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COVID Wedding Planning Guide Ireland 2020/2021

Published: 10 November 2020 Updated: 21 October 2021

COVID ENDING: Not Yet!!! COVID restrictions in place until February 2022, Ireland.

Failte Ireland Guidelines were updated Thursday at 20:00pm.

No Curfew: Normal Trade Hours are now in operation. Bar license is 12:30am, Late Bar/Club License is 02:30am, then residence bar. Previous Curfew is no longer used.

Guest Numbers: Review the seating capacities to meet the current physical distancing guidance (1m). There should be adequate spacing between customers at each table in accordance with Government physical distancing guidelines.

Guests per table: A maximum of 15 people including no more than 10 adults may be seated at a table. (no other alternative is explicitly stated).

Vax Certs not needed (Weddings): All individuals will need to continue to monitor the ongoing risk from the disease and take personal responsibility as they take steps individually and collectively in their everyday lives to keep this risk under control.

Murder not permitted on the dancefloor: Dancing may take place but guests should emphasis personal responsibility.

Masks: should be worn by guests when arriving to and leaving their table.

COVID preventive measures will be in place until Spring 2022. Mainly: COVID Certs (not for weddings, but get vaccinated!), Mask Wearing and Physical Distancing.

For Weddings, easiest one first: Curfews are gone! Normal trading hours are now permitted for hospitality.

Numbers: there is no explicit numbers restriction but venues must adhere to preventative measures. That means venue should follow guidelines. Following guidelines may result in reduce capacity.

Weddings are made up of potentially vaccinated and unvaccinated guests so pods/tables restrictions could apply.

Table service or other non-crowd-gathering queueing systems to be used when serving drinks.

Antigen Test will not be used at weddings but will be sent to vaccinated people if they are a close contact. People should monitor their exposure and contacts in the run up to a wedding. (So you can have hundreds of contacts at your wedding!)

The above is from the press conference on the 19th October 2021, Failte Ireland will release guidelines shortly to confirm the operations of weddings in hospitality settings.

So close but no cigar, yet!

Benny is gutted that his prediction is off by a month, most likely there will be an announcement in January 2022 to confirm the end of all measures. As of October 2021 they are saying February 2022.

Pre the Christmas disaster of 2020, Benny said the 3rd of Jan 2022 would be the end of all restrictions, COVID would be done. He might yet be right but it is a bitter blow for his COVID response rating.

Chat (October 2021 Announcement)

IGTV (October 2021 Announcement)

Dates to watch out for:

Failte Ireland will update their guidelines for the 22nd October 2021 changes to protective measures.

Next significant change in COVID: NPHET will report to Government on the state of the Pandemic in Ireland. This will impact restrictions and weddings. (probably January 2022)

(probably January 2022) : sub-cabinet will meet.

(probably January 2022) : cabinet will meet and confirm restrictions impacting weddings are lifted.

We are looking at the complete picture of what to expect regarding COVID restrictions for weddings in Ireland.

What each level of restriction means to weddings. What the government strategy is and how the strategy impacts weddings. We also make our predictions so as to help you anticipate what might happen in the coming months and in 2021.

Article Contents:

2021 August Announcement for September/October

Music ban is lifted and the guest number restriction plans to be gone for October 22nd, 2021.

IGTV

Chat

June 7th, 2021: 25 guests can attend a wedding. see the The Path Ahead

2021 June Announcement for July

Weddings from July 5th will be permitted to have 50 guests.

We await Failte Ireland updated operational procedures to see what additional guidelines will be in place, such as numbers per table and live music.

August still targets 100 guests but this may change as the Delta/Indian variant changes in July. As much as the aggressive opening plan was unexpected, the pausing of some restrictions is unexpected. The Government are not consistent in action and are not good at managing communication. Promises tend to be hyped and caution tends to be gloom. It is a boom bust approach. This is the first time the gov may take an ultra-cautious approach and it is probably the first time that such an approach is not as required. The opportunity to be cautious in Summer 2020 and Christmas 2020 was ignored.

