Coronavirus England: New rules revealed as weddings resume

Fathers cannot walk their daughter arm-in-arm down the aisle and couples must wash their hands before and after exchanging rings in post-lockdown weddings.

New rules issued by the Government today also ban receptions when the ceremonies are allowed to restart with up to 30 people in England from Saturday.

The plans are intend to maintain social distancing at weddings as the coronavirus pandemic continues but will reduce the big day to little more than a formality.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week gave permission for weddings to recommence as part of a widespread easing of lockdown restrictions. 

More than 250,000 weddings usually take place in the UK each year, but most couples have been affected by restrictions that came into force in March. 

Here are some of the new rules which will make for very different weddings: 

CEREMONIES – Keep distanced during ‘short’ ceremonies

The new rules urge people from different households to maintain social distancing between one another, which will be ‘one metre plus’ from Saturday.

They say this ‘may require marriages or civil partnerships to be adapted to remove practices that would otherwise have brought people into contact with one another, unless required for the marriage or civil partnership to be legally binding’.

The guidance adds that ‘where this is the case precautions should be put in place to minimise contact and ensure the timeframe is as short as possible’.

This means that fathers will be unable to walk their daughter arm-in-arm down the aisle – and people from different households will be banned from hugging or kissing.

Couples have been told that ceremonies should only be done in a ‘Covid-19 secure environment’ and be ‘kept as short as reasonably possible’.

This means they should be limited to the parts of the ceremonies that are required so that the marriage or civil partnership can be legally binding.

Fathers will not be able to walk their daughter arm-in-arm down the aisle as part of social distancing measures to keep people from different households at least one metre apart

Small reception celebrations can only be held if they are groups of up to two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors

RECEPTIONS – Maximum of only two households indoors 

The Government has asked that the number of attendees at the service should ‘ideally be kept to a minimum as far as possible’, but will allow up to 30 to attend.

At a glance: What are the rules for weddings from this Saturday? 

  • Members of different households must maintain social distancing, so fathers cannot walk daughters arm-in-arm down the aisle
  • Couples must wash their hands before and after exchanging rings  
  • Receptions are limited to two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors
  • Up to 30 people are allowed at the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses, officiants and guests, and staff not employed by the venue
  • No food or drink is allowed to be consumed ‘unless required for the purposes of solemnisation’ 
  • There should be no singing during the service or use of instruments which have to be blown into 
  • Spoken responses should ‘not be in a raised voice’ 
  • If a small child is involved, they should be held a parent, guardian or member of that child’s household 
  • Couples should consider using recordings instead of singing
  • Organs music is allowed but they must be cleaned before and after
  • Books, reusable and communal resources such as service sheets, prayer mats, or devotional material should be removed from use 

This includes the couple, witnesses, officiants and guests, and staff not employed by the venue, which may include photographers, security or caterers. However it does not include staff employed by the venue.

The guidance adds that ‘any receptions that typically follow or accompany marriages or civil partnerships are strongly advised not to take place’.

Small celebrations can only be held if they are groups of up to two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors.

DURING THE SERVICE – No singing or shouting allowed

Meanwhile people have been told to avoid ‘singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult’.

This is because of the potential for encouraging shouting which would raise an increased risk of transmission of Covid-19 from aerosol and droplets.

It means spoken responses ‘should also not be in a raised voice’ – and singing and playing of instruments that are blown into should be avoided.

If it is required for a ceremony, one person should be allowed to sing or chant, and the ‘use of plexi-glass screens should be considered to protect guests’.

The Government has suggested couples consider using recordings instead of singing. Organs are also allowed but must be cleaned before and after. 

All guests should follow social distancing guidance – and venues should look at changing seating layouts, improve ventilation and use face coverings.

The guidance also states: ‘Visitors should avoid touching property belonging to others, such as shoes which, if removed, should be placed and collected by their owner while adhering to social distancing principles.’

For the exchanging of rings during the ceremony, hands ‘should be washed before and after’ and the ‘rings should be handled by as few people as possible’.

And where a small child is involved, they should be held a parent, guardian or member of that child’s household.  

People have been told to avoid 'singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult' - which means sung hymns will be banned

People have been told to avoid ‘singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult’ – which means sung hymns will be banned

For the exchanging of rings during the ceremony, hands ‘should be washed before and after’ – otherwise they would not be permitted

RITUALS – no full immersion or washing others’ body parts

Any washing rituals should now be done before arrival at the venue, and people ‘should not wash the body parts of others’, according to the rules.

Full immersion should also now be avoided, and all others present should stand distant from any splashes and stay socially distanced.

Full immersion can sometimes take place before Jewish wedding ceremonies, when a woman goes into a mikveh pool before the ceremony to achieve purity.

Christians can also be baptised through full immersion, but this would be unlikely to take place at a wedding itself. 

Washing of feet can also happen at Christian ceremonies to represent Jesus Christ washing the feet of his disciplines as a symbol of humility.

Concerns raised over possible surge in forced marriages as lockdown is eased

Campaigners fear there could be a spike in forced marriages as coronavirus lockdown restrictions continue to relax in the UK and once quarantine rules are lifted.

