Dancing is still off the cards at weddings in England after May 17, the cabinet office has confirmed to HuffPost UK – and people are furious.
As couples and wedding suppliers anxiously await the publishing of Stage 3 guidelines on weddings, a government spokesperson told HuffPost dancing will “be advised against” due to the increased risk of transmission from sustained physical and close contact.
The only exception to this is the couple’s first dance. Dance floors and other spaces used for dancing must remain closed under the current regulations, unless repurposed to facilitate additional customer seating and enable social distancing.
HuffPost understands that the advice against dancing at weddings is guidance and will not be legislated. Full guidelines for wedding venues will be published later this week, ahead of May 17.
Emma Freeman, 37 from Northamptonshire, has already postponed her wedding four times and is angry that group exercise classes and live performances can resume, but weddings still face such tight restrictions.
“It’s hard to describe the treatment of the wedding sector and couples as anything other than blatant discrimination,” she tells HuffPost UK. “As of Monday, I can sit inside a pub, hug my friends and kiss them in greeting, but we can’t do that at a wedding? What will it take to be heard? Disguise our weddings as Zumba classes? It’s beyond a joke now.”
Alexandra Morris, who’s due to get married on June 19, just before the restrictions are expected to lift on June 21, is equally frustrated.
“It is illogical, insensitive and irresponsible to say that weddings cannot have dancing when their own report states that weddings are not a risk,” says the 26-year-old, from Norwich. “You can be at a sweaty concert dancing with your entire congregation, but not outside at your wedding reception. Where is the sense? As a community, we feel incredibly let down. Not just about the dancing, but about the fact that Boris has clearly not listened to any of our concerns.”
The news also comes to a blow to those working in the wedding industry, who’ve had their livelihoods disrupted for more than a year. Jessie Westwood, a wedding planner, director of Studio Sorores and co-founder of the What About Weddings campaign group, says there’s “no justifiable reason” why such heavy restrictions should remain in place at weddings.
“As a community, we feel incredibly let down.”
“We are now in the situation where a group of people can attend a Zumba class inside together but not dance at a wedding, where a father can hug his child outside their venue but not walk together down the aisle, and where a one night stand after a boozy night in the pub is fine but wedding guests are still told to wear masks during a ceremony with friends and family,” says Westwood.
“For more than a year, we’ve been told that weddings have been restricted because of ‘hugging and kissing’. However this week, the UK government has been trumpeting the return of common sense with ‘responsible’ hugging and, crucially, their own report categorically states that there is no increased risk of transmission of Covid-19 in hospitality settings or at private events.”
Bernadette Chapman, director of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners, feels “incredibly strongly that the government has disregarded the wedding industry”.
“We were the first industry to shut down and we’re the last industry to reopen,” she tells HuffPost. “It’s ludicrous when you think weddings are the one area where we can really track and trace – we know exactly who is at that wedding.
“It doesn’t make sense when they’re talking about festivals reopening and theme parks and museums. And for goodness sake, football stadiums! It’s okay for football supporters to drink beforehand, to chant, to jump up and down, but we can’t have dancing at a wedding?”
How to entertain guests without dancing
The latest news may cause some couples to consider postponing again, but there will be plenty of others – like Alexandra Morris and her partner – who don’t want to wait any longer to get married. For couples in this boat, Chapman recommends thinking outside the box to ensure guests still have a good time.
“After the year we’ve had, it’s time to bring the fun back,” she says. “Couples may want to stretch out the meal, so it’s a bit like what you would have in the mediterranean – smaller courses stretching out how long it takes to be served.
“Then, you can think about table entertainment, from comedians to table magicians. You could also take it a step further and organise activities like quizzes, bingo, murder mystery, something where the tables compete with each other. Fun is the ultimate word.”
And remember, some of your guests might be relieved at the lack of dancing. Don’t panic.