Ask Team Practical: A British Person’s Guide To American Weddings

By Kirsty, APW UK Guest Editor

It’s often said that the UK and the US are two countries divided by a common language. You say chips, we say crisps; you say cookies, we say biscuits; you say corn dog, we say that sounds disgusting. As a long-time reader of APW, I’ve noticed one or two Americanisms that didn’t seem to correspond neatly to their British equivalents, but could never find a reliable guide to help me navigate the tricky transatlantic waters. So, while Liz is taking a well-earned break for the Fourth of July weekend, I’m seizing this opportunity to answer a random sample of my own daft questions and start a (highly subjective) British Person’s Guide to American Weddings.

Who is Miss Manners and why is she so obsessed with envelopes?

Miss Manners is the nom de plume of Judith Martin, an American author and etiquette guru. She writes a globally syndicated advice column and is generally recognised as a leading expert in all things etiquette in the US. The problem is that, while etiquette is largely a function of basic good manners and common sense, it is underpinned by a complex set of social rules that can vary dramatically between cultures. Miss Manners is witty and sharp, and her advice is always thorough and well-researched, but if you’re concerned about accidentally picking up some quirk of American etiquette that doesn’t apply here, be sure to cross-check her advice with British etiquette bible Debrett’s.

As for the envelope thing, I have no idea. Am I the only one who throws envelopes in the bin without reading them? But Debrett’s seems to be equally excited about them, so there must be something to it. For example, did you know that invitations sent to married couples were traditionally addressed to the wife alone? I dread to think what Miss Manners would have to say about that (or Meg, for that matter). (Editors note: Meg pipes up from her barbecue to say she is actually really excited about this, and hopes we start this tradition right after we get out of the pool.)

The concept of evening guests seems to be frowned upon in America, but I’ve attended lots of weddings where some guests are only invited for the evening. Evening guests are still acceptable, aren’t they?

An evening guest, by way of explanation for the American readership, is a guest who is not invited to the ceremony or the meal, typically arriving around 7.30pm for the entertainment and dancing portion of the wedding. Often, these are people who are maybe not as close to the couple, but whom they still want to include in their celebration (work colleagues are a classic example).

Personally, despite their huge popularity with British couples, I have mixed feelings about evening guests. It’s always an honour to be invited, in whatever capacity, to share a couple’s wedding day with them. But as an evening guest, there’s a nagging feeling you’ve missed the best part, like running down to watch a passing parade only to see the last lone tuba player disappear round the corner. Plus it makes it even more important to stick to a strict wedding day schedule, or risk leaving your evening guests standing in a corridor while the best man tells yet another long and hilarious story that they won’t hear (as a chronically late person, this terrifies me).

But that’s just me. If having a smaller ceremony and meal followed by a big, blow-out party is what works for you, your guests and your budget, then yes, they are absolutely still acceptable. Miss Manners says so, and Debrett’s agrees. And if any Americans would like to borrow the concept, you can just tell any doubters that you’re having a British-themed wedding. Bonus: then you can make them all wear hats, too.

What about rehearsal dinners? I already have a wedding to plan, do I really need to entertain my guests the night before, too?

Ah, the rehearsal dinner. I remember the first one I attended, aged twelve, the night before my cousin’s wedding in Rhode Island. An extra party, with more free food, and more people fawning over our adorable Scottish accents? Seemed like a great idea to me. Not so great the next morning, when my parents appeared to be on the brink of death and lay in a darkened room until the last possible moment before the ceremony. Apparently there were free drinks, too.

The short answer is that the rehearsal dinner is an entirely American tradition and no, you do not need to have one. You can, if you like, but it’s not compulsory or even expected at a British wedding. There are no set rules about who would pay for it or host it, since it’s a relatively new phenomenon over here. If you do decide to have one, a word of advice: be careful with the Scottish relatives and the free drinks. That’s all I’m saying.

