Weddings and the Updated Lockdown Regulations | Covid-19 Update | 11 January 2021

The Coronavirus and governmental decisions thus far has impacted weddings in South Africa. After President Cyril Ramaphosa’s most recent national address on 11 January 2021, we look at the updated regulations. This is the fourth national address on the lockdown in just over a month. The story of My Wedding and Covid-19 continues…

The History of Lockdown and Weddings in South Africa

Covid-19 has impacted weddings in South Africa.  It’s been a grueling approximate 292 DAYS of lockdown in South Africa, beginning in March 2020.

During level 5 and level 4 of lockdown, it was clear that weddings were not permitted and home affairs were not processing marriage certificates.

Immediately thereafter, during level 3 a wedding ceremony, in the presence of the couple marrying, plus a marriage officer and two witnesses were permitted. It was only then during level 3 that home affairs begun processing marriage certificates.

Then it got better for a short while…

During level 2 lockdown weddings in South Africa were permitted at wedding venues, given that they were less than 50 people at the wedding event.

On 16 September 2020 we breathed a sigh of relief as the lockdown regulations had somewhat eased during lockdown level 1.  The most lenient alert level 1 (following protocols closely) permitted wedding venues to operate under a 50% capacity.  This was according and depending upon the venue’s floor space. Given this, an indoor wedding venue was capped at a maximum of 250 people and an outdoor wedding venue was capped at a maximum of 500 people during level 1 lockdown.

south african wedding 2020 2021

However, South Africa as of 11 January 2021, reverses from lockdown level 3 to stricter guidelines within lockdown ‘adjusted’ level 3.

It seems that adjusted level 3 of lockdown has somewhat similar impacts upon weddings that we experienced in level 4 and 5 with weddings. Most importantly that marriage registrations are temporarily suspended at Home Affairs nationwide during our current ‘adjusted’ level 3. 

Ramaphosa said last week that Covid-19 was priority number one for the government in 2021.

wedding and covid-19

Engaged Couples are at the forefront | Weddings and the Updated Lockdown Regulations

The knock-on effect upon weddings from the government’s announcement of the adjusted level 3 is serious. Bianca (26 years, Cape Town) says:

“It has been an absolute emotional and mental rollercoaster. I’ve cried many tears. We have postponed our wedding 4 times! The government regulations are updated with no notification. My worst of the 4 times is our planned wedding THREE days before the previous ban. We pick a new date, re-arrange all our suppliers and vendors – then our wedding has to be postponed again. The logistics in this is huge! It’s impacts over 150 wedding guests travel and plans too.” 

A hopeful future between weddings and the Updated Lockdown Regulations

According to news24, South Africa’s recoveries now stand at 973 265, representing a recovery rate of 78.1%.

According to news24 the most effected countries are United States, Brazil, India, Mexico, United Kingdom.  As of January 2021, South Africa has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa and the sixteenth highest number of confirmed infections worldwide, with a relatively low death rate.

Wedding Engagement

The President and Minister’s updated guidelines, rules and regulations 

(*reference is only made to the potential points impacting weddings)

1.  Home Affairs   

Pakishe Aaron Motsoaledi (Minister of Home Affairs in the Cabinet of South Africa) confirmed on 11 January 2021 that certain services are temporarily suspended at Home Affairs nationwide. This includes ‘marriage services, solemnisation and registration of marriages.’ Informing that some offices were closed more than once because employees had tested positive for Covid-19.

Certain services are temporarily suspended at Home Affairs. This includes ‘marriage services, solemnisation and registration of marriages.’

On 12 January 2021, Motsoaledi and Dlamini-Zuma (Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs) took questions. One question was on when the current lockdown will end.  Dlamini-Zuma said regulations will be reviewed when the number of infections have dropped sufficiently.

Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma

Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma

2. All indoor and outdoor gatherings continue to be prohibited (with few exceptions). Most social, religious, political, sports meetings are still not permitted.

There is STILL no specific reference between weddings and lockdown within the gazette. However the gazette does specifically refer to indoor/outdoor gatherings being prohibited until 15 February 2021. There is some confusion around this topic, which we explore further on.

