Weddings in England now allowed in all tiers – Which? News

Wedding ceremonies and receptions will once again be allowed to take place in England from 2 December onwards, in all three of its tiers.

Weddings in England had previously been banned during its winter lockdown between 5 November and 2 December.

Many people have already had to cancel or postpone their weddings this year, at a time when several wedding insurers stopped selling cover or excluded cancellation due to coronavirus as part of their terms.

We asked 12 of the UK’s biggest wedding insurance providers how coronavirus is affecting their policies and what your rights are if your wedding gets cancelled.

We’ll update the story if and when policies change, or when additional insurers respond.

When will weddings be allowed again?

Weddings and receptions in England can take place again now that lockdown has lifted (as of 2 December), with up to 15 guests. The rules for wedding ceremonies are the same across all three tiers, but no wedding receptions are allowed in tier 3.

Weddings in Wales are permitted to take place, but the maximum number of people who can attend is dependent on the size of the venue, as a two-meter distance must be maintained between members of different households.

The maximum number of people includes the couple getting married, the celebrant, witnesses, registration officials and other guests.

Up to 30 people are allowed to gather outdoors for organised events, which can include wedding ceremonies, but not the actual solemnisation of marriage or the formation of civil partnerships. Humanist weddings can take place as ‘organised indoor or outdoor events’.

On 2 November, the Scottish Government set out its framework for five levels of protection in each local area – similar to England’s tiered system. The level your region is in will have a bearing on how many people can attend a wedding ceremony, which work like this:

  • Level 0 No more than 50 people should attend
  • Level 1, 2, 3 or 4 No more than 20 people should attend.

These limits include the couple getting married, witnesses, children of any age, any carers accompanying someone who is attending the ceremony and any staff not employed by the venue, such as photographers or musicians.

On 19 October, it was announced that wedding ceremonies in Northern Ireland were being limited to 25 people, including children under the age of 12 and the celebrant. Receptions and post-ceremony gatherings are not permitted.

Can I get a payment holiday or refund on my wedding insurance?

On 1 November, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) set out new guidance on how firms should offer tailored support to those who have already received a payment deferral, or those who have newly come into financial difficulty.

The regulator says support on offer should reflect the ‘uncertainties and challenges’ many customers will face in the coming months, and could include firms reducing monthly payments, or suspending, reducing, waiving or cancelling interest or charges.

Our dedicated story on the new FCA guidance for insurance providers goes into more detail on this.

The new guidance supplements FCA measures from 18 May, when it told insurers that they must help customers with general insurance protection who are struggling with payments due to effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

What if your wedding contravenes public gatherings rules?

If your wedding party is larger than 15 people in England, larger than 25 people in Northern Ireland, the number of people allowed according to your area’s level of protection in Scotland, or doesn’t allow for two-meter social distancing between households in Wales, it won’t be able to take place.

If you can’t reschedule it for another time, you may find it difficult to make an insurance claim as policies don’t tend to cover governmental regulations.

Here’s what we found when we looked at some of the biggest insurance providers:

ProviderPolicy
DebenhamsLosses arising from prohibitive regulations by the government of any country are excluded.
Emerald LifeClaims arising from government acts are excluded.
Events InsuranceGovernment-regulated acts are excluded, which means there would be no cover if the government forces venues to close as part of a national ban or if it restricts the size of a gathering.
John LewisIf the venue is not permitted to hold the wedding due to any specific government legal measures in relation to public gatherings (that includes weddings), there will be cover under the policy subject to the policy holder minimising their costs.
The Insurance EmporiumNo claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
WedinsureClaims directly or indirectly caused by government regulations or acts are excluded – this includes bans on social or public gatherings.

Correct as of March 2020.

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Are any wedding insurers still providing cover?

Debenhams, Events Insurance, The Insurance Emporium and John Lewis have stopped offering wedding insurance policies to new customers due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As of 8am on 19 March, Emerald Life and Wedinsure also stopped selling new policies. Emerald Life says it hopes to be back online as soon as possible.

ProviderPolicy
DebenhamsAll new Debenhams Wedding Insurance applications have been suspended while the effect of the virus is being assessed.
Emerald LifeSuspended selling new policies as of 19 March 2020.
Events InsuranceSuspended wedding package policy for the foreseeable future, pending full confirmation on the government’s stance on gathering and venue restrictions. It’s not able to process any new wedding insurance applications.
John LewisSuspended new applications for wedding and event insurance while the effects of travel and Public Health England advice around coronavirus is assessed.
The Insurance EmporiumHas temporarily suspended selling new wedding insurance policies.
WedinsureSuspended selling new policies as of 19 March 2020.

Correct as of March 2020.

Will my existing wedding insurance change?

If you’ve already bought wedding insurance, the providers we’ve spoken to have all said the policies will remain in place and – for the most part – unchanged.

ProviderPolicy
DebenhamsExisting customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.
Emerald LifeExisting customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged, except cover has been limited in relation to the bankruptcy of wedding suppliers so that Emerald Life doesn’t cover any bankruptcy within the first 10 days of taking out the policy.
Events InsuranceExisting customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.
John LewisExisting customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.
The Insurance EmporiumExisting customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged. However, policies are subject to a general exclusion in respect of ‘notifiable diseases’. This exclusion includes COVID-19, since it’s now an officially registered notifiable disease in the UK.
WedinsureExisting customers’ policies will remain in place and unchanged.

