Getting Married or forming a Civil Partnership at the Register Office during Covid-19 restrictions
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies can now go ahead with 6 people including the couple. View the planned changes for after 29 March 2021.
We understand that you may have several questions about your wedding or civil partnership ceremony, or about what attending a ceremony as a guest will be like during this time of restrictions. The following information will help you but please do not hesitate to contact us before the ceremony with any further questions.
We want to manage your expectations while following government guidelines that are relevant to the duration of your ceremony and a social distancing arrangement of 2 metres.
Numbers of attendees
The numbers permitted at wedding or civil partnerships are:
|The Statutory Marriage room||The couple being married or forming a civil partnership and two witnesses only. Monday to Thursday mornings only.|
|The Tyne Suite||The couple being married or forming a civil partnership, and up to 4 guests. Any children aged 2 or over are included in the guest numbers. Monday to Saturday only.|
|The Ravensworth Suite||The couple being married or forming a civil partnership, and up to 12 guests. Any children aged 2 or over are included in the guest numbers. Monday to Saturday only.|
These numbers are based on a 2-metre social distancing model and are there to protect staff and visitors. The registrar will not proceed with the wedding/civil partnership if there are more people than permitted in the marriage room.
Children attending the ceremony
Children aged 2 and over are classed as a guest and must be included in the total number of people present. Children must always be supervised and seated. Children under 2 must remain in a pram or pushchair, or be on an adults' knee whilst in the marriage room.
Changes to permitted numbers of guests
We do not know if the numbers set out above will change. These numbers are set for the foreseeable future. The government may review or change these numbers, either by increasing or decreasing them as they need to. We are not consulted or given advance notice of any changes to government restrictions. We cannot comment on how many people might attend your wedding or civil partnership at a future given date. We will tell you when any changes are made which affect you but before then you must make the best decision about your wedding or civil partnership based on current restrictions and information.
Changes to ceremonies
In accordance with government guidelines, ceremonies are being reduced in length and in a way to reduce contact with other people at the ceremony.
For all ceremonies at the Register Office:
- there will be standard ceremony chosen by the Registrar
- you will still be allowed to choose the vows that you want to say
- there will be no readings by guests
- there will be no singing by guests or musicians
- you will be allowed recorded music, but musicians or singing is not permitted
- there will be restrictions on photographs
- throwing of confetti is not allowed as it requires close contact with other people
- the rings can be handed to the bride or groom by the best man or woman or other guest can pass them to you - the registrar will not touch the rings and will maintain a 2 metre distance from the couple being married and all guests throughout the ceremony
- someone can still give the bride away provided they maintain an appropriate distance from the registrars
- there will be a maximum of two witnesses allowed to sign the marriage register or civil partnership schedule with you
- the registrar will have a pen available with which you can sign the register, sanitiser will be available
- the registrars will be unable to shake hands with you at the end of the ceremony
- Only one wedding or civil partnership will be permitted in the building at any one time. Guests who are late will not be allowed into the ceremony. Guests who are too early will be asked to wait outside. The wedding or civil partnership party will be collected by the Registrar from the main entrance at the appropriate time.
- The seating in our ceremony rooms will be set out in socially distanced way to ensure that everyone is 2 metres apart. We will ask you to sit on an allocated seat and not to move the furniture.
- We require all guests over the age of 11 to wear a face covering.
- Once the ceremony has finished and a photograph has been taken in the ceremony room, the whole wedding/civil partnership party will be shown out of the register office. Once you have left the building guests will not be allowed in again, for example to use the toilets. Photographs can be taken outside if you wish.
Timescales for arrival
- Statutory marriage/civil partnership/civil partnership: all the party arrive together at the time of your booking 15 minutes before the ceremony
- Civic Centre:Groom/Bride and Guests - 30 minutes before the start of the ceremony.
Bride/Groom 15 Minutes before the ceremony if arriving separately.
We appreciate the challenges of timekeeping and traffic. However if you are late for your ceremony it may be cancelled, rescheduled or shortened to meet other commitments with our other ceremonies and appointments.
Please advise your guests accordingly.
