Church of England weddings during the coronavirus outbreak should be limited to a maximum of five people, including the bride and groom, new guidance says.
And apart from the couple themselves, everyone else should observe a social distance as far as possible, the guidance says.
The Church said important life events can go ahead but must be “very significantly scaled back” so people can follow the Government’s social distancing advice.
Couples are being advised to “stream” their ceremony to absent friends and family, and the Church will work with those who wish to rearrange in light of Covid-19.
The Church said weddings should be limited to the legal minimum of five people – the priest, bride, groom and two witnesses.
The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said: “Couples and parents, friends and families will have been planning for months, even years for their special moment, whether a wedding or a christening.
“Now it can go ahead – but with only the minimum required in attendance. You may need to cancel or postpone.
“Whatever decision is made, God’s love and blessing will still surround all those who would have been there that day.”
The advice recommends similar measures for baptisms, with numbers restricted to the child, their parents, guardians or carers, godparents and the minister.
The priest should not hold the child and water should be administered with an “appropriate implement” such as a shell.
Only clergy and parents should join the candidate at the font, with godparents maintaining a social distance, it adds.
Couples planning to tie the knot will now have to decide whether to press ahead with a small ceremony or wait until it is safe to have a larger gathering.
This includes Princess Beatrice and her fiance Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, who have already cancelled their reception and will only be able to have two guests at their ceremony if they decide to go ahead on May 29.
Abbie Jupp, 25, from Colchester, Essex, said that she and her partner planned to go ahead with their wedding ceremony at the beginning of April, but hoped to postpone their reception.
“We spoke to the vicar this morning and we’re probably just going to do the ceremony with our parents and my sister,” she said.
“Essentially the ‘wedding’ wedding is not going to go ahead and we’re just now playing it by ear to see what the insurance situation is.”
Ms Jupp said that the information they had received from the venue was “unclear” as its own insurance did not yet cover the Covid-19 outbreak.
“The venue is saying to us we can move the date but obviously we don’t know when to move it to. We could move it to October and it could still be bad,” she said.
“But it’s all quite unclear – the venue said their insurance doesn’t cover them because they’re covered for infectious disease outbreak but Covid-19 is not on the official list of infectious diseases yet because it’s brand new.”
The Federation of Synagogues, which represents orthodox Jewish communities, told members in a letter that weddings “should not be postponed” but could be held with a minimal number of people present, or in line with any Government guidance.
They should take place outdoors as much as possible and close contact during dancing should not take place, it said.
The Muslim Council of Britain has called for the suspension of all congregational activities, which includes weddings, within the Muslim community in light of Covid-19.