A huge thank you to our member and OPD trainer Alison Pickel for pulling this information together for NSW! No guarantees we’ll manage the same amount of detail for other states, but I’ll give it a red hot go!

RULES FOR WEDDINGS IN NSW AT 80% ROADMAP

Last updated 18th October 2021

The second stage NSW’s staggered reopening plan has come into effect a week earlier than expected thanks to high vaccination rates. For weddings and other significant events (i.e. funerals and memorials), there aren’t a lot of changes between stage one and two, but there are a few key things, which we’ve updated below. If you have a question not answered here, let us know in the comments.

A quick disclaimer: we are not lawyers nor do we work for or represent the NSW Government. This is merely one person’s (Alison’s) interpretation of the rules and should not be relied upon.

We strongly suggest that you do your own reading and make your own enquiries – this is just a starting point.

The best sources of information regarding the rules are:

  • The Public Health Orders: www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/public-health-orders.aspx
  • The NSW Government website: www.nsw.gov.au
  • And Service NSW phone support: 13 77 88
    Note: If calling Service NSW, make sure you note down the name and time of the person you spoke with, what they told you and get a call reference number. They have been known to very occasionally give out incorrect or unclear information (they are pretty much just reading the same website you are). You don’t want to be caught out because of someone else’s mistake.

Here’s a quick ‘jump to’ list to help you find the information you are after:

Who exactly is this information for

The below info is for significant events occurring in ‘General Areas’ according to the NSW Public Health Order (PHO). Currently, that applies to all of NSW. There are also provisions written in the PHO for ‘stay at home’ areas – this is in case an area goes into a snap lockdown. At the time of writing (18th October), this didn’t apply to any area, so I won’t be talking about those additional restrictions.

This article focuses on weddings, but in most cases, the information covers funerals and memorial services, too, as these are all considered significant events under the PHO.

This information is also only for weddings under the 80% roadmap rules. New restrictions are expected to come into force on 1st December (see below), and we will update this article if/when that happens.

Main differences between 70% and 80% restrictions

If you’ve already read this article prior to 18th October, a lot of it remains unchanged. I’ve added a few extra details now, but these are the main differences:

  • Wedding caps have been removed, density limits still apply
  • Seating is no longer required when eating and drinking at weddings
  • You can now have 20 visitors in a home (this may be relevant for weddings on residential properties)
  • People may now attend weddings anywhere in NSW

Maximum number of people at weddings

The 100-person limit has been scrapped meaning there is no longer an upper limit on the number of people who can attend a wedding. Instead, it will depend on density limits, vaccination status and location. Let’s break it down.

What are the density limits for weddings

Unless the wedding happens to be at a type of premises that has special density rules (eg a waxing salon or, more likely, a place of residence – more on that later), weddings fall under the general density rules which are:

  • for the parts of the premises that are indoor areas—1 person per 4 square metres of space
  • for the parts of the premises that are outdoor areas—1 person per 2 square metres of space

This is a bit of a change from how this has been worded in previous PHOs where only certain venues had make a distinction between areas. Now wedding venues will not be able to combine indoor and outdoor spaces when calculating total areas. Venues may only include areas accessible to guests when calculating space.

Are marquees considered indoors or outdoors?

As long as two sides of a structure is open to the weather, then it is considered an outdoor space. Any more enclosed than that, it’s an indoor area.

Does the density limit include the couple and/or the wedding party?

Yes.

Does the density limit include children and babies?

Yes. They may be little, but they can still catch, carry and spread the virus.

Does the density limit include the celebrant/staff/other vendors?

Nope. People who are engaged in work at the wedding are not counted when calculating the limits.

Does the unlimited cap/density limits include unvaccinated people?

This is a bit more complicated, so refer to the vaccination section below.

How many people can be at a wedding at a private residence?

Probably 20 (plus some – explanation below). At the 70% restrictions, there was conflicting information between what was allowed at significant events vs places of residence. With the removal of caps on weddings, this has also removed a lot of the conflict. So in my reading, the rules for the maximum number of people at a place of residence stands. This was confirmed by Service NSW when a couple of mine called them about their upcoming wedding.

This means you could only have:

  • Anyone who lives at the home (note: this is only allowed in households where everyone over 16 is fully vaccinated)
  • Anyone engaged in work (e.g. celebrant, photographer, caterer etc)
  • Any person who is aged 12 and under
  • Up to 20 additional people who are EITHER aged 16 and over and fully vaccinated OR aged 13-15 regardless of vaccination status

What is less clear is if you need to fill in a COVID-Safe plan and have a QR code. I would err on the side of yes, because it is still a significant event, just at a premises with additional restrictions. Then it becomes a question of whether you must follow the density and mask rules of the Significant Event COVID-Safe plan, or you can ignore them because they don’t apply at places of residence.

My advice would be if you have a couple enquiring about this circumstance, call Service NSW for yourself – you might get a different take depending who you speak with. Just remember to note down the call reference number.