- Only one wedding or civil partnership party is allowed in the building at any one time and no more than the maximum number of guests will be allowed into the marriage room.
- There are signs throughout the building to guide visitors along the correct route and signs to remind visitors to maintain a 2 metre social distance.
- The Registrars have a personal choice whether to wear PPE or not and may be wearing a combination of a visor, face covering or gloves, but it is their individual choice whether to wear any of it or not. We ask you to respect their decision should they choose to wear it.
- We require all guests over the age of 11 to wear a face covering
- All guests must use hand sanitiser as they enter the building and is provided for use at the entrance.
- There will be no toilet facilities available at the Register Office.
- Once guests leave the building, they can't come back in.
- The ceremony rooms in the Register Office will be set out to meet a 2 metre social distancing system. You must sit in a designated seat only and not move the furniture. Even though guests are from the same household you must follow our seating arrangements. The Registrar will discuss seating with you on the day.
- The Registrar has the right to ask anyone at a wedding or civil partnership ceremony to leave if they have Covid-19 symptoms. Guests should not be attending the ceremony if they have Covid-19 symptoms and should be following the appropriate government advice.
Ceremony changes or cancellations
There is a chance that your ceremony may be changed or cancelled after you have booked it.
We will respond to government instructions about any further restrictions or lockdowns which might be introduced as a result of Covid-19. If your marriage or civil partnership must be rescheduled, cancelled or is changed in any way, we will contact you about this and discuss your options with you. We do not have any advance knowledge about changes to restrictions before the government makes them. We do not know how long these restrictions will last for, when they will be reviewed or how they might change. We can only tell you what we know and let you make an informed choice about your wedding or civil partnership.
We will only make changes when we must, and we will keep you updated if we are told by the government of any changes which affect your wedding or civil partnership.
We understand the importance of and role of photographers and videographers on your special day. The following advice will help to ensure that everyone is safe whilst making the most of the wedding ceremony.
Restrictions for photographers at wedding and civil partnership ceremonies
Only one official photographer can attend the ceremony. If you have more than one photographer or videographer, they must take the place of one of your guests to ensure the maximum number of people allowed in the room is not exceeded.
It is important that photographers and videographers make contact with the registrars on the day of the wedding or civil partnership before the ceremony starts. This will allow us to work together to make the best of the occasion but still maintain the safety of our staff and you and your guests.
For photographs, one official photographer (who can be a designated guest) can:
- Stand at the front of the room (socially distanced apart from the registrars and others) and take photographs throughout the ceremony. They will also have an opportunity to take one photograph only of the couple after they have signed the register. There will not be an opportunity for group photographs or photographs with other guests including witnesses and parents inside of the ceremony room. There will be one photograph of the couple in the ceremony room only but more can be taken outside of the civic centre or after the ceremony at a venue.
- Guests will only be able to take photographs from their seats during the ceremony and cannot come forward to the front of the room to take photographs.
- At an approved venue, photographs before and after the ceremony should be arranged with the hotel or venue.
- At the register office, all photographs will be restricted to being taken in the ceremony room only. There will no opportunity for any photographs at the flower wall, the civic reception or the waiting rooms. Further photographs can be taken outside of the building once the wedding has finished but we will not be in attendance for these.
On 22 February the Prime Minister announced his plans for emerging from the current lockdown and presented a roadmap with a step-by-step plan to ease restrictions in England. The plans apply to all areas of England from the dates specified, but are subject to the four tests outlined in the roadmap being met at each step.
Marriages and Civil Partnerships in England
Current national restrictions remain in place and there are no changes for marriages and civil partnerships in England prior to 29 March. The changes planned are:
- Step 1 (2nd stage): From 29 March - Legal limit of 6 attendees but no longer limited to 'exceptional circumstances'
- Step 2: No earlier than 12 April - Legal limit of 15 attendees
- Step 3: No earlier than 17 May - Legal limit of 30 attendees
- Step 4: No earlier than 21 June - No legal limit on attendees (subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme - from April the government will run pilots for events such as large weddings to help determine how measures such as enhanced testing might allow large groups to attend without social distancing.)