Liz says I need to have a full and frank conversation with my partner/mother-in-law/florist/whoever is responsible for the latest wedding-related crisis. Can’t I follow my usual strategy of pretending everything is fine, making passive aggressive remarks under my breath and spending the rest of my life quietly nursing my wrath? Isn’t that just how the British do things?

First, forgive me for the sweeping generalisation. Britain is a nation as varied and diverse as any other, and there are plenty of us who approach issues in a healthy, open and mature way. But Very British Problems wouldn’t be so funny if it weren’t also painfully accurate. How often have I said, “Really, it’s fine,” through gritted teeth, when precisely the opposite is true? Osborne may have wept at Thatcher’s funeral, but he’d probably rather die himself than talk about it. Expressing emotion isn’t something that has always come easily to the British and, in my experience, it’s still something we struggle with.

This is one time, though, when the Americans might be on to something. Putting aside any awkwardness and opening up to those we care about? Broaching difficult subjects instead of suffering in silence? Finding solutions, moving forward, forging new pathways in our most important relationships? It’s revolutionary, sure, but it just might work.

What the hell is a Mason jar and why did everyone lose their shit over them?

I HAVE NO IDEA. Just use a jam jar. Done.


This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are endless examples of things that can, viewed through the prism of another culture, seem quaint or even downright bizarre (the British obsession with fruitcake is admittedly a bit odd, and don’t even get me started on the garter toss thing).

So, Team Practical, it’s over to you. What American or British wedding traditions have left you baffled? Are there any you wish you could bring over to your side of the pond?

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  • The bridal shower is a mystery for me. Even if you choose not to have a wedding registry / marriage list , most probably people will still be generous and get you a present or two (I know because I love to give and find the perfect gift, more so in special occasions like the start of a marriage).
    Where does the bridal shower come from? Is it kind of like a bachelorette/hen do but where older ladies (moms, aunts…) are allowed to come to give advice? When did it start?

    • So basically a bridal shower comes from the tradition where the assumption is the bride and groom will be starting a household for the first time and they will need stuff to build a home. Particularly, the bride will need any number of housewares, linens, formal dinnerware etc. So the shower is where the women of the family “shower” the new bride with gifts and advice to help build her new home.

      Does that help?

      • This has just reminded me of a strange old Scottish custom that one of my friends did, where you have a ‘show of presents’ (there’s a Gaelic name but I can’t remember it). A few days before the wedding, you lay all your presents out and invite female friends and neighbours over to admire them. Sounds unbelievably quaint, but some people in rural parts of the country still do it.

        • Abi

          I went to the show of presents when all my cousins got married about 15 years ago. I haven’t known anyone to do one in recent years and I asked my mum about it when I got married last year. We agreed that gift lists have probably meant the end of the show of presents. No need to show off what everyone has already seen online? I agree though Kirsty, this seems the closest thing we have ever had to a bridal shower.

        • I saw this on Bainseann the Gaelic programme about weddings I am secretly additcted to. It is so cute (but then so is the whole programme)

        • meg

          Funny. That’s an old school WASP custom too. Possibly because all old school WASPs are near obsessed with their 100% British roots. FFS, my family knows what their tartan is. Because we’re originally Scottish enough to have one.

          (Minor eye roll at my own expense).

          • CeeBeeUK

            I was at a Norwegian wedding recently and they did the same.

        • (Here at least) It’s called a trousseau tea, and I narrowly escaped having one.

        • L

          There was a ‘tradition’ in the 90s in a few weddings I attended in CA as a kid where you went to the bride’s mom’s house and watched the bride and her husband open their presents the next day. Seems very odd now. Now, we have the day after breakfast.

          • Ugh, I had to have a present opening the next day, with breakfast. It was awful. (Being super hungover did not help.) Canada, 2010. It’s still pretty common – certainly more common that it should be, given gift cards and gift registries.

        • Emily

          My American, Catholic mother-in-law asked me if we were going to display our presents. At the wedding! Apparently that’s something that used to be done. There would be a room at the reception where all the presents – china, I assume – were laid out for all to see. Seems rather tacky to me, and my (American, Jewish) mother said that’s not something we do. So I’m not sure if it’s religion or vestiges of something else. I’m so intrigued to read about the Scottish showing.

