Weddings in the Church of England during Lockdown III from 6th January 2021
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 3) and (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 come into force on 6th January 2021 and make the following relevant amendments to the The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020:
- The whole of England becomes subject to enhanced Tier 4 restrictions; and
- the expiry date of the Regulations is extended from 2nd February to 31st March 2021
The Tier 4 restrictions on weddings in the Church of England are:
- A Church of England wedding may take place in church provided that no more than 6 persons are present (excluding the officiating minister and any verger or similar who is working at the wedding) and that all the required precautions to make the building and gathering as Covid-secure as possible have been taken and are followed.
- A wedding is also permitted to take place in a hospital, hospice or a private home where one of the parties to the marriage is seriously ill and not expected to recover provided that an Archbishop’s Special Licence has been issued and that no more than 6 persons are present (excluding the officiant and anyone else working).
The Government issued supporting Guidance on 4th January which states that weddings should only take place in exceptional circumstances and cites a couple of examples.
What is the difference between legislation and guidance? To find out exactly what the rules are during the coronavirus pandemic it is necessary to look at both legislation and government guidance. Legislation sets out legal obligations and restrictions that are enforceable by law. If you do not abide by the legislation you are breaking the law. Guidance and advice is likely to be based on legislation (in which case it will be legally binding) and it might offer the best or most appropriate way to adhere to the law.
The legislation is what you must do; the guidance might be a mixture of what you must do and what you should do.
The legislation allows weddings in Church with up to 6 persons and, what we term ’emergency weddings’ by Special Licence in hospital, hospice or home where a party is terminally ill. The guidance is, in some ways, more restrictive than the legislation in that it says that any wedding should only take place in exceptional circumstances. The guidance cites examples of exceptional circumstances as being emergency marriages and/or those where one of the parties is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.
These are examples of ‘exceptional circumstances’ and there may be other situations which might also amount to exceptional circumstances under which a wedding might still be able to take place in Church with the maximum of 6 persons present (excluding the officiating minister) which the legislation permits. It will be necessary to consider the individual circumstances in each case to assess whether a particular wedding should proceed even where, in strict legal terms, it can proceed.
The Faculty Office
5th January 2021