The rules and guidance for places of worship across the UK have set out specific restrictions that apply to special services and life events.

These are generally more restrictive than for regular worship services, with the rationale being that these events see people attending from different communities who don’t normally interact, and subsequently maintaining social distancing at gatherings such as weddings or funerals is likely to be harder.

Weddings

In England wedding ceremonies will resume from 2 December with a maximum of 15 people attending. This cap does not include anyone working but it does include the couple. Receptions are permitted for up to 15 people in tiers 1 and 2 but not in tier 3. Receptions are not permitted in private homes. 

In Scotland wedding ceremonies are allowed in all areas, but the numbers permitted vary depending on the tier. In tier 0 up to 50 people are allowed to attend, in tiers 1 – 3 up to 20 people, and in tier 4 15 people. The same numbers apply for wedding receptions in tiers 0 – 3. Receptions are not permitted in tier 4

In Wales wedding ceremonies are governed by the same rules as other services at places of worship. The overall capacity for indoor ceremonies is governed by what can safely be accommodated while social distancing is maintained. Outdoors there is a cap of 30 people, not including those under 11 years old. Receptions are permitted with a maximum of 15 people (excluding children under 11) and must take place in a venue permitted to be open and not in private homes.

In Northern Ireland wedding ceremonies can take place in churches during the lockdown which runs until 9 December. A maximum of 25 people can attend, and this includes everyone: children, officiants, the couple and guests. Receptions are not currently permitted. 

Funerals

In England funerals can take place with a maximum of 30 people in attendance. Wakes and other associated events (such as scattering of ashes) can be held with a maximum of 15 people and not in a private home (unless only one household is attending).

In Scotland funerals can take place and the number permitted to attend depends on the tier. In tiers 0 – 3 50 people can attend and this does not include anyone who is working. In tier 4 this is reduced to 20 people. Wakes are permitted in hospitality venues, with 50 people permitted in tier 0 and 20 people in tiers 1 – 4

In Wales funerals are permitted and there is no cap on the number attending, with this governed by the number who can safely be in the venue while social distancing is maintained. There is a cap of 15 people attending wakes, and this cap does not include those working or children under 11

In Northern Ireland funerals can take place during the current lockdown. A maximum of 25 people can attend. Associated gatherings such as wakes are not permitted.

Baptisms

The guidance relating to full-immersion baptism has been relaxed so that in England and Scotland these can now take place subject to specific guidelines. In particular, the advice is against cradling’ the baptism candidate and instead placing hands on their head to submerge. As the Baptist Union notes in their guidance, if the person baptising the candidate is a member of their household the usual practice can be followed. This guidance also suggests other alternatives, such as affusion, where water is poured over the candidate. In England there are not any further restrictions on numbers at a baptism service an operates as a normal gathering at a place of worship.

In Wales, unless the baptism is performed by a household member, self-immersion is recommended. 

In relation to full-immersion baptism, those being baptised should be at least two meters away from the congregation and officiants at all times except while they are being immersed. Only one person can be immersed at a time and physical contact should be avoided apart from the actual immersing. The officiant should wash their hands after the baptism. 

Other life events

The advice relating to services for other life events, such as dedication services or renewal of wedding vows, has been and continues to be that if these take place within a normal worship service and would normal take place here, they can continue in this form. However, where they would usually to be conducted as stand-alone events, they should not be incorporated into a worship service simply to make use of the allowance for people to gather in this way.