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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice.

Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies during the coronavirus pandemic

From 29 March

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies can go ahead with 6 people attending (the couple plus 4 guests), subject to social distancing measures.

No earlier than 12 April

15 people are able to attend (the couple plus 13 guests), subject to social distancing measures, in premises that are permitted to be open. The government guidance provides more information about which premises may open to host a wedding or civil partnership ceremony. 

Based upon this guidance, we believe that it is the venue’s decision as to whether they are able to open for a ceremony to proceed.  If they are permitted to be open for a ceremony in line with the wording above and providing that we are content that it is a Covid-secure working environment for our Ceremony Officers, we will attend to conduct ceremonies as planned. 

Couples are recommended to contact their venue as soon as possible to discuss whether they will be able to proceed with ceremonies as planned.

No earlier than 17 May

30 people are able to attend (the couple plus 28 guests), subject to social distancing measures.

No earlier than 21 June

No limits on attendance numbers.

These dates are subject to the 4 tests outlined in the government’s roadmap being met at each step. 

Attendance numbers

The guidance confirms that:

  • the maximum number of attendees includes everyone attending the ceremony, including the couple, witnesses and guests
  • it doesn't include anyone working, for example registrars, photographers, security, staff employed by the venue, third-party suppliers or catering staff

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 guests

Dorchester Register Office


King George V Pavilion, Ferndown


Gillingham Town Hall


Mountfield, Bridport


Sherborne Council Chamber


Swanage Town Hall


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

  • hand washing 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.

If you have not already done so, you should contact your venue to confirm that your ceremony can go ahead and 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.

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 to discuss your options. Please include the date of your ceremony in the subject field.

Notice of marriage or civil partnership appointments

If you need to give notice of marriage or civil partnership, appointments can be booked at our Dorchester, Ferndown, Gillingham, Wareham and Weymouth offices.

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