Boris Johnson is set to dash the hopes of millions tonight when he delays the June 21 lockdown easing in England.
With cases running at more than 7,000 a day and rising, the Prime Minister is expected to say the Delta variant poses too much of a threat until more people have been double-vaccinated.
A government source said: “It is better to be cautious and have certainty. It is one last heave. It is a straight race between the vaccine and the virus.”
But what about couples planning a wedding?
They’ve spent thousands of pounds each and suffered more than a year of uncertainty as their big day was repeatedly pushed back by lockdowns.
Now some face delaying again. The UK Weddings Taskforce campaign group has claimed venues and businesses will lose £325m per week of delay – with 50,000 marriages planned in the four weeks from June 21.
Or will they? After immense pressure from the weddings industry, there are mixed reports about whether or not the 30-person cap on weddings will be lifted.
Reports and hints from a Tory minister suggest that Boris Johnson – who got married himself just weeks ago – has agreed to ease the rules on nuptials. But we’ll only find out for sure at 6pm tonight.
He added: |I do think the PM should look at weddings again and I think across the house there would be support for that.”
Here’s what the rules say – and what might change tonight.
What are the current rules on weddings?
Since May 17, weddings and receptions have been allowed in England with up to 30 attendees.
These can happen either anywhere outdoors, or in a ‘Covid-secure venue’ indoors (but not an indoor private home).
Despite most indoor gatherings being limited to six people, 30 people can attend weddings and receptions indoors. The 30-person limit does not attend those working at the wedding.
All guests at an indoor ceremony should wear masks – though the official leading the wedding, and the couple getting married, can go mask-free. Guests can be fined £200 if they fail to ‘mask up’ without an exemption.
There are no laws on guests staying two metres apart if they’re from different households, but people are encouraged to exercise “personal responsibility” to keep friends and family safe.
Ceremonies “should be concluded in a reasonable time” and be limited to the bare minimum needed to make a marriage legal. Religious elements should be trimmed back, and no food or drink should be consumed at the ceremony unless part of a religious element.
Musical performances are allowed but only by “professionals” and outdoors is better. No hymns are allowed. Apart from the couple’s first dance, dance floors must remain closed and dancing is not allowed.
What was supposed to change on June 21?
The government had “aimed” to “remove all limits on weddings” in step four of the roadmap from June 21 in England.
This could have meant dancing, singing, 100-guest weddings and mask-free ceremonies all returned at once.
In reality, there was always a possibility some rules could have remained from June 21 even if it happened on time.
This is because the changes ultimately depended on separate reviews on Covid certification and social distancing – which are also due to report back today.
So it was possible that weddings could have gone ahead with no cap on numbers, but with some use of masks and people proving their vaccination status or taking a Covid test before they came.
Free 30-minute Covid tests (‘lateral flow’) are available for free to everyone in England – you can pick them up from your pharmacy or order them online.
Could the wedding rules still change on June 21?
Yes, it seems so.
It now seems abundantly clear that weddings won’t have all restrictions removed on June 21, as some hoped.
But the Times and Telegraph both report there will be an exemption to allow the 30-person cap to be lifted.
At the time of writing, it was unclear if this limit would be lifted outdoors only, or indoors too.
Health minister Edward Argar suggested England’s restrictions on weddings are set to be eased, but gave no detail – and reports even suggest the plan hadn’t been worked out by last night.
“There will be a lot of couples who planned, hoped, to do it, put a line through it, done it again and rescheduled again,” he told Sky News.
“Not only does that cost money, but emotionally that is incredibly difficult for couples who want to have their special day and want to get married.
“Again, I’m not going to pre-empt what the Prime Minister will say later, but I know that weddings and people in that particular situation will be very much in his mind at the moment, it’s one of the things he has been looking at.”