Coronavirus and weddings in Scotland – further updates for receptions

There have been some updates issued by the Scottish government that clarify some of the grey areas in previous Covid-19 guidance relating to live music, marquees, private dwellings and when dancing might be permitted at wedding receptions in Scotland

The picture is now clearer than it was at the end of April, but there is still a way to go until wedding receptions as we know and love them fully return.

You can find the full guidance here, but we’ll highlight some of the key points below.

Man and woman dancing under lights at wedding as other guests watch on
If everything goes to plan, it seems dancing at a wedding reception might be permitted at Level 0, hopefully from the end of June (Photo: Fern Photography)

Live music

Scotland has been in Level 3 since 26th April. At that level, singing and dancing at wedding receptions must not take place. The only exception to this is the couple’s ‘first dance’ and a dance between parents where they live in the same household, although – at present – this music cannot be performed by a live act.

However, guidance now states that they expect to permit live music at receptions, with appropriate mitigations, from level 2.

This means that from 17th May in Level 2 areas, it seems live musical acts should be able to perform in a mitigated capacity at wedding receptions if they adhere to the sector-specific guidance laid out for live background music in a hospitality setting.

There are six key points of guidance, but – for example – the act must not encourage guests to sing along, leave their seats or approach musicians to make requests and it is recommended that the music is limited to minimal artists that are physically distanced. Vocal acts are advised against, but if a singer is present, then things like perspex screens between musician and guests should be put in place.

Dancing is still not allowed quite yet

Before you excitedly look out your wedding flats ready for shimmying to your covers band on 17th May, note that dancing is not going to be permitted for a few weeks yet (other than the first dance).

The updated guidance states that: “We do not expect to permit dancing earlier than level 0.”

This would seem to indicate that dancing could be allowed from around the end of June, when it is hoped the country shall move to Level 0.

Man playing electric guitar in a white wedding marquee
Live music, but no dancing, will be permitted at Level 2 wedding receptions (Photo: Dave Fallon Photography)

Private dwellings

Wedding receptions can take place in completely private dwellings, such as family homes or self-contained/private hire self-catering accommodation, but they would have to proceed in line with the more restrictive numbers laid out for indoor/outdoor socialising, as appropriate. (You can see this here.)

Private, exclusive-use premises (such as castles and historic houses) are also considered ‘private dwellings’ in the government’s eyes. Receptions are allowed to take place in these types of property, but – crucially – there must be a “person or persons responsible for the management of the venue” present to ensure compliance with all aspects of the guidance, otherwise offences are being committed.

The guidance reads: “For example, it would be necessary for a designated person to ensure physical distancing was maintained, toilet facilities are provided/managed and that staff serve food and alcohol via table service, and that the appropriate event end time is observed.”

So it seems house-party-style weddings are unfortunately off the table for the time being, without the beady eyes of venue representatives watching over and serving food/drink at all times.

Below Canvas wedding tipi set up in the grounds of Blythswood Square Gardens in Glasgow
Wedding receptions can take place in marquees and tipis – like this one by Below Canvas and Make Believe Events – but the rules on numbers etc. depend on where it is pitched and how it’s used (Photo: AJW Photography)


Things get more complicated when it comes to marquees, as it depends on the setting and the manner in which it’s used…

(a) Marquees in private dwellings

Erecting and using a marquee for a wedding/civil partnership reception at a private dwelling (including the garden) is not permitted beyond the numbers allowed in respect of gatherings in private dwellings.

Consequently, a Level 3 wedding reception for 50 in a marquee pitched in a private garden is going to be a non-starter, even if the marquee used was to meet the rules that designate it as ‘outdoor space’ (which is greater than 50% of sides being completely open).

The guidance states that: “The erection of a marquee does not mean that a wedding reception, with numbers greater than those applied to other gatherings, can take place within a private dwelling. Gardens are part of a private dwelling.”

Any ‘wedding reception’ held outside in a private back garden (with/without 50% open-sided marquee) must adhere to the designated limits on outdoor socialising which are:

Level 3 (from 26th April) – 6 people from up to 6 households max.
Level 2 (from 17th May) – 8 people from up to 8 households max.
Level 1 (from 7th June, indicative date) – 12 people from up to 12 households max.
Level 0 (from late June, date tbc) – 15 people from up to 15 households max.

If the marquee configuration had less than 50% of the sides fully open, then the limits on capacity would be in line with the even more stringent limits on indoor socialising. (You can see those numbers in the general Covid-19 guidance.)

Front of a Georgian mansion in Scotland with small wedding marquee set outside on the right
Setting up a marquee in the garden for a reception at a private dwelling (even an open marquee like this) isn’t allowed beyond the numbers for outdoor socialising (Photo: Iris Art Photography)

(b) Marquees on private land

Outwith private gardens, the updated guidance states that marquees pitched on land that is, for example, community owned, privately owned farmland or wild land, then it can generally be regarded as a public place.

In this instance, the rules on public gatherings outdoors or indoors (depending on the configuration of any marquee or other structure) will apply.

The guidance also states that: “At all times there will need to be a designated person who is responsible for ensuring compliance with all aspects of this guidance, for example a license holder, catering company or events co-ordinator, or another service provider who is happy to take on the responsibility of ensuring compliance with this guidance.”

Crucially, it mentions that a guest cannot be considered a service provider.

Marquees in regulated venues

Marquees are allowed to be erected in regulated venues, but hosting a reception in one does not automatically indicate the venue’s compliance: there must be a responsible venue manager to ensure the rules are being followed whether the reception is hosted inside in a dining room or outside in a marquee

The guidance reads: “In a marquee at a regulated venue, such as a hotel or licensed premises, at Level 3 the limit is 50 (the same as in indoor space).”

Even when it is specifically configured as ‘outdoor space’ (i.e. with more than 50% sides down), the use of a marquee in a hotel, licensed premises or exclusive-use venue (with a responsible person) does not allow for more than 50 persons at a wedding.

There will be more updates in the weeks ahead as we move down the levels system and we will post on social media when we have further information.