In general we see this as the ending of the pandemic (a long goodbye) and the move towards normal weddings.

2021 June COVID Chat (for July August)

IGTV (for July/August, Christmas 2021, 2022…)

2021 May Announcement for June/July/August

An announcement will be confirmed Friday 28th May 2021, for COVID restriction in June and target restrictions in July and August.

The strategy is to ride out the 4th wave by vaccinating. If the vaccination rate outruns the Indian Variant becoming dominant in Ireland, the reopening of business and society will not be further restricted (no 4th lockdown).

June Weddings: we expect confirmation of the 25 guests permitted at weddings.

July Weddings: there is a target of increasing the permitted people who can attend a wedding to 50.

August Weddings: if the profile of the level of the virus remains positive the number of people permitted to a wedding will be 100.

Regarding rules, each venue will have its own policy so check in with them as to what is permitted. Failte Ireland’s guidelines for venues is available here.

2021 May COVID Chat (for June July August)

IGTV (for June July August)

2021 April Announcement for May/June/July

In the last week of April 2021, the Irish Government will announce new COVID Restriction for May. They will also give an indication for June and July.

Restrictions for Weddings:

May 2021, we do not expect any change in the number of guests that can attend a wedding. The expectation is to concentrate on retail, construction, outdoor sport and personal services (salons).

June 2021, it is 50/50 that weddings will change to 25 guests permitted in June to coincide with outdoor dining. This may be mid June. The reason we doubt the increase is because hospitality will not fully open until July and intercounty travel will open in July (all being good).

June 7th, 2021 25 people can attend a wedding.

50 guests, purely acting in a conservative manner we do not expect to see 50 guests permitted unless the going in very good. Case numbers are low, hospital numbers are low and vaccines are widely available.

For a longer term outlook for weddings during COVID in Ireland see the chart at the end of the article.

Restrictions Outlined:

Ireland is currently operating off the framework called Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19. This framework is adjust as required due to the uncertainty of each given circumstance. It Is expected that Ireland will continue to use this framework for the remainder of 2020 and the majority of 2021 (this is the 3rd plan so for so it might change in 2021 as the vaccine news develops).

Below is detailed each level in relation to weddings and any current adjustments to the original plan, particularly the wedding exceptions.

Level 5 Plus/Adjusted

This is not Level 5 MINUS (the government make things complicated!) see the top of the article for restriction for early January 2021.

Up to 25 guests can attend a wedding ceremony and reception, whether indoors or outdoors.

Additional restrictions as part of the Level 5 Adjusted restrictions in October and November 2020:

  • Guests (ceremony and reception) – 25 (not including wedding couple and essential staff)
  • Travel – guests can travel to attend wedding
  • Hotel accommodation for guests – permitted for wedding couple and 25 guests only 
  • Baker/cake – permitted
  • Photographer – permitted
  • Hair and make-up services – not permitted (in any setting)
  • Wedding dress shops – closed to public
  • Live music/dancing – not permitted (reception fully seated)
  • Novelty supplies/acts – not permitted

In October 2020, the exception for Weddings was clarified to the above rules until the end of the year. The sentiment was that wedding couples had suffered enough hardship and disappointment with the short notice changes to COVID restrictions impacting planned weddings. Therefore, at a minimum weddings with 25 guests were permitted until the 31st of December 2020. If the Level of restriction allowed for greater than 25 guests (such as in Level 2) then the more lenient restrictions would apply to weddings.

Guests travel: while under Level 5 travel in general was extremely restrictive. Wedding Guests ware completely exempt from restriction of movement. Guest can travel any distance across any border. Additionally, places of accommodation are permitted to host Wedding Guests, previously only essential workers or existing guests were permitted to stay in hotels and other accommodation facilities. Now Wedding Guest can stay too.

In terms of Services providers and activities during the wedding day, the additional restrictions to weddings are aimed at limiting high risk activities in relation to COIVD. Prolonged contact and close contact is discouraged. Dancing is not permitted; therefore, live music is not allowed. Hair and Make-up specialist are not allowed provide their service in any setting. There is a rare clarity in rules that does not permit any work around.