      • Ally

        And in some small semi-rural small towns of low income (almost everyone of a certain generation either worked in the hosiery mill or the furniture mills) the shower was where you took your wedding present (at least for church hosted showers of people you knew at church)because who shows up with a box at the actual wedding? For the longest time as a young adult I was astonished that anyone would be expected to buy two separate presents – I only thought you sent a wedding present separately if you were unable to attend a shower or had somehow been missed in being invited to one (didn’t go to church with the couple, etc). That said, there was something to all those showers that I’m going to miss now living elsewhere and being 30 and not needing any china because I bought my own (and my grandmother augmented it before her death, plus I inherited hers) because I did love seeing all those lovely boxes wrapped with white Belk paper (Belk being the only department store in town, and where you were supposed to register – you should have seen the reactions from my grandmother and her peers the first time someone registered at Target!)

    • Sam A

      To add yet another, international twist to the tale…
      In South Africa, where i grew up, brides traditionally have a ‘Kitchen Tea’ – literally, a tea & cake party hosted by your MOH / family where the bride gets kitchen supplies, recipes and utensils as gifts. I guess it harks back to the days when you were ‘setting up house’ (for the first time) when you got married. I think nowadays, the traditional ‘tea’ is followed by a more debauched after party / hen… minus your great aunt and granny!

      • Sam A

        Kitchen Tea pressies are not the same as wedding/registry ones, so 2 gitfs!
        But… The kitchen Tea presents are usually inexpensive / not ‘fancy’ eg: tea towels, wooden spoons etc. tho, that may be a modern, thritfy amendment? Recipe sharing is also usually a big part of it – you gift the bride to be your ‘best’ recipe.

    • It sounds like a nice tradition, sitting all together, getting advice (with tea and cake :) ) and presents for the start of the new home, but then, does it replace the wedding registry? Or some guests are expected to give 2 gifts? Or is the wedding registry meant for guests who did not attend the bridal shower?

      • In the US at least, the bridal shower gifts usually come from the registry. There are vast regional differences but where I am from (the American South and Northeast), a gift given at the shower is considered the wedding gift and no gift at the wedding is required. However, as showers are traditionally women only and may be attended only by locals, anyone who does not attend the shower can give a gift at the wedding or send it within 1 year of the wedding.

        That lengthy gift giving rule is also why we have a year to send thank you notes. At least, that’s what i have been told.

        • Ally

          Yes!!! Someone else who was brought up that you didn’t have to give two gifts! I’ve managed to avoid the problem since finding out that it wasn’t “correct” according to the manners people by being lucky enough to only be invited to the shower, or only be invited to the wedding (because I was from out of town) because I keep moving, lol!

        • LEAH

          I live in the Midwestern U.S. and it seems to be expected that one give a gift at ALL wedding-related parties. My mother hosted an engagement party to introduce the two families and everyone brought us a present! It seemed very odd to me. And from the last two weddings in my fiance’s family, it is clear that everyone invited to the bridal shower brings a gift, as well as a present to the wedding. From what I understand, the shower present is supposed to be on the smaller side. On top of it, it is apparently common to have more than one bridal shower. I was told my fiance’s side planned to host one, as did my own family. All party gifts are taken from the registry, unless there is a family heirloom involved, and then it’s given at the engagement party or bridal shower. I don’t know if that is the rule in my area, but it seems to be the agreed upon standard betwixt our families.

      • I’m Western Canadian, and the expectation is a gift at the shower, and a gift at the wedding. In my circles, it’s usually an actual gift (tea towels, toasters, whatever) and cash/gift cards at the wedding. Showers tend to be smaller, so not all guests have to shell out twice, just some of them.

  • Charis

    From watching Ace of Cakes I always saw these groom’s cakes, like bright, silly cakes that go with the traditional-style tiered cakes? Why do groom’s have a separate cake? And why is it named after the groom? Why doesn’t the bride have a personalised cake?

