U-turn changes the limits on wedding guest numbers

LIMITS on the number of guests who can attend wedding receptions in controlled environments are to be removed earlier than planned – after several events companies hit out at the inconsistency between what is deemed a private and public venue.

Domaine des Vaux
Domaine des Vaux

The government has now backed down and said that receptions held in private for-hire venues can go ahead with unlimited guests. A 20-person limit on weddings in a private garden will be upped to allow 50 people to attend from 10 May.

Caterers and marquee operators have reported that some couples have had to cancel their plans because of the previous guidance and urged ministers to adapt the rules.

Under the government’s previous Covid restrictions, any wedding reception which was held at a private home or garden was limited to a maximum of 20 people. However, if the same reception were to be held at an indoor or outdoor public venue, there would have been no limit on the number of people who could attend – although physical distancing and limits on loud music should be adhered to where possible.

The 20-person limit also applied to venues such as Domaine des Vaux, in St Lawrence, which is a privately owned farmhouse that can be hired for weddings

On Wednesday morning, following questioning from the JEP, the government continued to defend its position and sought to explain the difference in how it views public and private venues in relation to Covid measures. It said that ministers would also consider changes to the rules as part of the next stage of the reconnection plan.

In a statement issued to the JEP, a government spokesperson said: ‘A wedding reception, which includes eating and drinking, is bound by the same controls as all other forms for parties or events, which includes being limited to 20 people in a person’s home or private garden to which the public do not have access. This accords with public health and STAC advice.

‘It is known that parties or gatherings in people’s homes bring particular risks because the environment is not generally subject to the same cleaning regimes as commercial venues. While marquees are erected in gardens, as opposed to in homes, it is the case that there is a tendency for guests to drift into the home, for example when using the toilet.

‘Furthermore, while a couple may engage a catering company to cater for a party or wedding reception in their private garden, the catering company is not responsible in law for ensuring that reasonable steps are taken to ensure compliance with Covid-related public-health controls. Where the outdoor space is, for example, part of a commercial venue, the operators of that venue are responsible for taking those steps.

‘Ministers will give consideration to potential changes as part of Stage Six reconnection, which is scheduled for 10 May.’

However, following a meeting of the Competent Authorities Ministers on Wednesday, it was agreed to change the guidelines surrounding weddings and clarify that private for-hire venues are not subject to limits on guests.

Health Minister Richard Renouf said: ‘I’m pleased that we have been able to bring the policy surrounding wedding receptions into line with marriage ceremonies. Islanders will be able to enjoy weddings in their own gardens with a greater number of family and friends.’

However, standing drinking, which was originally scheduled to be permitted from Monday 10 May, has been delayed.

Deputy Renouf added: ‘Islanders will be aware that last month we accelerated other parts of the reconnection roadmap, including increasing gathering limits earlier than planned. As a result, following advice from the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell, it has been decided that we should now delay stand-up drinking until Stage 7 [which comes into force on Monday 14 June]. This decision will, however, remain under review.

‘I would like to thank Islanders for their continued support by adhering to Covid-19 guidelines. It is due to this that we can manage a slow and safe return to normality.’

It is intended that from Stage 7, an unlimited number of people will be allowed in homes and gardens, nightclubs will fully reopen, standing drinks will be allowed in all venues and large indoor and outdoor events such as festivals will be permitted.

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