Moreover, it’s noted that museums, conferencing, cinemas, casinos, galleries, libraries, gyms, restaurants – are limited to 50 persons or less for indoor venues and 100 persons or less for outdoor venues. If these mentioned venues are too small to hold the prescribed number of persons observing a distance of at least 1.5 metres from each other – then not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used.

Perhaps a wedding in a museum, conference facility, cinema, gallery, gym, library, restaurant would be permitted up to a maximum size of 50 people – but who wants to say their I DO’s on a cinema platform?

3.  Curfew is extended to 9pm-5am (excluding healthcare, security services, and medical emergency)

Nobody is allowed outside of their place of residence outside of this curfew. We see 1 hour difference in the previous curfew, which was 6am and now 5am.

4. Wearing a cloth mask or similar covering over the nose and mouth is mandatory when in public

Any person who does not wear a mask in public places will be committing an offense.  On conviction, they will be liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both a fine and imprisonment.  The manager or owner of a building, place or premises must ensure that all customers wear a mask.   An employer must ensure that all employees wear a mask while they perform their duties.

Purchase some stylish (can be personalised) wedding guest and bridal face masks here.

5. Alcohol sales from retail outlets will not be permitted. Distribution and sale of alcohol is prohibited. On-site consumption of alcohol will not be permitted. 

6. All beaches, parks, public pools, dams, lakes and rivers, inclusive of all recreational facilities at these places – are closed to the public in all the areas declared as hotspots.

If you had a wedding planned on either a beach, near or on a lagoon or at a public pool (and you’re located in a hotspot zone) – your wedding will definitely not be permitted at these closed lockdown zones.

However Botanical Gardens will remain open to the public.  On 12 January 2021, Dlamini-Zuma further iterated that gatherings at beaches also remain prohibited, including around public parks that have no access control. She further mentioned that beaches are open in the non-hotspot areas.

7. Hotels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, timeshare facilities, resorts and guest houses are allowed full capacity of the available rooms for accommodation, with patrons observing a distance of at least one and half metres from each other when in common spaces.

8. Conferencing, dining and entertainment facilities are subject to a limitation of a maximum of 50 persons or less for indoor venues and 100 persons or less for outdoor venues and if the venue is too small to hold 50 persons observing a distance of at least 1.5 metres from each other, then not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used.   

9.  Traveling to and from the Republic is allowed, subject to sub-regulation.

There are some adjustments to the adjustment level 3 lockdown level relative to entry points into South Africa.  Ramaphosa spoke about congestion at border posts.  He says to reduce this congestion, the 20 land ports that are currently opened will now be closed until 15 February. This includes Beitbridge and Maseru bridge. People will still be allowed to cross the border to transport fuel, commuting for school, repatriations.

10.  International travel is permitted, subject to the traveler providing a valid certificate of a negative Covid-19 test, which is obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel.  

International travel is restricted to the following airports:  OR Thambo International Airport, King Shaka International Airport, Cape Town International Airport.

11.  Closing Time   

The gazette clearly announces that the “closing time for the following establishments, whether indoors or outdoors, is 20H00:

Cinemas, theatres, casinos, museums, galleries, archives, gyms and fitness centres, restaurants, venues hosting auctions and venues hosting professional sport.”

12.  South Africa’s best online wedding shop remains open with deliveries to any door in South Africa within 1-3 days

The gazette permits that “all courier and delivery services shall provide for minimal personal contact during delivery.” So we have initiated a PART-SALE to support Brides and Grooms during this emotional time.

Remain Hopeful. Love Always Remains.

Any recommendations?

The declaration of the national state of disaster continues. We know that at least until 15 February 2021, gatherings are not permitted. At the next presidential address, which will be before 15 February 2021, we will know more.

So what if my wedding is between 28 December 2020 and 15th February 2021?  AND is less than 50 people?

The current gazetted information has left many engaged couples feeling confused.  Can a small wedding be permitted with less than 50 people in a restaurant or conferencing facility?

Or, in contrast, is a ‘wedding’ a ‘prohibited gathering’?

Or do we revert to our previous lockdown level 3 rules whereby a wedding ceremony, in the presence of the couple marrying, plus a marriage officer and two witnesses is permitted? If the latter, marriage registration may only be permitted once Home Affairs allows processing.

