If you had told most people at the start of the lockdown that most of us would be pretty much housebound for more than two months, they’d have probably thrown their hands into the air in exasperation. But that’s exactly what’s happened! If you’re planning a gathering, whether it’s a wedding, a funeral, or an office Christmas party, then you might be watching the situation with a degree of trepidation. So when are things likely to change, and what’s might prompt that change?
Last week, a group of 20 tory MPS urged the prime minister to allow churches to open for prayer, weddings and funerals in June. The argument goes that, since we’re allowed to go shopping for food, we should also be allowed to gather in churches.
This was in response to a 50-page document, released by the government on the 11th May, which outlines the roadmap from lockdown to normality. “…the Government is also examining how to enable people to gather in slightly larger groups to better facilitate small weddings,”, according to the document.
Church of England weddings were restricted to five people even prior to the lockdown. This included the couple themselves, the vicar, and the minimum of two witnesses. It’s likely that any relaxation of the rules will see a shift to this prior state of affairs. While this is all the ingredients for a legal marriage, it doesn’t necessarily make for a memorable celebration.
What may change is that ‘small’ ceremonies will be allowed to take place. This is entirely conditional on the government’s say so, which in turn will depend on what happens with the infection rates. Put simply, the government can allow whatever they like, whenever they like, and it’s down to the rest of us to try to anticipate them.
A more realistic date for a return to social gatherings is July. This is the earliest point, according to the government timeline, that places of worship, and hospitality businesses like pubs, restaurants and hotels, will come back into action. This is ‘step three’. Step two involves schools, non-essential retail, and behind-closed-doors sporting events to take place.
This basically means that unless the shops are open and the premier league is back on television, weddings aren’t going to be going ahead. What’s more, the weddings that do go ahead are going to be very bare-bones.
Back on April 16th, the government presented five tests, which would need to be passed by any prospective relaxation of the lockdown measures. Namely, the NHS would need to be able to cope, the death rates would need to be falling, the rate of infection would need to be decreasing, there would need to be enough testing capacity and PPE available, and there would need to be confidence that any adjustment would not risk a ‘second peak’.
If we were to guess, we’d say July is optimistic if you’re looking forward to any kind of return to normality!