Coronavirus update: receptions

Following last week’s levels update, and the much needed boost to wedding numbers, the Scottish government has now released important new guidance on Covid-safe receptions. We dive into the nitty gritty

Female wedding guest wearing blue dress and headscarf sitting at a wedding table and laughing against a colourful ribbon backdrop with other male and female guests soft focus in background
Photo: Wild Soul

Last week, we were nearly on the ceiling with the government’s game-changing wedding numbers update (200 people by late June? Can you even imagine that many in one room!). But, as always, the devil is in the detail, and now fresh guidance for receptions has landed, we’re taking a closer look at the practicalities. Buckle up, brides and grooms: here are the main points.

Private dwellings

Perhaps the most significant and impactful rule is that receptions are not permitted to take place in a ‘private dwelling’. According to the government, this includes self-contained, self-catering and other private hire holiday accommodation, so obviously the concern is for the country’s wealth of exclusive use and marquee-based venues. If you’re getting married in say, a private manor home or a castle, the advice at the moment is that even just being able to hold your ceremony there ‘will depend on the arrangements in place.’ What that actually means in practice, we’re not 100% sure yet, but we’ll keep you up to date in due course on our socials.

If you are still intent on celebrating in your garden, or in a more private setting as defined by the government, you’ll need to comply with the current social distancing rules that apply at that time. Right now, for instance, six people from six households are allowed to meet outdoors, so you could technically have a very small reception on your lawn if you fancied.

Face coverings

One thing that hasn’t changed? Guests must wear face masks anywhere indoors at all times, except when eating and drinking. This includes the couple, so better start getting a lacy number whipped up to match your gown.


We were all waiting with bated breath to see what the approach might be when it comes to entertainment and sadly it’s not the news we were hoping for. While low level background music is permitted, singing, dancing and live music are still not, in line with hospitality more generally. It’s a huge blow for the talented artists and acts who’ve had such a tough year; however, the government has stated that any change to this restriction in wider hospitality will also be applicable for weddings – fingers crossed.

Bride hugging elated female wedding guest on dance floor at wedding with illuminated LOVE letters in background
Sadly no hugs quite yet – but won’t it feel just incredible when we finally can? (Photo: Barry Robb Photography)

Managing your guests

It goes without saying that two metre social distancing must be adhered to but what of your guests’ movements throughout the day? The rules state that you’ve to have no receiving line and one way entrances and exits. In terms of seating, your table plan headache is back with a bang: guests need to be seated by household and there should be no more than six guests from two households at the table.

Guests can’t mingle between tables and need to stay seated for the whole reception (except when popping to the loo), even when the two of you make your grand entrance for dinner. And, as well as bottles of bubbly, you’ll need to make sure there’s plenty hand sanitiser on the tables too.


In Level 3, it’s 10pm; in Level 2, it’s 10.30pm; and in Level 1, it’s 11pm. By Level 0, closing times need to be ‘sensible’ and in line with licensing requirements, so talk to your venue and discuss what’s feasible.

The little things

Some of the best wedding memories come from the simplest traditions and customs. So, what’s allowed in these trying Covid times? Well, you’ll be happy to know that cake cutting is still on the menu (albeit socially distanced and with the number of guests involved kept to a minimum), but the bouquet toss is a no-no, to reduce the likelihood of transmission.

The government also advises against guest books and photobooths and says that cards and gifts shouldn’t be brought to the reception, if at all possible. You’ll need to ask your loved ones to post them to you ahead of time.

Needless to say, the guidelines are constantly shifting, so be sure to check the government’s website for the most up to date information.