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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice, including help if you are struggling financially

Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies during the coronavirus pandemic

Update to attendance numbers at weddings 

From Monday 28 September, the maximum number of people who can attend weddings and civil partnership ceremonies is 15.

This includes the couple, witnesses and guests. Anyone working at the wedding, including the registrars, photographers or caterers are not included in the maximum of 15.

Please remember that guests at weddings and civil partnership ceremonies including those taking place in the Register Office and indoors at other venues are required to wear a face covering. Face coverings will not have to be worn by the couple or registrars.

Notice of marriage or civil partnership appointments can be booked at our Dorchester, Ferndown, Gillingham, Wareham and Weymouth offices.

We are very pleased that smaller wedding and civil partnership ceremonies can now take place. We are following the government guidance to ensure that these can take place safely. This states that:

  • for the purposes of a marriage ceremony or civil partnership formation, the number of attendees should ideally be kept to a minimum as far as possible. The lower the number of attendees, the lower the risk of spreading the virus. However, we understand the unique significance that marriages and civil partnerships hold in people’s lives.
  • for this reason, up to 15 people, but no more, can attend a marriage or civil partnership, where this can be safely accommodated with social distancing in a COVID-19 venue
  • this maximum number includes all those attending the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses and guests. It does not include anyone working, for example registrars, photographers, security, staff employed by the venue, third-party suppliers or catering staff
  • strict adherence to social distancing is strongly advised. A distance of 2 metres should be kept wherever possible

We have put the measures on this page in place to make all ceremonies COVID-19 secure in line with this guidance to ensure safety of you, your guests and our registrars.

Getting married in the register office or one of our ceremony rooms

Number of guests

The register office and ceremony rooms have been assessed and can accommodate the couple, 2 registrars and the following maximum number of guests (includes any children in attendance and any photographer/videographer):

Number of guests
Ceremony roomNumber of additional guests/others

Dorchester Register Office

2

King George V Pavilion, Ferndown

4

Gillingham Town Hall

10

Mountfield, Bridport

6

Sherborne Council Chamber

4

Swanage Town Hall

8

Social distancing

  • the room will be laid out to enable 2 metre social distancing between all those attending, apart from yourselves
  • access to the building will be strictly limited to this number of people
  • if you have an official photographer/videographer, they will be unable to move around the room during the ceremony and must sit in one of the seats allocated for guests
  • anyone showing any symptoms of COVID-19 or who are self-isolating, clinically vulnerable or shielding in line with government guidance must not attend the ceremony

Hand hygiene

  • handwashing and/or hand sanitising facilities will be available for you and your guests
  • hand sanitiser will also be made available to you during your interview
  • if you will be exchanging rings during the ceremony, you and anyone else handling the rings will need to wash or sanitise your hands immediately before the ceremony
  • any equipment, such as pens, that you will be asked to touch will have been cleaned in advance of your ceremony

Test and Trace

In line with the government guidance, your contact details will be provided to NHS Test and Trace if requested for contact tracing and the investigation of local outbreaks unless you inform us that you wish to opt out.

Other measures

  • where possible, doors and windows will remain open throughout the ceremony to aid ventilation
  • you may be asked to exit the ceremony room through a different door to achieve a one-way system
  • no drinking water will be available so you may wish to bring bottled water with you. Please remember that no other food or drink (including alcohol) can be consumed on the premises for one hour in advance of the ceremony.
  • as long as strict social distancing can be observed, there is no requirement for the registrars to wear face coverings. However, they may choose to wear a plastic face visor or face covering during your interview and ceremony. 
  • in order to reduce the number of people speaking during the ceremony, readings will not be permitted
  • singing or playing of blown instruments during the ceremony will not be permitted
  • guests at weddings and civil partnership ceremonies including those taking place in the Register Office and indoors at other venues are required to wear a face covering. Face coverings will not have to be worn by the couple or registrars. Face coverings will not need to be worn during ceremonies held outdoors. 

Getting married in an approved venue

Most of the register office and ceremony room measures will apply. However, if you have not already done so, you should contact your venue to confirm that your ceremony can go ahead and to discuss the arrangements that they have in place in line with the government’s COVID-19 secure guidance, as well as to confirm the number of guests that they can accommodate.

When are things likely to change?

Unfortunately we have no idea how long the current restrictions will be in place in order to comply with the government guidance on ensuring that ceremonies are COVID-19 secure and whether these will be eased further in the coming months. We will update this page with any new information.

Rescheduling your ceremony

We understand that the limited number of guests may be smaller than you had planned for when you booked your ceremony.

If you would prefer to reschedule your ceremony to a later date when you may be able to have more guests present, please contact us at registrars@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk to discuss your options. Please include the date of your ceremony in the subject field.

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