What about weddings in Airbnb and holiday rentals?

This is likely to fall under the maximum number of people at a holiday rental rules. These are really similar to the residential rules because it becomes temporary accommodation (and therefore a place of residence). You may be able to have even more people at an Airbnb wedding than a home, because you are allowed to have up to 20 people staying (who then become members of the household), then an additional 20 visitors who aren’t “staying”(plus vendors, and children 12 and under). In most cases, adults will need to be fully vaccinated.

Again, if you face this situation, I recommend contacting Service NSW.

What about weddings in restaurants/other hospitality venues

Yes. Hospitality venues are not restricted to the 20-person booking limit for significant events. Density limits apply.

Who is liable is the maximum people/density limit is exceeded?

Everyone who is there. Individuals and businesses may be fined.

Who can travel for a wedding?

I’m not going to go into interstate travel (sorry border celebrants), because those rules depend on what other states are doing as well and it would be way too difficult to cover here. And we still need to wait for overseas travel (supposedly 1st November, but the Federal and State governments seem to have different ideas). Instead, this section will look at travelling within NSW.

Can someone who lives in Greater Sydney attend a wedding in regional or rural NSW (and vice versa)?

Yes! They quietly introduced this change. Previously, it was only allowed for a person in rural and regional NSW to attend a significant event in Greater Sydney, but not the other way around. But now, any (Greater) Sydneysider can now attend a wedding anywhere in NSW as long as they comply with all other requirements of the PHO.

Do I need to register my travel?

There is no longer a requirement to register when travelling within NSW.

What’s the deal with vaccinations and weddings?

This issue seems to be the one causing the most angst. If the roadmap goes ahead as planned, then vaccination status won’t matter from 1st December, but for the next few weeks, these are my best understanding of the rules.

Can unvaccinated adults attend a wedding?

If a person is over 16 and not fully vaccinated and does not have a valid medical exemption, they may only go to a ‘small wedding service’. A small wedding service is defined as a wedding that ONLY has:

  • The five people required for a legal wedding (i.e. the couple, the celebrant and the two witnesses)
  • One person to record the wedding (e.g. a photographer or videographer – this could be a friend)
  • Five additional guests, including children and babies

As soon as there is one unvaccinated adult who does not have a medical exemption coming to the wedding, this 11-person restriction applies.

Another thing to be aware of for these small weddings is that there will be restrictions on where they can be held if people are unvaccinated. They usually won’t be able to be held in a private residence (unless everyone there is a member of that household) or any premises that require a double-vax status. Outdoors in a public place is likely the best location.

Can unvaccinated children attend a wedding?

Yes. If a person is under 16, even if they are eligible for vaccination, they are not required to be vaccinated to attend the wedding, as long as they are attending with a fully vaccinated adult from their household. (They can also attend if they are a working at the premises).

Do celebrants need to be vaccinated to conduct weddings

In most cases, vendors – including celebrants – need to be vaccinated (or have a valid medical exemption) to attend any wedding larger than a ‘small wedding service’. The only exception is if the vendor lives outside of Greater Sydney AND the venue is outside of Greater Sydney AND they have had one dose. The double dose rule for these people won’t kick in until 1st November. NB this exemption is for vendors only – it doesn’t apply for guests.

Who is responsible for checking the vaccination status of people at the wedding?

It’s the responsibility of the occupier of the premises to ensure that no unvaccinated people are on the premises under the above rules. In most cases, that will mean the owner/operator of the venue (or for weddings at a home, all people over 18 from that household), but for weddings in a public place, such as a park, it is the person organising the event (the couple or wedding planner) or the person conducting the service (the celebrant).

How can we check vaccination status?

Where checking a vaccination status is required, adults will be required to present one of the following:

  • The green tick via the Service NSW app when checking in
  • Evidence from the Australian Immunisation Register that they’ve been vaccinated (this can be a digital certificate or printed)
  • Evidence from the Australian Immunisation Register that they have a medical contraindication that prevents them from being vaccinated (this can be a digital certificate or printed)
  • A medical contraindication certificate – this is a specific form that must be filled in by their doctor and can only be issued in specific circumstances

How can we possibly be expected to check vaccination statuses while we are setting up at a wedding?

It’s a valid concern, and one that celebrants have been struggling with since QR codes were introduced. But regardless on whether you think it’s fair or not, at the moment, the celebrant is jointly on the hook for this with the couple for weddings in outdoor public spaces.

Personally, I’ve been handling it by requiring my couples to either supply a covid marshal, or I’ll supply one for an additional fee. It’s up to you how you want to manage this responsibility.

What if an unvaccinated adult wants to attend a large wedding and they don’t have an exemption?

Ummm, too bad ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ A NSW Supreme Court ruling on 15th October upheld the Public Health Order’s rules around vaccinations. There are other cases to be heard, but for now, we should work on the assumption that these will be the rules until 1st December. There is a process to request an exemption (see below), but there is no guarantee that one would be granted.

