The Church of England has issued new guidance for baptisms and weddings amid the global coronavirus outbreak, limiting attendees to five, including the bride and groom.
Ceremonies can proceed, the church said in official guidance released Thursday, and it should be limited to two witnesses the priest marrying the couple and the bride and groom.
Amid the uncertainty over such drastic measures, Buckingham Palace announced that Princess Beatrice, who is engaged to be married, is "reviewing" her wedding plans. Her wedding was set to occur in the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace in London in late May.
“The couple will carefully consider government advice before deciding whether a private marriage may take place among a small group of family and friends,” a spokesperson for the palace said.
The Church of England guidance goes on to recommend that where relatives and friends are unable to attend in light of the new limits, churches will be glad to facilitate digital means of joining the ceremony through tools like Skype or by recording the service to send at a later date.
“Where no audio link can be achieved, an order of service could be sent either by email or post. Apart from the bride and groom, the physical distance should be observed as far as possible," the guidance reads.
“No additional church personnel will attend the service, for example organists, vergers or sound system operator etc.”
Couples who cancel their church wedding are going to be refunded any fees or deposit in full.
Regarding baptisms, the guidance suggests that it be limited to the candidate, their parents, guardians or carers, in addition to the godparents and minister. The priest ought not to hold the child and the water not be administered with the hands but an appropriate instrument, it instructs.
"Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead," the archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Cantuar and John Sentamu, said in a letter. "Our life is going to be less characterized by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterized by the prayer and service we offer each day. We may not be able to pray with people in the ways that we are used to, but we can certainly pray for people. And we can certainly offer practical care and support. "
Church buildings are still being urged to stay open "for private prayer wherever possible."
The Church of England guidance is but one of many "social distancing" measures that have been put forward around the world in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which first began in China several months ago and has rapidly circled the globe. The elderly, those 65 and over, have been most affected by the disease and account for most of its fatalities.
Earlier last week, the Church of England advised that funeral attendees be limited to immediate family only, and that services be livestreamed to for others who wish to pay their respects.
Weekly religious gatherings and services of all kinds have been suspended in many parts of the world and have been held online through social media platforms.