Published May 11th 2021 – With wedding receptions now taking place here in Scotland once again (yay!), we’ve been working our way through the latest Government guidance to try and answer your (many!) questions.
We’ll be adding to this article as more updates appear, and seeking clarity along the way, but here’s what we know so far.
Our aim is to try to simplify things, shoulder some stress and bring the joy back to wedding planning. Ready? Let’s do this!
I’m new to wedding planning, can you fill me in?
While some of our readers are on their 5th or 6th attempt to get married – and are pretty much pros now when it comes to interpreting the ever evolving Scottish Government wedding guidance – we appreciate that this is an incredibly overwhelming situation to find yourself in if you’re new to the Covid-wedding-coaster.
If you’re planning a wedding here in Scotland, then it’s likely that a number of different sets of guidance will be dictating your decisions – primarily the wedding ceremony guidance and wedding reception guidance. But possibly also the retail guidance, close contact services guidance, travel guidance, hospitality and performing arts guidance, and more.
Depending on your plans, the indoor/outdoor socialising (aka gathering) rules may also come into the mix. Then there’s the current Covid protection level to be aware of too.
If this were a Facebook relationship status then the answer would be ‘It’s Complicated’.
Not only that, but the guidance evolves as the overall public health situation changes. So be sure to keep checking it regularly for updates.
Is the wedding guidance a legal requirement?
The Scottish Government wedding ceremony and reception guidance consists of both advisory and legal requirements. Where it states that an activity must take place, then it’s a legal requirement. Where the guidance states that an activity should take place, this is not a legal requirement. However, the Scottish Government strongly advises following the guidance in order to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19.
Furthermore, many of your wedding suppliers will have insurance policies requiring that they follow all available Government guidance.
Believe me when I say, here at WFIL we can’t wait to see the back of all these guidance documents and constant changes either.
But the guidance is there for a reason. And if you are looking for grey areas or loopholes, you may be putting other folks in a very difficult position, or even at risk.
How long will these restrictions last?
Excellent question. And we wish we knew the answer! But what we do know is that Covid cases are continuing to fall here in Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes we’ll see something much more like normality over summer and into autumn. And further removal of physical distancing restrictions once the adult population has been fully vaccinated.
And the National Clinical Director, Jason Leitch has confirmed that the wedding guidance will evolve as the levels change.
While it remains very restrictive currently, this should (hopefully!) mean we will see more welcome developments as the weeks and months go on. However, we must also be aware that Covid has been known to throw more than one curveball since the first lockdown took place.
We appreciate that doesn’t make finalising plans any easier!
Where can I make my views known / campaign for change?
The Scottish Government asked couples getting married in Scotland for their views last year.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Wedding Industry Alliance ran a survey recently to gather the views of couples getting married in Scotland and is continuing to push for key changes.
Formed in 2020, it was created to lobby, promote and represent the interests of the wedding industry in Scotland.
As a Government recognised stakeholder, SWIA has been consulted with regards to this latest set of guidance and is working to represent the issues and challenges faced as the wedding sector reopens. You can follow the SWIA updates on Twitter.
You can also write to your MSP/MP and make your views known.
See full Scottish Government wedding ceremony guidance here – we highly recommend familiarising yourself with this and checking it regularly for updates.
How many people can attend my wedding?
This is dependent on the current Covid Protection Level AND on the capacity of your venue (to allow for physical distancing between households, currently set at 2m apart). Mainland Scotland is expected to enter Level 2 on May 17th (although it is likely that Moray will remain in Level 3 for longer). Meanwhile, most island communities are moving to Level 1 from May 17th, with exceptions including Skye.
Level 0 – 200 max, expected from June 28th for mainland Scotland (closing time: likely to be in line with licensing requirements)
Level 1 – 100 max, expected from June 7th for mainland Scotland (closing time: 11pm)
Level 2 – 50 max, mainland Scotland, most likely excluding Moray, from May 17th (closing time: 10.30pm)
Level 3 – 50 max, from April 26th (closing time: 10pm)
Level 4 – 20 max (from April 26th) – No reception allowed at level 4
The guidance states: “Couples and those responsible for venues should also discourage people unable to attend the ceremony from gathering outside the venue. Such informal gatherings may not be allowed under the law and increase the potential for the transmission of the virus.”