I know that this is something that is a huge concern for celebrants at the moment, but I think it’s really important that we put our foot down, just as we would if a party to the marriage turned up drunk. It is part of our Code of Conduct that we uphold the law. In my opinion, the best way to avoid this being a problem on the day is to set clear expectations with your couples well in advance. Let them know that if the PHO rules are being broken, you won’t conduct the service.

I’d also recommend avoiding confrontation as much as possible. Don’t argue with people, just go to the couple and let them know that you will need leave if the unvaccinated adult does not. Yes, it sucks, but it’s more important to protect your business and your personal safety.

BUT can an unvaccinated person attend a large wedding in a church or other place of public worship?

Probably not. Even though unvaccinated people can now attend a place of worship, the clause that excludes unvaccinated people from certain premises includes “premises at which a significant event is being held, other than a small funeral or memorial service or small wedding service.” (s 2.18(5)(e)). So while they can attend a regular religious service or a small wedding in a church (or other place of worship), my intepretation is that they would be excluded from large church weddings.

COVID-Safety Plans and QR codes

These are still required at weddings, just as they have been since the beginning of the pandemic last year. You can find the most up-to-date COVID-Safe Plan here: www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/business/safety-plans/significant-events

Who is responsible for the COVID-Safe Plan and managing check-ins

As has been the case through all the PHOs, the COVID-Safety Plans and Check-In requirements are the responsibility of the venue operator, or when in a public place such as a park, the organisers of the event (i.e. the couple) or the person conducting the service (i.e. the celebrant).

My thoughts are that it’s important that both the celebrant and the couple take responsibility when the wedding is in a public place, because if something goes wrong, passing the buck probably won’t fly when fines start to get handed out.

What if they hold a reception/drinks in a public place immediately after the ceremony? Is the celebrant still responsible for ensuring the safety plan is followed?

This is a little less clear, but this is exactly the wording in the PHO re who is responsible:

4.6 Responsible person for an event
The responsible person is—
(a) for a significant event—
(i) if held in an outdoor public place—the person organising the event or conducting the service

And in the Dictionary section of the PHO, it defines a significant event as:

significant event means—
(a) a funeral or memorial service, or
(b) a wedding service, or
(c) a gathering following a funeral or memorial service or wedding service.

Since the significant events definition lists a wedding service and the gathering following the wedding service as separate subclauses, my interpretation is that we would only be responsible for the part involving the service. Once we are no longer conducting the service, the onus falls solely (not jointly) on the people organising the event.

Do you have to wear a mask at a wedding?

Again, this is not a simple yes/no – it depends on a few factors…

Do you have to wear a mask outdoors at weddings?

Nope. As long as you are in the fresh air, you can be mask free (except for people working at the a hospitality venue).

Do you have to wear masks indoors at weddings?

Sometimes. Most of the time while indoors, masks are required, but there are exceptions. These include:

  • The celebrant while conducting the ceremony or if you’re the MC doing announcements (because enunciation is essential to the work)
  • The couple while they are in the process of getting married
  • Anyone while eating and drinking
  • Any person under the age of 12 at any time
  • If a person has a medical exemption, for which they must carry appropriate evidence

At all other times people should be wearing a mask indoors.

Can masks be removed for photos?

There is nothing in the PHO about masks being allowed to be removed for photos. I would recommend that photos be taken outdoors if they don’t want masks in the pics.

Do masks have to be worn when dancing?

Not sure. The PHO says that masks don’t need to be worn while engaging in physical exercise (except for indoor gym and dance classes). So I guess it could depend on how vigorously one dances…

Is dancing allowed at weddings?

Yup! Indoor and outdoor dancing and singing is permitted. No dance floor limits either.

Can you drink and eat standing up at weddings?

Yep! You no longer have to be seated to eat, drink and be merry.

What if I/my couples don’t want to follow these rules?

You can always apply for an exemption. According to the NSW Health website: “Exemptions are only considered where there are exceptional or unforeseen circumstances and when the applicant demonstrates an understanding of how public health risks will be controlled.”

You can find the exemption form here: www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/gathering-exemptions.aspx

Changes in the near future

Changes seem to be made on a daily basis, so we will endeavour to keep this article as up-to-date as possible, but this is what we currently know about the roadmap.

What changes are likely to happen on 1st November

Wedding vendors living and working outside Greater Sydney will be required to have had two vaccination doses. Also, fully vaccinated international visitors will not be required to quarantine in NSW (though they will need to take a COVID test before boarding their flight). However, the Morrison Government has said that international arrivals will be restricted to Australian citizens, residents and their immediate families. Still, this could be good news for couples who have been desperately wanting overseas family at their wedding.

What changes are likely to happen on 1st December 2021?

Unvaccinated people will be allowed to attend large weddings. No maximum person limit, but density limits of 1 person per 2sqm will still apply. No limits for residential premises. Masks will not need to be worn inside (except for some hospo workers).

Did we miss anything? Let us know your questions in the comments and we will do our best to answer