Couples planning to tie the knot when coronavirus restrictions are eased next month in England should wash their hands before and after exchanging rings, according to government guidance.
The advice states that no more than 30 people should attend a marriage or civil partnership from 4 July, and physical distancing rules must be obeyed.
As part of the lockdown imposed in England in March, all social events were stopped – including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies.
Receptions or parties after weddings should not take place, but small celebrations – with groups of up to two households indoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors – will be permitted.
Services should be concluded in the “shortest reasonable time”, and the guidance adds: “Where the exchanging of rings is required or desired for the solemnisation of the marriage or the formation of the civil partnership, hands should be washed before and after.
“The rings should be handled by as few people as possible.”
It is understood couples who do not live together before a wedding ceremony would be able to exchange rings and kiss, despite the social distancing rules.
Fathers who do not live in the same household as their daughters will be able to walk them down the aisle provided they stay at least 1 metre apart. Walking arm-in-arm would not be advised under the guidance.
The guidance was published alongside advice for the restarting of communal worship on 4 July. Places of worship will be able to hold services for more than 30 people, but distancing guidelines should be adhered to.
Hymn books should be quarantined for 48 hours after use, while worshippers will be advised to take their own religious texts or prayer mats. Donations should be collected via contactless devices or online, where possible, or cash should be placed in a receptacle that is set in one place and not passed around.
Where food and drink is essential to the act of worship, it will be permitted, but the sharing of food should be avoided – as well as the use of communal vessels. Those giving and receiving food should wash their hands before and after consumption, or wear gloves.
Singing, chanting, shouting and the playing of wind instruments should also be avoided because of the potential for increased risk of Covid-19 transmission from aerosol and droplets.
Organs can be played for faith practices, but music should be played at a volume that does not require worshippers to raise their voices.
“Lifecycle events” such as baptisms and bar mitzvahs should also have no more than 30 people present, unless the event is part of a routine communal worship service.