A typical British wedding is very classic and traditional. There are numerous British wedding customs throughout history and some are still prevalent today. Most couples incorporate traditional wedding customs but sometimes, they will add their own twist to them. Here are the most popular traditional customs to guide you through the British wedding experience.
British Pre-Wedding Traditions
Britain has a long history of traditions and rituals. You can experience these traditions in daily life from education, laws, funerals, weddings, etc. Speaking of weddings, the British wedding style is elegant and full of customs. Regardless of how many British weddings you have gone to, no two ceremonies are alike since each couple is unique no matter how they adopt British traditions. The most important thing is that the couple and their guests enjoy themselves on this special day.
Proposal: It is customary for the groom to go down on one knee with the engagement ring box in his hand and propose to the bride. In same-sex relationships, one of the partners goes on one knee and proposes to the other.
Engagement Announcement: The father of the bride publishes an engagement announcement in the newspaper. An example of an engagement announcement is “The engagement is announced between Anthony, elder son of Mr and Mrs Edmund Barnes of Maidstone, Kent, and Katherine, elder daughter of Mr and Mrs Miles Smith of Taunton, Somerset.”
Hen and Stag Parties: The hen party refers to the bride and her friends going out, having fun, and bonding with each other before the wedding. The groom and his friends go out for male bonding before the wedding called a stag party.
British Wedding Traditions
Wedding Ceremony: The groom and his best man stand at the altar while the bride’s father escorts her down the aisle. The bridal party includes a chief bridesmaid and/or page girls and page boys; the bridal party follows the bride and her father. The typical British wedding attire for the bride is a white gown with a veil and a bouquet of flowers. The groom’s wedding attire is a suit.
One of the British wedding traditions still popular today includes the “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.” The bride wears something old, new, borrowed and blue; in the modern era, brides ignore the silver sixpence in the shoe custom.
The couple’s vows follow the script provided by the Church of England and the couple exchange rings. During the ceremony, people perform hymns and readings.
Rice Throwing: According to British wedding etiquette, the guests throw rice for good luck when the couple starts to leave the wedding venue. Sometimes guests toss confetti over the couple. Photographs are also taken as the couple is leaving.
British Post-Wedding Traditions
Wedding Reception: The couple hosts their family members and friends for dinner and dancing after the British wedding ceremony. The guests enjoy the “wedding breakfast”regardless of what time the meal exactly takes place. The couple invites certain guests for the wedding reception but not the wedding ceremony. The couples and bridal parties sometimes welcome guests in a receiving line at the reception venue.
Wedding Cake: For a traditional British wedding, the couple orders a fruitcake tiered. Sometimes, the couple saves the top tier for the first wedding anniversary or other significant events in the future.
Wedding Toast: For a wedding toast, the couple’s friends and families raise their glasses at the newlyweds for luck and happiness. Usually, the best man or the bride’s father gives the toast. The toast giver imparts funny anecdotes about the couple and words of wisdom during a toast.
First Dance: The bride and groom dance first at their British traditional wedding reception. Afterwards, the guests join in the dancing.
Bouquet Toss: The bride tosses her bridal bouquet to share her good luck. They say that whoever catches the bouquet will have their wedding next.
Wedding Favours: Guests receive favours to remember this happy day and this custom has been around for several years.
Carrying the Bride Over the Threshold: This custom started as a way of protecting brides from evil spirits. In modern times, it symbolises the couple entering a new phase of life together.
Honeymoon: Most couples these days go on a honeymoon after their wedding. They want to start their married life stress-free hence a honeymoon. Honeymoon locations include exotic, romantic, secluded or bustling cities.
British Wedding Etiquette
Wedding etiquette can be difficult especially if you don’t know it in advance. There are two major events in a British wedding: the wedding ceremony and reception. Sometimes, guests are only invited to the reception and not the ceremony. There are childfree ceremonies also happening. If the invitation is addressed to the whole family, then children are allowed; if the invitation is addressed to the adults, then children aren’t allowed.
Guests should RSVP in time so that the couple has ample time to plan their wedding and reception. Dress codes are important so pay attention. When in doubt, you can always contact the couple for any clarification. The wedding reception may feature a cash bar so be prepared if you want to drink. If the invitation doesn’t say “plus one”, then only you are invited and only bring a guest if your invitation states “and Guest”.
Every culture has its own particular style and weddings are the perfect place where culture and history come together. A typical British wedding is traditional but in the modern era, couples choose which rituals to do on the wedding day. Either way, a British wedding is a day of joy and celebration.