What next? My Wedding and Covid-19

Discuss your wedding date with your venue.  Understand how your venue is operating during lockdown and take it from there. Some wedding venues refuse to give any deposits back (as per most contracts) – so engaged couples are postponing their wedding, some FOUR postponements since March 2020.  Other wedding venues are handing back deposits, so engaged couples are opting for a casual restaurant ambiance of less than 50 people.

Weddings and the Updated Lockdown Regulations

So what if my wedding is between 28 December 2020 and 15th February 2021?  AND is MORE than 50 people?

Certainly look at blocking two wedding dates with your wedding venue, so there’s a plan A as hopeful and plan B as backup.  Keep your guests updated. Renew your save-the-date-invitations as required.  If your wedding guest list is compiled of a couple of more than 100 wedding guests, then potentially look at blocking your plan A wedding date until at least after 15 March 2021.

President Ramaphosa is hopeful

Ramaphosa said “we will undertake a massive programme of vaccination so we can achieve immunity.” He says Africa will likely need about 1 billion doses to immunise 67% of the population. He says our scientists say we will reach herd immunity once about 67% of our population is vaccinated.

Ramaphosa says the lockdown measures will remain in place until there is proof that the cases are dropping and the demand on hospitals become alleviated.

In summary

The most recent Presidential address on 11 January 2021 has furthermore reversed South Africa’s alert level lockdown from level 3 to level 3 ‘adjusted’, until 15 February 2021.  Recent information from our Minister certainly informs of certain services which are temporarily suspended at Home Affairs. This includes ‘marriage services, solemnisation and registration of marriages.’

However it seems there is possibly a blurred grey zone of whether a wedding is defined as a gathering, or not. If a wedding is not a gathering and can simply be applied to an ambiance of a restaurant – it is not recently gazetted.

This has created confusion among engaged couples: My Wedding and covid-19

At the beginning of the previous level 3 (before level 1 was applied in September 2020), level 3 THEN permitted a wedding ceremony, in the presence of the couple marrying, plus a marriage officer and two witnesses. It was then only during level 3 that home affairs begun processing marriage certificates. However now we have immediately re-entered level 3 called ‘adjusted’ and marriage registrations at home affairs are temporarily suspended.

A few engaged couples tied the knot during lockdown with just a handful of loved ones, and are now preparing for their big wedding reception celebration and festivities, once lockdown permits.

Some wedding restaurant-like venues are apparently saying they are permitted 50 people at a wedding, obviously closely following protocols of face masks, social distancing, sanitising and of course no alcohol. It would seem some wedding venues are outdoors and are permitting up to 50 people at a wedding, with the same protocol restrictions.

A small portion of weddings have been relocated to a restaurant ambiance, which is permitted of less than 50 people, certainly following protocols. Moreover, other wedding venues have said no gatherings are permitted during adjusted level 3 lockdown.

What we are certain of, and which will impact weddings is:

It is however very clearly gazetted of regulations such as the 9pm-5am curfew, accommodation venues, closing times, no sales of alcohol and travel regulations.

Many engaged couples have chosen to hold out the storm of Covid-19 regulations and postpone their wedding.  Kimberley (25 years, Durbanville) says:  “I want my wedding day of my dreams. I have dreamt of my wedding since I was a little girl. We were supposed to marry on 18 April 2020, we have postponed once since. I AM marrying my highschool sweetheart! We keep praying this wave will pass, and which it will. We will keep postponing until we can have our big day with no heavy restrictions. Until then I will keep planning my wedding.”

In the interim, have FAITH, keep HOPE and continue your wedding planning. You WILL have your wedding day dream. Click here to read some awesome Wedding Tips

Remember to browse South Africa’s Most Popular Online Wedding Shop by clicking HERE

This article will be updated in our blog as wedding information progress onwards. Watch this space! Most importantly, check into our  Blog Page for more insight into Hot Wedding Topics.

*Note from the Editor:  By no means is this article a comprehensively seamless analysis or by any means official information. However this article is merely intended to explore grounding information proposed to sober wedding indecision during the national state of disaster. This information is accurate to the date of publishing.  More information will unveil as the government releases further information.