Who is included / not included in the maximum number?
As before, this number includes the couple, their guests (including children), any carers required, and any suppliers such as photographers or musicians employed by the couple.
The celebrant and any required interpreter do not count towards these limits. And venue staff are not counted in the total.
What are the wedding ceremony rules?
The aim here is to keep things as safe as possible, and reduce any potential for transmission. This means that during the pandemic, the ceremony should be kept to a reasonable timeframe. And consideration should be given to adapting traditions such as being walked down the aisle by a parent, in order to account for requirements such as physical distancing.
You can book a singer or musician to perform at the ceremony. And a bagpiper is allowed to play (outside only, unless it’s a type of pipes that isn’t blown into, such as the Scottish smallpipes). So long as the performing arts guidance is adhered to.
The full wedding ceremony guidance contains additional advice for faith specific practices.
If a celebrant considers the arrangements to be unsafe (for example, if more than the permitted number of people are present or arrive part way through), they may stop the ceremony.
Meanwhile venue owners/managers must take action to minimise the potential for spreading Covid-19 among wedding guests, and anyone working within the venue’s buildings and surrounding grounds.
Will we have to wear face masks?
Not during the ceremony if you are the couple getting married. Nor will the person leading the ceremony – so long as the required physical distancing can be maintained.
Your guests will, however, have to wear a face covering if the ceremony is indoors (unless they are exempt).
You should not eat or drink at the ceremony unless this is essential for religious or belief purposes.
Face coverings are not required for outdoor ceremonies.
⚡️ Read the guidance relating to face coverings here
Can I get married at home or in my garden?
The short answer for at home (indoors) is – only in special circumstances.
In your garden – yes you can.
Ceremonies at home indoors (or in another private dwelling) are currently only allowed “where it is not possible for them to take place in a public place”, for reasons such as serious illness or a disability. Physical distancing between households should be strictly observed and numbers must be kept to the “absolute minimum” – (the couple, two witnesses and the registrar, as well as an interpreter, if required).
What is considered to be a “private dwelling” – are private hire properties included in this?
The definition of a private dwelling includes self-contained self-catering and other private hire holiday accommodation. Therefore you cannot hire a property on Airbnb, for example, and hold your wedding ceremony indoors.
The guidance states that the use of private hire exclusive use premises (such as castles and historic houses) for ceremonies will depend on the arrangements in place.
“If the private hire venue is managed and regulated, with venue staff to ensure that the relevant guidance* is being followed, then a ceremony can take place there (both outside and inside).”
What about a village hall / marquee / other DIY style wedding?
A question mark remains over village hall/dry hire type venues currently. As with private hire exclusive use premises, such as castles and historic houses, this is likely to depend on the arrangements in place.
And, as things stand, a marquee at a private dwelling (see above for definition) would fall under the gathering rules – meaning lower numbers of people would be permitted at this time. However, a marquee on public or private land (such as farmland) is covered by the wedding reception guidance, if all the requirements are met.
We appreciate that this is incredibly stressful for those of you in this position. And it is our understanding that the SWIA is working to bring these issues to the attention of the Government.
If you’re unsure if your wedding reception venue meets the Scottish Government requirements, we suggest contacting your local council and asking to speak to trading standards or licensing.
WFIL readers Fiona and James were just about to make some concrete bookings when Covid put their wedding plans in a spin. They were married in a socially distanced ceremony in Loch Ard forest and are planning a bigger celebration at a later date. Photo by Alasdair Watson
⚡️ See the Scottish Government wedding reception guidance here. Again it’s a good idea to keep checking it regularly for updates.
What are we allowed / not allowed to do?
At this time, wedding receptions aren’t like those we enjoyed in pre-Covid times. It might help to picture a dinner with loved ones, rather than a more traditional Scottish wedding reception here. Dancing – aside from a first dance for the couple and their parents (if they are from the same household) – is not currently allowed. Nor is mingling.
In welcome news, however, live music is to be allowed from Level 2. Dancing, however, is not likely to be allowed until Level 0 at the earliest.
Face coverings must be worn other than when eating and drinking. Speeches should be made outside wherever possible and physical distancing should be maintained during them. Food and drink must be via table service and buffets are not allowed.
