These are the rules set out for post-lockdown wedding ceremonies held at Sunderland Civic Centre

Arrive early and pick your 10 closest friends and family – these are the rules laid down for couples who want to say ‘I do’ at Sunderland Civic Centre.

Thursday, 16th July 2020, 12:30 pm

Socially-distanced services began again on Saturday, July 4, with four held across the city and two within Sunderland City Council’s offices in Burdon Road since the lockdown rules were eased across England.

A council spokesperson said: “Registrars are working hard to help couples celebrate their big day while working within the guidelines to ensure ceremonies can run as safely as possible.

"There is still a need to observe social distancing and a range of other measures such as limited numbers of guests.

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Beverley Stobes and James Thompson on their wedding day at Sunderland Civic Centre.

"These guidelines are in place across the country.”

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Retired miner James Thompson, 67, and Beverley Stobes, 58, who met when they became neighbours in Magdalene Court in Seaham, were told they were the first to exchange vows at the civic centre following the relaxation of the restrictions.

James said: ”We had booked it back in October last year for that Monday and it was by chance.

Weddings services can be held at Sunderland Civic Centre.

"We were a bit nervous about it at first, but as soon as we got there, it was fine, it was the perfect day.

"We were told we couldn’t clap or cheer and it was a short ceremony.

"We got together because we used to go out and walk her dog, Buddee, together, he's a border collie-Jack Russell cross, he’s lovely.

"I love Beverley to bits, and now I’ve gained wife as well as a dog.”

The couple were still able to keep their booking for a small gathering at the Dancing Betty at Dalton Park, with James adding the staff there had been “really fantastic.”

Here is what you need to know if you’re planning to hold a service at Sunderland Civic Centre and elsewhere in the city soon:

How many people are allowed to the service?

In the register office, it is two guests and two witnesses; a rule which was in place ahead of the changes.

The Wearmouth Room remains out of bounds as it is too small to allow for social distancing, however, the Mowbray Suite can be used with numbers limited to the couple, two witnesses and 10 guests only, with seats two-metres apart.

What other rules are in place?

Everyone is requested to arrive 15 minutes before the ceremony and sanitise on arrival.

Limited photography is allowed but no personal music.

Wedding certificates are issued by post.

All registrars’ pens are cleaned between uses and chairs are wiped down between ceremonies at the civic centre.

What about at other venues?

No more than 30 people are allowed in the room and it must be a basic ceremony.

This includes the registrar and the photographer but not hotel staff.

The certificate will be posted.

Toilets are not in use at the civic centre but other venues will have their own rules.

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