The reference to Novelty suppliers I believe is an attempted to prevent non traditional supplies from trying to continue to work based on the explicitly or not explicitly stated services. In terms of acts, the likes of singing waiters or side acts that would be in addition to bands or singing duos are not permitted. In terms of supplies the likes of sweet carts or selfie mirrors are not permitted.

Photographers are permitted, videographers are not mentioned but as they work in a similar capacity, it is understood that videographers are allowed.

Cakes are permitted, were other side food supplies are not permitted. The centre piece that is the Wedding Cake is granted an exception.

Florist do not get a mention, due to the nature of flowers being delivered we would understand that there would not be an outcry if flowers were still in operation. The guidelines could have done more for instance to distinguish between décor and florists. The guidelines are silent.

Level 5 Adjusted (2020) is expected to last until the end of November after which the government hopes “we will suppress this virus and we will emerge from these restrictions on the 1st December.” There may be a need to extent the deadline but as of the second week of November it is looking promising.

IGTV Episode is available: Level 5+ COVID Weddings Re-Explained

Level 5 (Originally)

The original National Framework document for living with COVID-19 had more stringent restrictions on weddings. The exceptions outlined above are until the end of 2020. There is no word as to whether the exceptions will be extended into 2021. There was compassion towards those who had to deal with the wedding planning upsets of 2020 but there is not a clear indication as to whether such an understanding will continue. Early 2021 would be most likely to see a similar leeway but Spring Summer 2021 may not be given such liberties.

Originally Level 5 allowed for 6 wedding guests (wedding couple plus 6 guests). This is really to permit the legality of a marriage and close family/friends, such as parents.

People in general were expected to stay at home and exercise was permitted within 5km. So the movement was very much restricted.

Only essential workers were permitted in the original Level 5 so Wedding Suppliers were not expected to be part of this.

In 2021 if there is another strong surge of the virus, Level 5 may have to be used. Unless there is a similar exception in Adjusted guidelines this would extremely limit weddings taking place (if used in 2021).

Level 4 Plus/Adjust

For the remainder of 2020 Level 4 will be as outlined in the exception in Level 5 Adjusted. Level 4 originally was more stringent than the exception allowed for November December 2020.

To be clear:

Up to 25 guests can attend a wedding ceremony and reception, whether indoors or outdoors.

Additional restrictions as part of the Level 5 Adjusted restrictions in October and November 2020:

  • Guests (ceremony and reception) – 25 (not including wedding couple and essential staff)
  • Travel – guests can travel to attend wedding
  • Hotel accommodation for guests – permitted for wedding couple and 25 guests only 
  • Baker/cake – permitted
  • Photographer – permitted
  • Hair and make-up services – not permitted (in any setting)
  • Wedding dress shops – closed to public
  • Live music/dancing – not permitted (reception fully seated)
  • Novelty supplies/acts – not permitted

Level 4 (Originally)

Up to 6 guests can attend a wedding ceremony and reception (irrespective of venue). Guests cannot leave their county to attend a wedding.

Originally Level 4 allowed for 6 wedding guests (wedding couple plus 6). This is really to permit the legality and close family/friends, such as parents. Though there would be the added difficultly of guests not being permitted to move across county boundaries.

Irrespective of venue, this is getting there being different number gathering rules in Level 4 for different activities. The government do not want people using a greater number activity as an excuse for your wedding gathering. They want you to stick at 6 guests (not argue for 15 people gathering because of another rule).

Essential workers are only permitted to travel to work. Wedding Suppliers would be designated workers to be permitted to work, this originally was not expected.

Bride and Groom Face Mask Kiss - COVID Wedding - Laura and Benny Photography
Bride and Groom Kiss through Masks at COVID Wedding

Level 3 Plus/Adjusted

The Christmas restrictions are still subject to clarification.

