For England, on 3 August the MHCLG issued updated Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships in England. The guidance
“applies only to marriages and civil partnerships taking place in England under the law of England and Wales. Religious ceremonies (those not taking place under the law of England and Wales), belief ceremonies, blessings, or other non-statutory ceremonies are not covered, and those wishing to conduct them should refer to other guidance on gatherings … In particular, for religious ceremonies you should refer to the places of worship guidance.”
However, there are two passages in the guidance that seem to be equally relevant to religious weddings as to civil ones:
“Wedding receptions or parties should not currently be taking place and any celebration after the ceremony should follow the broader social distancing guidance of involving no more than two households in any location or, if outdoors, up to 6 people from different households. The roadmap set out the ambition of allowing small wedding receptions. This means sitdown meals for no more than 30 people and subject to Covid-19 Secure guidance. This change will not take place until at least 15 August, at the earliest” [emphasis added: the guidance was further updated on 4 August but the passages quoted were unchanged].
“From 8 August, face-coverings will be required by law to be worn in a greater number of public indoor settings including: museums, galleries, cinemas, places of worship, and public libraries. Please be mindful that there are valid exemptions for some individuals and groups to not wear a face-covering in these settings” [emphasis added].
For Wales, the Regulations were further updated from 3 August – the latest version (with tracked changes) has been published as The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020, as amended with the changes illustrated:
- Regulation 15 regarding outdoor activity has now been replaced by Regulation 14A, which allows gatherings outdoors for any purpose by up to 30 people (subject, of course, to maintaining social distancing etc). Gatherings of more than 30 people are permitted to, among other things, “provide voluntary or charitable services”.
- Regulation 16(2), requiring work or the provision of voluntary or charitable services to be from home where practicable, has now been repealed.
Cafés may now reopen indoors as well as outdoors, subject to following the guidance from the Welsh Government published on 31 July; however, the restrictions on the use of community centres (and, by extension, the community use of places of worship) in Regulation 10(4) remain in force. The Welsh Government has now published detailed guidance on this: places of worship wishing to host childcare or other public services in their buildings should, therefore, contact their local authority for advice and permission to do so. [With thanks to Gethin Rhys.]