COVID Wedding Planning Guide Ireland 2020/2021

Published: 10 November 2020 Updated: 27 November 2020

Article Contents:

For the foreseeable future smaller weddings look like the norm. We are looking at the complete picture as to what to expect regarding COVID restriction for weddings in Ireland. What each level of restriction means to weddings. What the government strategy is and how it impacts weddings. We also make our predictions so as to help you anticipate what might happen in the coming months and in 2021.

Latest Updates – 27 Nov 2020

New Restrictions will be announced 27th November 2020 in Ireland to cover the Christmas/New Year period. Here is what we know as at 23:00 on the 27th and what we think it means for Weddings:

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.

Wet pubs are restricted to Take Away service. What that likely means for weddings: with this more restrictive approach it is unlikely to permit Music and Dancing at weddings (we are still waiting for explicit guidance). There is less tolerance for risk and music/dancing would be deemed a the higher end of a risk category.

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.

Outlook for Weddings – Short Term

November 2020 is currently in Level 5 Adjusted for weddings. That will not change. December 2020 will see a decision to either extend the restrictions for 1 or 2 weeks or will see Ireland move to a new Level. The Irish government is targeting Level 3, this would mean no change for weddings (25 guests and travel exception).

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

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 lie for weddings at the moment, with at outlook to 2021 as well.

Current Restrictions:

We will update restrictions once they are announced late on 27 November 2020, the below does not account for the Christmas restrictions (we are waiting on Music/Dance restrictions).

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

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.

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 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. For the wedding suppliers not permitted we can hope the level 3 will allow those vendors come back to weddings. So there is likely to be a variant of an Adjust Level for November December 2020.

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 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 (50 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.

Outlook for Weddings in Ireland 2020/2021

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

Updated: 28th November 2020

MonthTargetOptimismWarning!!!
Nov 2020Level 3 AdjHolds No Change
Dec 2020Level 3 AdjHoldsEasing quickly
Jan 2021Level 3 AdjHoldsXmas Mistake?
3rd Wave
Feb 2021Level 3Level 2Seeding Cases
3rd Wave
Mar 2021Level 3Level 2Seeding Cases
Apr 2021Level 2Level 2Seeding Cases
May 2021Level 2Level 2Seeding Cases
Jun 2021Level 2Level 1Restrictions
Jul 2021Level 2Level 1Restrictions
Aug 2021Level 2Level 1Easing
Sep 2021Level 2Level 1Easing
Oct 2021Level 1VaccineSeeding Cases
Nov 2021Level 1VaccineRestrictions
Dec 2021Level 1VaccineEasing

Briefly explaining the outlook chart:

As of November 2020 Level 3 Adjusted (25 guests) is the best short term outlook, this in now confirmed to be the case for December 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.

There is always a fear that when restrictions are eased it is the seeding of cases for the next wave.

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

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.

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