Government Advice on Weddings (02/12/2020)
▪ Up to 25 Guests permitted to attend ceremony and reception
▪ Travel – Guests can travel to attend a wedding
▪ Hotel and other Tourist Accommodation for guests – permitted
▪ Baker – permitted
▪ Photographer – permitted
▪ Reception must be a sit-down meal only
▪ Live music/dancing – not permitted
▪ Novelty supplies/acts – not permitted

The only piece more advantageous for Level 3 vs the 2020 exception is that guests can travel to the wedding. Travel – guests can travel to attend wedding is more lenient than the original Level 3 in that respect.

Level 3

Originally and may be used in 2021:

Weddings may proceed, but with a limit of 25 guests for ceremony and reception (irrespective of venue). It will not be possible to attend a wedding in another county.

Couples resident in a particular county, but with existing plans to get married, can travel to get married outside that county.

Work is permitted in any location; suppliers may travel to work anywhere in Ireland.

The tricky bit here is guests cannot travel across county boundaries. As a result, people move venue locations to a county that most guest lived in.

Couples were permitted to travel wherever necessary to get married. This was to accommodate say people working in a different county and returning to their home county to get married.

There was some confusion over wedding suppliers, but you are allowed travel to work in a different county. Suppliers may therefore go to the wedding irrespective of location! The below video is proof:

Level 2

Up to 50 people (guests? might be a typo by Gov.ie) can attend a wedding ceremony and reception.

No travel restrictions.

In July August September 2020 we saw weddings limited to 50 people in a room. This was staff, suppliers, wedding couple and guests. In the Resilience and Recovery information there seems to be typo by using the word people when there was a move to using the word guest. The one-page chart that used guest has vanished, the National Framework literature does not refer to either so we can only hope consistency prevails and the typo of people on Gov.ie is corrected to guests.

Level 1

Up to 100 people (guests? might be a typo) can attend a wedding ceremony and reception.

No travel restrictions.

Ireland has not yet got to Level 1 at any point. It may only get there if there is a change in strategy by the government or a partial vaccine. Lets look at strategy next.

Mother and Father of Bride Face Mask- COVID Wedding Guests - Laura and Benny Photography
Father and Mother of Bride wear mask at COVID Church Wedding

Strategy

So that you can understand the outlook and potential changes from week to week, we must understand the government’s strategy for COVID and Society. You can then have a mind set to manage planning a wedding in 2021 or decide that 2021 is not the year for you.

The below is still relevant is understanding the Irish Governments approach to restrictions. But the strategy in 2021 has movement to Prolong Suppression, a more extreme and cautious strategy than in 2020.

The strategy as of late 2020 is to Suppress and Re-Open, rinse and repeat, restrict and release. Effectively this strategy is an attempted to delay until a vaccine or another solution shows up. The earliest estimates for a vaccine roll out to impact society is late 2021 (that is if the vaccine is confirmed December 2020). So at the moment at it looks like a COVID Wedding management process will be used until at least September 2021 (anything can happen, at any point so this could change).

If you are getting married between in 2021 you should be prepared to cope with Levels changing and restrictions changing. From the experience of 2020, it is only possible to have a reasonable estimate 2 months out. You should be able to clearly see the Level you are in now for the coming weeks and see the direction of the measures for the next month. At certain points, the timing can be that your wedding could be on the cusp of going one direction or holding firm in a level.

Guidelines for Wedding Venues

If you are planning on going for it, having your wedding during COVID. Here is what the venues have to do that will impact on your guests and your wedding.

1 Function Area

Early doors, large venues had split gatherings into 2 areas (that was really in one room). The guidelines now explicitly exclude this work around (think golfgate partitioning).

Multiple Gatherings

Large venues can have multiple gathering on site, such as in the restaurant area and in the banqueting room. There must be no intermingling (zero tolerance).

Face Coverings (Masks)

Guest should wear face coverings when arriving to the venue and when leaving their table. Receptions and dining is meant to be seated, so if not seated, guests should have masks on. We find this is not being policed but advised.

Staff will have face coverings on.