Correct as of March 2020.

What if the venue or other services cancel on you?

Even if your event is able to go ahead, it may be that a service you’ve booked is unable to deliver what you’ve paid for.

In the first instance, you should try to come to some kind of agreement with the business itself. If that’s not possible, here’s what the insurers say:

ProviderPolicy
DebenhamsThose with existing policies are covered if the booked venue for the wedding or wedding reception is unable to hold your wedding due to an outbreak of infectious or contagious disease; the total non-appearance on the wedding day of any booked and paid-for professional wedding services; the non-appearance of the officiating minister or registrar.
Emerald LifeDoesn’t cover the bankruptcy of wedding suppliers within the first 10 days of taking out the policy. Otherwise, there is cover if a wedding services supplier goes bankrupt and there may be cover if a significant supplier fails to arrive on the day, which may allow for cancellation or rearrangement.
Events InsuranceAdvising people to speak to their suppliers and check their contracts. Events Insurance says venues and suppliers don’t want to lose out on bookings, and have generally been offering rearrangement options to people hoping to postpone.
John LewisThose with existing policies should be covered for the booked venue for the wedding or wedding reception being unable to hold your wedding due to an outbreak of infectious or contagious disease, and the total non-appearance on the wedding day of any booked and paid-for wedding services.
The Insurance EmporiumNo claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
WedinsureCover includes instances where the booked venue for the wedding or wedding reception is unable to hold the event due to an outbreak of infectious disease (eg coronavirus), or its closure by a relevant authority – except where the closure or their inability to hold your wedding is due to any form of government act or regulation.

Correct as of March 2020.

What if travel to the wedding venue has been restricted?

The government has advised to reduce travel where possible and is encouraging people to stay local whenever they can, but roads and the majority of public transport services are currently still running.

If this changes, and your wedding has to be cancelled as a result, it’s unlikely that any wedding insurance policies will cover it:

ProviderPolicy
DebenhamsLosses arising from prohibitive regulations by the government of any country are excluded.
Emerald LifeClaims arising from government acts are excluded.
Events InsuranceGovernment-regulated acts are excluded, which means there would be no cover if it restricts freedom of movement.
John LewisClaims arising directly or indirectly from government regulation or act are excluded.
The Insurance EmporiumNo claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
WedinsureClaims directly or indirectly caused by government regulations or acts are excluded – this includes travel bans or restrictions.
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Correct as of March 2020.

What if the bride, groom or guests are ill or self-isolating?

The government is currently advising anyone who is showing COVID-19 symptoms to self-isolate for 10 days and those who have been in direct contact with someone showing symptoms to self-isolate for 14 days.

It’s also advised all people over the age of 70, or who would be considered ‘vulnerable’, to take particular care to minimise contact with those outside of their own households.

With this in mind, it may be that some people will be unable to make it to weddings once they are able to take place.

In general, wedding insurance policies are only likely to cover health issues affecting the couple or their close relatives.

ProviderPolicy
DebenhamsThe policy doesn’t mention coronavirus explicitly, but it doesn’t cover any claims where the person with an illness has acted against medical advice, or is awaiting the results of any tests or medical investigations.
Emerald LifeActual illness of the bride or groom is covered, but not with self-isolation, as it would be impossible to prove if it were genuine; if a close family member is ill, then that may merit cancellation or rearrangement.
Events InsuranceTwo scenarios are covered: if the bride, groom or a close relative is diagnosed with the virus and is suffering with it at the time of the wedding, which causes the wedding to be cancelled; or the venue has a case of coronavirus and they are forced to cancel all events and close – on the basis that the contract you have with them permits them to cancel for that reason and it’s not the result of a blanket government shutdown.
John LewisYou’re covered in the event of the death, injury or sickness of the prospective marriage or civil partners, or close relative or members of the wedding party which would make it inappropriate to continue the wedding.
The Insurance EmporiumNo claims are covered when directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, in consequence of or contributed to by influenza, notifiable disease, virus, bacteria or contagion, or any derivation or variant thereof.
WedinsureCovers the unavoidable cancellation of the wedding due to the death or sickness of the wedding participants or their close relatives, as defined under the policy, which would make having or continuing with the wedding and/or wedding reception impossible. But if you buy the policy knowing you or a close relative has already contracted coronavirus, then that wouldn’t be covered.

Correct as of March 2020.

Getting your money back by other means

If you don’t have wedding insurance, or your claim is refused, you should contact your bank or credit card company (if you paid using a credit card).

Make it aware of the situation and the complaint you’ve made, and you may be able to get reimbursed for at least some of the costs.

If you paid by credit card

Anything you’ve bought costing between £100 and £30,000 using a credit card has additional protections if something goes wrong.

It’s covered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which means that your credit card company is jointly liable for any breach of contract (such as event cancellation) and you can claim your money back directly from it.

If you paid by debit card

You may be able to ask your card provider to reverse a transaction on your credit or debit card in a process called chargeback.

Chargeback isn’t a right or law such as Section 75 is, but banks are often willing to help. It can also be useful if you’re trying to recoup costs of less than £100, where Section 75 doesn’t apply.

Which? coronavirus advice

Experts from across Which? have been compiling the advice you need to stay safe and make sure you’re not left out of pocket.

You can keep up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?


This story was originally published on published on 18 March and has since been updated. The last update was on 2 December with updates on restrictions to wedding ceremonies across the UK, including the rules on weddings in England’s three-tier system.



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