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Indoor weddings and baptism ceremonies in NI to resume

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First Minister Arlene Foster and Economy Minister Diane Dodds arriving outside the five Star Merchant Hotel in Belfast city centre

First Minister Arlene Foster and Economy Minister Diane Dodds arriving outside the five Star Merchant Hotel in Belfast city centre

Photopress

First Minister Arlene Foster and Economy Minister Diane Dodds arriving outside the five Star Merchant Hotel in Belfast city centre

First Minister Arlene Foster has announced that hotels and private venues will be allowed to hold weddings from Friday.

The Executive also agreed that civil partnerships and baptisms could resume from the same date.

Wedding and baptism ceremonies have been put on hold since the introduction of the lockdown to combat the spread of Covid-19.

It will be up to wedding venues themselves to determine the precise opening dates for ceremonies, while they can also choose if they wish to provide post-ceremony celebrations.

DUP leader Mrs Foster held a Belfast city centre Press conference yesterday without Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill following the dispute over the Sinn Fein vice-president's attendance at republican Bobby Storey's funeral last week.

Mrs Foster said: "I am delighted to say that we are able to announce in relation to weddings and baptisms that they can now go ahead from July 10 in a socially distanced way but inside, taking account of the space available.

"No longer will they be limited in numbers; it depends on the space in the church, or indeed in the venue as well."

Northern Ireland Hotels Federation chief executive Janice Gault welcomed the news, explaining that the wedding industry is worth £250m to the local economy.

"The hotel sector is therefore looking forward to being able to say 'I do' to the many couples who wish to get married, and to welcoming back guests for other events in the coming months," said Ms Gault. "It's important to recognise that the hotel industry faces a massive challenge in responding to Covid-19.

"The understanding is that there will be further clarification around other types of gatherings, meetings and events this week. This will open up further income streams in what is undoubtedly a challenging trading environment."

Economy Minister Diane Dodds added: "Hotels and private venues will need to assure themselves that they have taken the appropriate steps to put precautions in place for the safety of staff and customers. It is therefore likely that many will not be ready for July 10. However, they are free to host weddings any time after that date once they have measures in place."

Belfast Telegraph