Masked Wait Staff Serving - COVID Wedding - Laura and Benny Photography
Wait Staff wear mask serving COVID Wedding

Social Distancing

2 metres distancing is to be adhered to as much as possible, some venues may find this difficult. Face coverings are to be used if distancing cannot be adhered to.

Reception – Drink and Food

Service stations are manned, with waiters serving guests. Queuing must be social distanced.

Table service is to be used as much as possible. The bar should not be open to the guests, service persons should take orders for the bar and deliver to tables.

Dining

It is advised to group people per their family or social pods, with social distancing at tables with more than one pod.

Individualised

Items in general should not be shared, individual packets or sole distribution (salt, veg, sweets, water etc).

Late night food must also be served personally, not buffet style.

Dancing

Physical distancing is expected to be observed. No grinding up against each other, no rock the boat!

This is to be policed according to the guidelines.

Curfew

Almost forgot the curfew! Currently, the service provided by the venue should stop at 11:30pm. Most venues are stopping drinks service at 11pm giving you 30 minutes to say a long good bye. Some venues are not keeping an eye on what you get up to after they stop their service.

History of Restrictions

This is not a guide for the future but helps frame your thinking:

Mid May 2020 the easing of restrictions started after the first wave in Ireland (March to April 2020).

June saw micro weddings (6-15 people). July saw small weddings (25 people).

August September 2020 saw society and business open at a reasonable level and 50 people weddings.

Mid October 2020 stricter measures were put in place and Ireland went to Level 5 for 6 weeks.

December 2020 saw the reckless relaxation of restrictions to allow for festive retail shopping and alcohol fueled socialising. The first seeding of cases in the first 3 weeks result in 3 changes to restriction rules in a short period. The impacted result in a 2 month (9 week) Level 5 lockdown into 2021.

Outlook for Weddings in Ireland 2021

(Table might be viewed better in landscape view, flip phone)

Looking good! Music and Unlimited Guest numbers!

We said this in November 2020!!!

“There is fear that starting December with a high base of cases that there will be a 3rd wave in January 2021. This may not transpire over December. If it does there will be restrictions in January and February 2021.

March 2021 if the Christmas/New Year easing of restrictions does not backfire, we should see restrictions moving to Level 2 (50 guests) in Spring. More likely to be 25 guests.

There is always a fear that when restrictions are eased it is the seeding of cases for the next wave, a 4th wave may happen in June or July.

If all went well, we could see Level 1 (100 guests) at some point between June and September 2021. Being extremely optimistic.

Staying optimistic a vaccine could be in the wild in late 2021.

Being cautious we could have a 3rd wave in early in 2021 and another wave later in 2021.”

End in Sight

For the first time we have heard reasonable voices give estimates as to an end to COVID-19. In October/ November 2021 the science community is planning to travel to meet in conference face to face. That expectation that a vaccine will be active in the wild so much so that international travel is possible, is a big indication for a timeline.

If vaccines are functioning in society by the end of 2021 then weddings should comfortably be at 100 guests (and more). Christmas 2021 should have a vaccine widespread in society.

So when will there be no restrictions what so ever on Weddings?

The 3rd of January 2022.

We genuinely expect 2022 to be a normal year for weddings in Ireland with no restrictions.

Benny is gutted that his prediction is off by a month, most likely there will be an announcement in January 2022 to confirm the end of all measures. As of October 2021 they are saying February 2022.

Archived Restrictions Updates:

Below are previous changes to restrictions, looking at them may give an insight to how the Irish Government will make decisions as things change going forward.

2021 March COVID Chat

2021 February COVID Chat

We got on our soapboxes and got it all out in the open. We tried to be as honest about wedding restrictions in 2021, particularly when predicting what might happen regarding numbers, dancing and bands.

Audio

YouTube

IGTV

IGTV limits time length of videos so this episode in broken into part 1 and part 2.