Charities say during the pandemic they have seen a surge in calls from people worried their parents are increasingly intent on marrying them off after living in close quarters amid the crisis.

They warn parents could now be planning to take their children abroad for weddings against their will as soon as laws on self-isolating for 14 days on return to the UK are scrapped.

The warnings came as data gathered by the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) leading the Government’s work on tackling the crime indicated a rise in the number of LGBT victims and revealed more than a quarter of cases for which the unit provided advice last year involved children.

Figures indicated the largest number of cases were linked to Pakistan.

The FMU dealt with 1,355 suspected cases last year. 

Between 2008 and 2019, 2,452 Forced Marriage Protection Orders were granted in UK courts in a bid to rescue victims.

The Government branded forced marriage a ‘hidden crime’, admitting that the figures fell short of revealing the true scale of abuse. 

Venue managers have also been urged to take steps to prevent visitors from touching or kissing any objects which are handled communally.

Books, reusable and communal resources such as service sheets, prayer mats, or devotional material should also be removed from use.

But single use alternatives can be provided as long as they are removed by the attendee, and people can also bring personal prayer mats or religious texts.

Venue managers have also been asked to discourage cash donations and continue to use online giving resources where possible.

Religious communities have been told to adapt traditional aspects which might have seen celebrations take place over many hours or even days.

No food or drink is allowed to be consumed at the ceremony ‘unless required for the purposes of solemnisation’, according to the rules. 

DRESS FITTING – Dresses in quarantine and face masks

Bridal shops reopened on June 14, putting in measures such as plastic Champagne flutes, dresses put in quarantine and face masks for fittings. 

Since reopening, the Bristol branch of third-generation family business Allison Jayne Bridalwear has introduced a range of measures to comply with new rules.

Customers must book in for an appointment, which lasts between 90 minutes and two hours – with a 30-minute clean taking place before the next slot.

Brides-to-be choosing their gowns are allowed to bring one person with them, with FaceTime and Skype used to include other friends and family members.

Hand sanitiser, face masks and disposable gloves are available, with face coverings worn by both brides-to-be and staff in the changing rooms.

Once a dress has been tried on, it is sprayed with disinfectant fabric spray and quarantined for 72 hours.

Champagne is poured into glittery plastic disposable glasses, with a poster displaying coronavirus guidelines on view as people enter the shop.

Customers showing symptoms or feeling unwell are instructed to reschedule their appointments.

Face coverings are worn by bride to be Jessica Letheren and bridal consultant Felicity Gray during a dress fitting appointment at Allison Jayne Bridalwear in Clifton, Bristol, last Thursday

Face coverings are worn by bride to be Jessica Letheren and bridal consultant Felicity Gray during a dress fitting appointment at Allison Jayne Bridalwear in Clifton, Bristol, last Thursday

Church bells will sound again as C of E bosses tell bellringers they can start socially-distanced chiming from July 4 after three months of silence 

Church bells will peal again for the first time in three months from this Sunday after the Church of England agreed new social distancing rules when services resume this weekend.

Bellringers will wear masks, stand at least one metre apart and perform for no longer than 15 minutes at a time – but they will not have to wear gloves because the ropes may become too slippery.

England’s 5,000 churches have only been open for a few weeks for private prayer and were shut completely after Boris Johnson imposed lockdown in March. Some have criticised church leaders for failing to push to open earlier to better support the communities they serve during Britain’s worst health crisis for a generation.

Bellringers will be back this weekend as church services begin again on Sunday in some good news for Christians

Bellringers will be back this weekend as church services begin again on Sunday in some good news for Christians

From Sunday communion will be limited to the bread, the sharing of the Peace will not be allowed while hymns ‘are not advised’ and communal bibles must be put away.

But in happier news, according to the Central Council of Bell Ringers, ringing will be included in the resumption of church services to remind people Sunday is the ‘Lord’s Day’.

A meeting with the Church of England’s Recovery Group confirmed that senior clergy are 100 per cent committed to making ringing part of the return of church activities but ringers have been told that initially they must not ‘practice or self-indulge.’

Spokesman for the Central Council Vicki Chapman said ‘ The CoE has stated that it would be really good to get ringing going again, letting the bells proclaim that the church is open and wanted.

‘We are particularly cautious of any misinterpretation of the drop in the UK Government’s social distancing rule from 2 metre to 1 metre `which represents a ten-fold increase in risk.

‘Our return to ringing will be cautious, socially distanced ringing, for a very limited period of 15 minutes, and only for services.

‘Ringing three or four bells for 15 minutes for a service is not what keeps most of us ringing and the novelty is going to wear off quite soon. It could also be a long time before peals are possible and we won’t be able to do any teaching.

‘But it is essential for us getting ringing going again. The church values our contribution and we have managed to get them to include us in their plans. But if we do not get bells ringing for Sunday service in this early phase of resumption, it will slow down the full opening up.

‘Dates are still to be finalised but some Dioceses have already said they expect to have church services running after July 4.’

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