to cancel their 30-person reception – and celebrate in a socially-distanced fashion.
“The day before [our wedding] the rug was pulled from under our feet,” Steph says of the moment she found out wedding receptions were no longer allowed.
“We just didn’t want to have to cancel, we just made the best of a bad situation.
“We married at 12:00 – just us and six guests, then went for a lovely lunch with champagne together afterwards.”
Steph, who runs a balloon business in Buxton, says some friends and family were able to join them at a pub for some “socially distanced celebratory drinks”.
They were also sure to take plenty of photos and share them with loved ones who were not able to pop by.
It was then back to their house for a dance in their back garden.
“We had a live band and danced our first dance on the back lawn, it was perfect!” Steph says. “Our neighbours down the street were in their gardens dancing and clapping.
“We had an amazing day!”
What are the rules for weddings?
Wedding ceremonies or civil partnerships (but not receptions) with up to 30 guests have been allowed since 4 July in England and the government has published guidelines on how to have a “Covid-secure” wedding.
The guidelines list a series of restrictions, including that no food or drinks should be consumed as part of the ceremony and hands should be washed before and after the exchanging of rings.
Northern Ireland has allowed outdoors weddings with 10 people present since early June. Wales and Scotland also now allow wedding ceremonies to take place, but social distancing must be observed, and big gatherings are not allowed.
At present, receptions can only be attended by six people outside or two households inside.
A planned relaxation in restrictions to allow a total of 30 people to attend wedding receptions from 1 August has been put back until 15 August at the earliest.
‘Three separate receptions’
Jane Watson and Dom Horsley, from York, are due to get married next weekend. Before the virus, the couple’s plan was for a small ceremony with immediate family in Leeds and then a “big party” a couple of days later – but that prospect was axed when lockdown started.
They then hoped to have a reception of 30 people in Jane’s parents’ garden. But after the government rowed back on allowing receptions, they’re now looking at other ways they can celebrate.
“Luckily the wedding is still going ahead in some form or another,” says Dom. “We want to get married. We love each other. And we’re really hopeful we can do it in some way.
“And whether that means that we end up having to have sort of three separate receptions afterwards where we put groups of six people and go around and see them for a few hours… We just want to do it whatever form we can.”
“It’s been pretty stressful,” Jane adds.
“I realise there are more important things going on but for us it’s quite stressful, we’re just trying to make plans that include people that also stick by the guidelines.”
She says one of the worst things is that Dom’s elderly grandparents will not be able to come. “We’re trying to include them in some way by maybe going to their home so they can at least see us through the window in our wedding stuff.”
‘Frustrated, disappointed and confused’
Alex Barclay and Katharina Lederle have already postponed their wedding once.
The couple were due to celebrate with 90 friends and family in May over two floors of a West End club in London. They then postponed to 6 August and arranged a picnic for 30 people.
But now they say they will probably only have four guests – including a photographer.
“We’re frustrated, disappointed and confused about the government announcement.” Alex says.
“There’s a lack of logic, a lack of consistency to allow people in pubs, but not a socially-distanced wedding.”
They have had to cancel their suppliers, which, Alex says, is having a “massive financial and emotional impact”.
“We knew quite soon we wanted to get married this year,” Katharina says.
“When we heard you could have 30 people outdoors, we thought, ‘great’.”
Now the advice has changed they still hope to get married at Chelsea Town Hall and will possibly have a “little picnic” with their witnesses.
‘Our plans are up in the air’
Kirsty Drake is supposed to be getting married on 15 August in two weeks’ time – when the decision on easing restrictions again is due to be reviewed.
She had finalised plans this week for a small wedding reception but now the restrictions mean she is unable to go ahead with the gathering at her venue after her ceremony.
“I’m a little bit emotional about it today,” she says, speaking the day after the announcement. “Everything is all up in the air again.”
“What I don’t understand is that if I wanted to now I could book six tables in a restaurant outside and sit and have a meal with those same group of people I’ve just got married with. We’d have to [socially distance] at the venue anyway.
“In our situation it would be safer to have a meal at the venue where we are due to get married.”