2021’s First Discussion

It took a few days but Laura and Benny finally got the chance to sit down and discuss the Wedding situation for 2021 under the current COVID restrictions in Ireland. This is early January 2021:

Audio Podcast

Video on IGTV

Updates – 30 December 2020

While we finally got out to a small lockdown wedding the government put more restrictions in place. A proper Level 5 lockdown will be had until the 31st January 2021. Like a Proper DJ but you’ll have to make your own craic.

Weddings to a great extent are unaffected.

The 1st and 2nd January weddings of 25 guests can go as planned. Weddings go to 6 guests from the 3rd. We expect weddings to stay at 6 guests until March. What the announcement does is confirms that 6 guest micro weddings will be in place until 31 January 2021, at least.

For weddings the only threat is that Failte Ireland tweak guidelines to not permit photographers. We do not expect this.

Updates – 24 December 2020

Restrictions for Weddings:

Weddings will be reduced to 6 Guests as of 3rd January 2021.

The exemption permitting 25 Guests lasts until weddings held on the 2nd January 2021.

Close contact services are not permitted, hair and makeup will most likely not be permitted for the remainder of 2020. Failte Ireland no longer mention hair in their operational guidelines, they therefore defer to the Resilience and Recovery plan. So close contact services are not permitted at Level 5 restrictions in Ireland.

Reception must be a sit-down meal only. In 2021 you may see this guideline enforced.

Venues in general have said they will honor weddings where they can. Hotels will however close for non-essential guests from 27th December 2020 (last check in the 26th). Hotels are permitted to host weddings though (and wedding guests!). Accommodation for guests is permitted.

Live Music/Dancing is not permitted.

Novelty supplies/acts is not permitted.

Photographers are always permitted.

Previous Christmas 2020 restrictions:

Restrictions were announced 27th November 2020 in Ireland to cover the Christmas/New Year period. What it means for Weddings:

Faitle Ireland have updated the operational guidelines for venues but are beginning update regarding additional restrictions such as Live Music and Dancing.

As initially thought: Live Music/Dancing is not permitted.

Our logic was: wet pubs are restricted to Take Away service. we felt that what that likely means for weddings was: with this more restrictive approach it is unlikely to permit Live Music and Dancing at weddings. There is less tolerance for risk and music/dancing would be deemed a the higher end of a risk category.

Novelty supplies/acts is not permitted (a catch all category for “others”).

A new one! Reception must be a sit-down meal only. This is not fully explained. If you take it literally, drinks reception is not permitted. Check with your venue for their inhouse policy.

Travel – Guests may travel to attend weddings. Briefly Gov.ie had a restriction on guests traveling outside their counties on Friday evening. Once the exemption on travel for weddings until the end of the year was highlighted to the webmaster for the Department of the Taoiseach the webpage for Level 3 was corrected (the restriction wording was removed).

Hairdressers will be allowed re-open from Tuesday 1st December 2020. What that likely means for weddings: is that Hair and Makeup can return to wedding morning preparations. Failte Ireland did not mention hair or makeup in the latest restrictions (so work away!)

Remember weddings are not affected by travel, there is an exemption until the end of 2020 that allows guests to travel anywhere for a wedding.

Government advises people to wear masks in crowded outdoor areas. What that likely means for weddings: there is a trend at weddings for people who are not in the 25 guests invited to the wedding to attend outside the ceremony to wish the couple well after the wedding. There is advise to wear masks and the general attitude is to be cautious in crowds.

Quick Podcast on IGTV to explain additional restrictions for the end of 2020:

Podcasts – Level 3 Christmas 2020

The below is recorded before explicit Failte Ireland guidance, they are awaiting answer from the Department of Taoiseach.

Since recoding: Live Music/Dancing, Novelty Supplies/Acts are not permitted. Reception must be a sit-down meal only (this is new and not fully clarified, but drinks receptions may be not permitted?)

IGTV episode available: Level 3 COVID Weddings for Christmas

November 2020 – Restrictions

COVID Update: here is a brief podcast recorded the 3rd week in November 2020. We help clarify some of the confusion on the wedding exception for 2020 and summarise how things look for weddings at the moment, with at outlook to 2021 as well.

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