Cake-cutting may take place with physical distancing being maintained at all times and the numbers of guests involved limited wherever possible, with people remaining seated in their household groups.
Activities that involve objects being thrown (such as confetti or bouquet toss) or passed from person to person should be avoided to reduce the likelihood of transmission.
Other objects in the venue being touched by several people (such as guest books, pens or polaroid camera stations/photo booths) should be minimised and hand sanitisation encouraged both before and after contact. The exchange of cards and gifts during receptions should be minimised wherever possible.
What are the seating rules?
Restrictions on seating arrangements will match indoor hospitality. At the moment, guests should be seated by household and physical distancing must be adhered to in accordance with hospitality guidance.
Is a post-ceremony gathering allowed elsewhere outdoors, such as in my garden or a public place?
The social gathering rules (which change depending on the level) will apply here. The current Level 0 scenario for outdoors is a maximum of 15 people from 15 households (under 12s don’t count in this number, but they do in the other wedding numbers).
Can our guests travel to attend our wedding?
As things stand, as of April 26th, from all parts of the UK – yes.
International travel will remain restricted (a four nations traffic light system is due to apply from May 17th).
It’s been a constantly shifting landscape, so it’s best to keep an eye on the latest updates. For example, in level four, travelling outwith your local authority area to attend a wedding ceremony is only allowed if you are the couple, a witness or the person conducting the ceremony (or an interpreter, if required).
What about hair & makeup? And trying on my wedding outfit?
We’ll be updating this section soon. In the meantime…
What about non legal ceremonies / wedding blessings / vow renewals, etc?
The wedding ceremony guidance applies only to marriages and civil partnerships. Other ceremonies, such as blessings or celebrations of existing marriages, are not covered. For these, the guidance on gatherings applies.
ADVICE & SUPPORT
Our hearts go out to everyone trying to navigate this time. Please know that We Fell In Love and the Scottish wedding community is doing everything it can to support you.
You’ll find the latest updates on our Instagram (we save these into the C19 Scotland highlights folder). And we’ve also created The WFILcircle – a warm, intimate FB group for couples riding the CoronaCoaster to share their hopes and fears, and support each other on their journey to the aisle.
RESPONSIBLE WEDDING INSPIRATION
In order to responsibly inspire – and not add to the confusion over what is and isn’t allowed! – we’re doing our best only to share weddings that complied with the Scottish Government guidance of the time. It’s therefore taking a little longer than usual to sift through all the submissions.
From micro weddings to elopements and two part celebrations, our aim is to help bring back the wedding planning joy – whether you’ve paused your plans or are tying the knot this year no matter what.
A LITTLE TOUGH LOVE
While most couples are doing their absolute best to adhere to the guidance – no matter how heartbreaking it has been at times – we’ve all heard of weddings and events that have not followed the rules. Or of folks looking for loopholes along the way.
Please do think long and hard about whether the celebration you are planning can be carried out in a safe way. Not just for yourselves and your guests, but for the most vulnerable members of society.
By failing to observe the guidance, you are not only putting others at risk, and your suppliers in a really difficult position, but you also risk spoiling it for folks whose wedding is still to come if tighter restrictions are brought back in.
The Scottish Government has reiterated that a cautious approach to remove Covid-19 restrictions remains necessary, and that the brakes can and will be applied via the level system to deal with outbreaks as they arise.
The last thing anyone wants is for all the progress that has been made here in Scotland to be lost.
We all want to see weddings celebrated in true Scottish style again. And by working together to keep each other safe, we’ll get there sooner.
We’ll be looking for further updates and seeking clarity, and will keep you posted. But in the meantime please do get in touch with any questions (you can follow our updates on Instagram and DM us there). We have a wonderful community here and we all want to help each other through this.
⚡️ Link to download new Test & Protect app for Scotland (for residents and visitors)
We’re doing our best to keep you up to date, but please be aware we’re an indie publication with a teeny team. Given that the guidance updates regularly, please keep checking the Scottish Government website for the latest news.
About the author – Christina Golian is the founder and editor of We Fell In Love. She has worked in the Scottish wedding industry as a self-employed wedding photographer since 2007, and founded WFIL in 2012 to inspire couples and showcase Scotland as a wedding destination. Prior to this, Christina was a news and arts journalist, then business magazine editor.