Big family events such as weddings and civil partnerships have been put on hold for the best part of a year for some people, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Restrictions around social gatherings and special occasions have never been so keenly felt as they are now, with hope of a return to some sort of normal life by the summer.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered engaged couples clarity as he announced a roadmap out of a third national lockdown involving the easing of Covid restrictions.
Can weddings go ahead now?
Under current government guidance, weddings and civil partnerships cannot go ahead in England due to restrictions enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.
There are certain circumstances when ceremonies could take place, with a limit of six people allowed to be present for the occasion (not including workers).
The government website states “these should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example, an urgent marriage where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.”
These ceremonies can take place in Covid secure venues or public outdoor spaces, unless exceptional circumstances dictate otherwise.
When will the limit on numbers change?
There have been restrictions on weddings and civil partnerships taking place for the best part of a year due to the Covid pandemic.
Even under the tiered system ceremonies could only take place in levels one to three, where lower infection rates and hospital admissions allowed.
In those tiers the number of people able to attend the ceremony was capped at 15 and only tiers one and two could hold a reception afterwards.
But, since Mr Johnson revealed his route out of lockdown, engaged couples can take comfort in the knowledge that there won't be a return to the tiered approach.
The prime minister gave some clarity over weddings ceremonies, receptions and civil partnerships as he plotted a way of easing the Covid restrictions.
In the second of four phases, weddings will be able to go ahead with up to 15 people in attendance from 12 April at the earliest.
In the third phase, from 17 May, permitted numbers can increase up to 30 in line with the scrapping of the Rule of Six in outdoor settings.
The hope is that there will be no limits on the number of guests attending wedding ceremonies or receptions, or civil partnerships, from 21 June.
What are the factors involved in the decision?
The four new tests which the government will use to decide whether the country can progress to each stage are:
- The vaccinations programme continues successfully
- Data shows that the jabs are effective in reducing hospital numbers and deaths in those inoculated
- Infection rates do not risk a rapid increase in hospitalisations, which would result in pressure on the NHS
- The government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of the virus which cause concern.
The government has said the tests are currently being met so the first stage of the roadmap will go ahead on 8 March.