COVID-19 restrictions on weddings

It’s important – in fact, crucial – that we all consider the health and safety of our couples, and their witnesses, as well as ourselves. That’s always been a requirement of celebrants. But Covid-19 demands more of us. The new COVID-19 restrictions on weddings come as no surprise as the world fights on with this deadly coronavirus. Because of how it’s transmitted, it requires us to think of people who are most easily compromised and not just people who are present at the wedding. That includes people in the broader community who are older, who have a disability, or people who are compromised because of pre-existing medical conditions – eg high blood pressure, diabetes, previous treatment for cancer, pneumonia or asthma and so on.

And so, rather than be worried about us catching Covid-19, we should act as if we are infected with the virus and then behave in ways that will best prevent others from catching it.

cover face hygiene covid-19
COVID-19 restrictions on weddings
wash hands covid-19 at weddings

First up, couples should consider postponing their wedding. Asking for how long they should postpone is like asking how long a piece of string is. But the risk of people infecting each other – including those not present at the wedding – is real and awful. Wedding are constructed events. They can also be deconstructed – and then constructed again. We’re all adults – no one should be putting any pressure on any couple re ‘fixing’ a date and sticking to it. Most of my couples have postponed until later this year – others have postponed until 2021 or beyond.

Do you need help to postpone your wedding in Melbourne?

Updated 5 August 2020

Right now, it’s possible for weddings to go ahead in Victoria.

Until 11:59pm 5 August 2020, there are two sets of restrictions in play with reference to weddings in Victoria. The following restrictions will change from 11:59pm 5 August 2020 – from that time, for a period of six weeks, until 13 September 2020, in Greater Melbourne, weddings are banned (unless there are compassionate grounds – ‘compassionate grounds’ and its definitions are implemented through DHHS. Any request for a marriage to go ahead in Melbourne beyond 11:59pm 5 August will need to be referred to DHHS. BDM does not have the jurisdiction to permit a marriage to go ahead against the advice of the Chief Health Officer during this Stage 4 lockdown); in Regional Victoria, Stage 3 restrictions such as those currently operating in Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, will apply. 

The two sets of restrictions are as follows:

1. If you live in the 31 Local Government Areas that comprise Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire:

Weddings held in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire can have a maximum of five people (the couple, two witnesses and the celebrant).

Weddings held in a private residence in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire are limited to the number of people in the household plus the people required to conduct the ceremony. If attending a wedding as the couple to be married, a witness or the celebrant, you must wear a face covering, unless you have a lawful reason for not doing so. Even with a face covering, you should keep 1.5 metres distance between you and others who don’t live with you or who aren’t your partner.

Weddings can be held at a public place such as a park or public garden in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, as long as the above restrictions are in place and are complied with (Source: Business Victoria hotline, 1 August 2020).

From 11:59pm on Sunday 2 August, face coverings will need to be worn by all Victorians over the age of 12 years when they leave home, unless they have a lawful exception.

You cannot travel to a wedding outside of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, if you live in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire, unless you are the celebrant.

If you are from metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire, you cannot hold a wedding outside these areas, even if it has previously been booked. And if you live in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire and you’re invited to a wedding outside of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire as a guest, you cannot attend.

You should not attend a wedding if you are feeling unwell.

2. If you live outside metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire:

Up to 20 people, in addition to the celebrant and couple being married, can attend a wedding. Children are counted in the person limit. The one person per four-square metres rule needs to be followed.

If a wedding is in a home, it will be limited to the members of the household plus a maximum of five visitors, plus the celebrant. If a wedding ceremony is in a restaurant or café, the group maximum is 20, plus the celebrant and the couple.

People who live in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire cannot leave these areas to attend a religious service or a wedding as a guest.

A celebrant from metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire must wear a face covering if attending a wedding outside of these areas.

A recreational facility, such as a community hall, can be used for a wedding. Wedding ceremonies held at a community hall can have up to 20 people in attendance, in addition to the couple and the celebrant. The venue must apply the one person per four-square metres rule. Wedding receptions may have up to 10 people, in line with public gathering limits.

People from metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire cannot book or hold a wedding outside these areas, even if it has previously been booked. You also cannot travel to a wedding outside of metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire as a guest.

If a wedding is held in a home, the restrictions on private gatherings apply. This means that a maximum of five visitors are allowed in the private residence in addition to the members of the household. The celebrant, who is required for the service, is not included in the limit.

If a wedding is held in a restaurant or pub, 20 guests can attend the wedding, plus the celebrant and the couple. However, a wedding reception at a restaurant or café would be subject to the group limit of 10 as well as the other requirements in place for restaurants and cafes.

You can only travel to a wedding outside of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, if you live in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire, if you are the celebrant.

Further restrictions have been introduced for people who live in the City of Greater Geelong and the Shires of Colac Otway, Golden Plains, Moorabool, Surf Coast and the Borough of Queenscliffe – you are no longer be able to have visitors to your home or visit others in their homes, except for necessary goods or services, care or other compassionate reasons, or work or education. That means you cannot hold a wedding in a private residence unless the couple getting married and their two witnesses all live in the same household.

From 11:59pm on Sunday 2 August, face coverings will need to be worn by all Victorians over the age of 12 years when they leave home, unless they have a lawful exception.

You should not attend a wedding if you are feeling unwell.

Victoria Police can issue on the spot fines of up to $1,652 for individuals and up to $9,913 for businesses for:

– refusing or failing to comply with the emergency directions

– refusing or failing to comply with a public health risk power direction

– refusing or failing to comply with a direction by the Deputy Chief Health Officer to provide information.

Fines of up to $20,000 for individuals and $100,000 for businesses are possible through the court system.

And there should be NO hand shaking, kissing or hugging at a wedding in any location, regardless of where it is held in Victoria. None. Not as people arrive, not during the ceremony, not when the couple has been introduced as newlyweds, and not during any celebrations that may occur afterwards.

There should also be no group selfies or group photos, for that matter unless social distancing rules can be applied. People who are present at the wedding ceremony should wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before the signing, and the pen used should be wiped between each person signing.

In my experience, it’s crucial that the celebrant takes a lead role in this – in setting up the ceremony and in making sure the government’s rules are adhered to. Venues where a large number of people are in one place can increase the risk of spreading viruses. Each of us has a responsibility in helping mitigate the risks of COVID-19.

COVID-19 restrictions on weddings means  all weddings will be legals-only ceremonies with  5 people in total – the couple, the celebrant and witness. Social distancing rules apply.

– Bronte Price

We can signal to couples that the government’s rules of social distancing must be adhered to. And, if the couple just can’t agree to that, then we have a choice. We don’t have to be their celebrant. We can actually decline to be their celebrant.

Do you need help to replan your wedding in Melbourne?

COVID-19 is going to be with us for some time yet. As wedding professionals, we have a key role in ensuring that we don’t add to the potential risk and harm that the virus causes. And if we can’t do that, then perhaps we shouldn’t be in this role.

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