Living in the US but getting married in my native UK resulted in some hilarious conversations with my parents. I suppose I had gotten ideas from the weddings I had attended here that made no sense to my traditional parents;
“A flower girl? Are 5 bridesmaids not enough for you?”
“Throw your garter? Why on earth would you want to do that! Do you wish to give your Grandmother a heart attack?”
I guess there are more differences between US and UK weddings than I knew about. There are the obvious ones – Brits don’t have bridal showers, there is no rehearsal dinner tradition and the ‘groomsmen’ are not groomsmen, but ushers, whose role is simply to welcome guests to the church and show them to their seats. They then remain at the back of the Church for the remainder of the ceremony.
Then there are the much more subtle ones, which I will briefly list here. If you ever have the privilege of attending a wedding across the pond, be sure to look out for these little details!
USA – After the flower girl (usually a young girl) enters the church and scatters flowers, the ring bearer (young boy) walks up the aisle and delivers the ring (or a fake one) to the Groom. Bridesmaids enter next, and then stand at the front of the church on the left hand side. The Groom and his groomsmen wait at the front of the church on the right. The Bride enters last on her Father, or a close male friend or relatives, arm.
UK – Flower girls are uncommon in British weddings, but are becoming more popular. Page boys (young relatives/ friends around 7-10) and bridesmaids enter the church behind the bride, since traditionally their main role would be to hold the train on the Brides dress.
A page boy in traditional wear, Courtesy of alanjackman.co.uk
USA – A chosen Bridesmaid (often the Brides sister or her best friend) is known as the Maid of Honor. Bridesmaids roles are quite ‘serious’ compared to in the UK, and they are expected to pull their weight in the preparations. Bridesmaids enter the Church before the Bride and stand at the front. Bridal parties tend to be bigger in the US (5 is about average), whereas in the UK 2-4 bridesmaids is more standard.
UK – A chosen bridesmaid, similar to the Maid of Honor, is known as the ‘Chief Bridesmaid’. She performs similar roles (organizational and supportive) but with much less obligation. If a bridesmaid is married, she is then known as the ‘Matron of Honour’. Bridesmaids enter behind the bride, since their traditional role was to hold up the Brides train.
Sometimes younger female relatives are included as bridesmaids (I myself was a bridesmaid at 4 years old for an Aunt) but this is becoming less common nowadays. Four of Kate Middleton’s bridesmaids will be young girls, her Chief Bridesmaid will be her sister.
USA – Bridesmaids and close female friends hold a bridal shower during the Brides engagement period. Closer to the wedding they will most likely organize a ‘Bachelorette Party’ as the Brides last single night out, too.
UK – Whilst there is no tradition of the Bridal Shower, Bridesmaids will organize a Hen night, or ‘Hen do’, for the Bride, which is in essence, the same as a bachelorette party. The equivalent for the groom and his friends is the Stag night, or ‘Stag do’, known in the US as the Bachelor Party.
You May Now Kiss the Bride? American friends who attended our wedding were surprised that we were not allowed to write our own vows. According to the Church of England, we had to follow a set script which could not be altered. This script does not include ‘You may now kiss the bride’, although most pastors, or vicars, will ask the couple if they wish to include this fun aspect to their ceremony.
Courtesy of zikkir.com
The Grand Entrance that Wasn’t!
While we were welcomed into the evening reception by a round of applause from guests, there was no cheering, loud music or any creativity as there often is in the US. We simply waved and sat down. The tradition of the grand entrance seems to be more popular and common over this side of the waters.
The traditional order of speeches is as follows;
1, Father of the Bride – offers his blessings to the bride and groom, welcomes guests and says a few words about his daughter.
2, The Groom then speaks on behalf of himself and the bride.
3. The Best Man then speaks on behalf of the bridesmaids. It is the best man’s speech that should be particularly entertaining, farcical, completely embarrassing for the groom and complimentary of both the bride and her bridesmaids. People look forward to this one ;)
It is rare for the bride or chief bridesmaid to speak, though this is changing.
Courtesy of wedding-cakes-and-toppers.com
Finally, I think some American guests were a bit disappointed by our choice of cake, but it was a meaningful one for me and (most of) our British guests! I guess it’s an acquired taste? The traditional wedding cake in the UK is a fruitcake, a dense mixture of fruit and nuts, soaked in booze – usually brandy – meaning that it can be made up to a year ahead of time, doesn’t need to be refrigerated and lasts for years – up to 10 some say!
Many couples choose to save a tier for their first wedding anniversary or the birth of their first baby. We took it on her honeymoon and back to the US. It was heavy. But it lasted! The last piece was eaten by a close friend, who was unable to attend the wedding but traveled to California 4 months later to celebrate with us. In any case, we offered a second choice of cake for our guests (chocolate) as Kate & William will do for their big day this Friday – to appease the non-fruitcake fanatic guests!
Did I miss anything? Have you attended British weddings and noticed any other striking differences?