'With this sanitised hand I thee wed': Couples angry at new England wedding rules

Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

Couples planning to tie the knot when coronavirus restrictions are eased next month should wash their hands before and after exchanging rings, according to new Government guidance.

And fathers will not be able to walk with their daughters arm-in-arm down the aisle if they live in separate households - they must give them away with a metre between them.

The advice for England states that no more than 30 people should attend a marriage or civil partnership from July 4, and social distancing rules must be obeyed.

As part of the lockdown imposed in March, all social events were stopped – including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies.

Joely Williams and Paul Dale will still be tying the knot next week. Credit: ITV News

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 states: “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 that 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 one metre apart.

The measures have angered some couples planning to marry this year.

Sophie and Sandy had been planning their wedding for a year and were due to marry this year. But with the introduction of the new rules, they are now planning to postpone the ceremony.

They told ITV News: "The ceremony for me doesn't make sense. You get to exchange your vows. You get to exchange rings and then you've got to immediately go and wash your hands but you can still kiss your partner."

"If we were to get married to those regulations it wouldn't be what I would class as a wedding, it's not that celebration."

ITV News spoke to one wedding planner who had been fielding calls from exasperated couples all day.

"We're making these guidelines up I believe, as we go along... I've had couples who are deeply upset, who are deeply, deeply distressed.

'The ceremony for me doesn't make sense'. Credit: ITV News

"I had a wedding this weekend, Sunday and Monday cancelled 11 last night because we can't feed the guests," Lorraine Carroll told ITV News.

Joely Williams and Paul Dale will still be tying the knot next week, with a barbecue in their back garden instead of their reception.

"For me, the frustrating thing is hearing that now restaurants are open, pubs are open and yet a wedding venue, which is essentially a restaurant and a pub , and yet you can't have guest there drinking or eating food."

Wedding rules for England involve hand washing before and after exchanging rings. Credit: ITV News

The guidance was published alongside advice for the restarting of communal worship on July 4.

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.

Sophie and Sandy have been planning their ceremony for a year but are planning to postpone their wedding. Credit: ITV News

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, according to the guidance.

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 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.

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