The Weddings Taskforce, set up with the support of Government to represent the sector, had expected all venues to reopen from April 12 based on “widespread” interpretation of guidance published on February 24.
But it said it had now received confirmation, after weeks of asking, that weddings and receptions are only permitted for 15 guests between April 12 and May 16 in places of worship, public buildings, locations and outdoor settings that are already permitted to open.
This does not include the vast majority of England’s licensed wedding venues where over 70% of weddings take place.
The taskforce estimates this will affect around 7,000 weddings planned before May 17.
In a statement, the taskforce said: “We believe Government should honour the reasonable assumptions made by couples, venues, suppliers and their own registrars.
“All weddings and receptions for up to 15 people should be permitted in Covid-secure wedding venues. Couples understand the limitations, and venues, by law, operate with strict safety protocols in place.”
Weddings Taskforce spokeswoman Sarah Haywood said: “Reasonably, people such as venues, couples, businesses, and registrars interpreted the road map announcement as wedding venues could host weddings and receptions for 15, as last year, from April 12.
“That great news – headlined in Government-produced graphics – was also picked up by mainstream press and broadcasters and quoted by MPs Government just forgot to caveat it with ‘but only weddings for 15 in a very few, select places which one would not usually associate with hosting weddings’.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I would point to the road map which is clear that, at step two, weddings, receptions and commemorative events including wakes can take place with up to 15 attendees in premises that are permitted to open.
“We have said throughout that outdoors is safer than indoors. That means, at step two – which is no earlier than April 12 – wedding receptions must take place outdoors.”
He added: “From April 12 at the earliest, because outdoors is safer than indoors, wedding receptions must take place in outdoor venues.”
Ms Haywood also attacked the absurdity of the rules, saying: “A couple could technically get married in a zoo, but not in a Covid-safe, purpose-built wedding venue.”
The taskforce said 60,000 businesses employing 400,000 people in a £14.7 billion industry was “grappling with further uncertainty and growing unrest”.
“After a year of uncertainty for businesses, their employees and over half a million people whose weddings have been on hold, this is yet another major blow,” Ms Haywood added.
“It will cost the industry – already on its knees – millions of pounds, lead to the loss of more jobs and leave an estimated 7,000 couples without a wedding.”