By Eleanor Lawrie
BBC News

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Two brides signing a wedding bookimage copyrightGetty Images

Tight restrictions on weddings have been slightly eased as part of England’s lockdown exit plans.

When do England’s wedding rules change?

In England, marriages can now take place, with six people (including the couple) attending. Receptions are not allowed.

  • 12 April (at the earliest): Up to 15 people will be allowed to attend a wedding ceremony and reception, but ceremonies can only take place in places of worship, public buildings and in locations that are already permitted to open, with outdoor receptions only
  • 17 May (at the earliest): Up to 30 allowed at ceremony and reception
  • 21 June (at the earliest): The government aims to remove all limits on social contact, including wedding restrictions
Couple getting married under an archimage copyrightGetty Images

What are the wedding rules in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are currently very restricted. Receptions are not allowed.

  • In Scotland, ceremonies can be held with up to five people, including the couple, witnesses and the officiant
  • In Wales, licensed visitor attractions and hotels can open to hold wedding ceremonies. The maximum number of attendees is determined by the building’s capacity
  • In Northern Ireland, up to 25 people can attend a ceremony, although events with more than 15 people require a risk assessment. Face masks must be worn by guests

In Scotland from 26 April, wedding ceremonies and receptions can resume for up to 50 people, but no alcohol will be allowed at receptions.

In Wales from 12 April, viewings at wedding venues can resume by appointment. From Monday 3 May, wedding receptions can take place outdoors – limited to 30 people.

What should I do if I am due to get married soon?

If your day will be too different from what you wanted, it is generally better to postpone rather than cancel.

But couples ”need to be understanding” of current issues for venues and suppliers, says Henrietta Dunkley of Ellis Jones Solicitors.

Organisers getting a wedding venue readyimage copyrightGetty Images
image captionIt’s been a very difficult time for wedding venues, caterers and florists

Many companies may have lost significant sums of money, so aim for a solution that works for everyone, she advises.

For example, if the wedding was on a Saturday or in peak season and the venue can’t offer an equivalent date, it’s generally reasonable to ask for a fee reduction, or an upgrade.

What are my rights if my wedding couldn’t happen?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published guidance on consumer wedding rights.

This says:

  • If your wedding can’t go ahead without breaching local or national lockdown rules, you’re likely to be entitled to a refund and will not liable for future payments
  • Your refund may also cover a ”non-refundable” deposit, although a venue or supplier can subtract ”limited” costs for services already provided
  • A venue can also withhold money it has spent on your day that it cannot recover, such as on staff planning the wedding, but not for things like general staff costs or building maintenance
  • Suppliers and venues must give you a costs breakdown if they wish to withhold part of your deposit
A wedding dress fittingimage copyrightGetty Images
image captionEven if a wedding can’t take place, couples may need to pay for some of the services already received

Can I claim on wedding insurance?

Wedding insurance should not affect your right to a refund, although you are not entitled to get your money back twice.

Most insurance does not cover a ”government act”, so is unlikely to pay out if lockdowns have affected your wedding, while new wedding insurance policies are unlikely to cover coronavirus.

A cake being decoratedimage copyrightGetty Images
image captionIt’s a good idea to check the rules on cancellation or date changes

A few insurers have paid out under some circumstances, where the wedding was arranged before coronavirus hit.

Some policies will also pay out if your supplier or venue goes bust. If not, you may have to register a claim with the company’s administrator.

Can suppliers and venues charge me more if I postpone?

Businesses are not allowed to just hike up prices.

Ms Dunkley says some couples have found venues were charging them far more for a postponed wedding than if they were a new customer. This is unlikely to be deemed reasonable.

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