    Also cocktail hour… isn’t that just the welcome drinks? Or a pre-dinner drinks reception? Why cocktails lol?

    • LikelyLaura

      Groom’s cakes are a mostly Southern tradition – though wedding/cake shows are making the idea more widespread. I’m not sure how they started, but the myth was that if a single lady took a piece home and slept with it under her pillow (ew) she’d meet her groom.

      In reality for decades it’s just been an excuse to have a chocolate cake along with the traditional white wedding cake and had about as much to do with the groom as the wedding cake had to do with the bride. The groom’s cake being personalized and in funny shapes is very, very new. Like last ten years or so new. And lots of couples still opt for just a pretty chocolate cake (like we did.) Moral of the story is you DO NOT need a grooms cake (an it definitely doesn’t have to be personalized) but really. Who doesn’t like more cake?!

      “Cocktails” just signifies the time spent socializing (with alcohol) before dinner. This is true if there is a wedding involved or not. “Cocktail hour” does have to mean you are drinking cocktails. You could serve wine or whiskey or whatever.

      • LikelyLaura

        Edit – Cocktail hour does *not* mean you have to serve cocktails.

        • Charis

          Ah OK thanks for that!

          Think if we had a groom’s cake FH would take it very literally and not share it with our guests lol.

          I’ve never been to an American wedding, and apart from blogs like this one where you do things quite practically I’ve only really gained experience from US reality TV and rom coms… so I’m sure a lot of the things that people from overseas think are customs, probably actually aren’t…

          • CeeBeeUK

            I’m the same away. You want me to share my cake?

      • Alexis S.

        I don’t think having the groom’s cake in silly/odd shapes is that new. Ever seen Steel Magnolias? The groom’s cake in the movie is an armadillo-shaped red velvet cake with gray frosting – you cut into and it’s red inside, like blood! – and that movie came out in 1989. Who knows, maybe that cake was the impetus for all the other personalized groom’s cakes?

        • LikelyLaura

          You’re totally right about Steel Magnolias! Though, I’m pretty sure that scene in the movie was meant to shock even Americans and not representative of any trend at the time. (That was red velvet cake inside the armadillo, btw, which is very southern and delicious with cream cheese frosting.)

          In my area (North Texas) at least, no one started serving the funny grooms cakes until shows like Ace of Cakes became popular. I’ve really only been to one wedding with a themed groom’s cake. And even that was just a sheet cake frosted to look like a letter because the groom works for the post office. The really impressive shaped cakes can be very expensive!

        • Haley

          I used the Steel Magnolias cake example the other day when asking my betrothed if he wanted a groom’s cake. It’s really my only experience with a groom’s cake, I’ve never seen one at the few weddings I’ve attended (all in the South). And of course now he wants one because MORE CAKE!

        • Kara E

          Not new, but totally a southern thing–like the same part of the US where debutantes come from.

      • Rachel

        We have the concept of drinks before dinner here. Maybe a gin and tonic before a meal or from 5pm or so, or sherry. I guess at a British wedding that drink would probably be champagne rather than a G&T.

  • Del678

    I’m torn on the frank conversations thing- many Australians also don’t talk about feelings nearly as much as Americans seem to – though maybe more than the English do.

    Talking about feelings so often doesn’t sit well with me (Actual clinical situations aside of course). No one can care about everything without going insane or having a break-down. Pick your battles/harden up/let it go/agree to disagree can be good policies to maintain sanity in some situations.

    There are some things I know my mother will never agree to like my not having a make-up artist or making the flower girl dresses myself so I just don’t bother talking to her about it. There’s no point using time, energy and emotions to convince her of my viewpoint. I’m going to do what I want anyway and she’ll be surprised at how well it all worked out so what’s the use. On the other hand I will confront her about not being bitchy towards my dad (ex husband) because actual emotional happiness is at stake an the outcomes vary dependent on action being taken or not.

    also can I just say 10 points for a post being posted while I’m awake!

  • Becca

    Hi Kirsty!!!!!!

    We actually had the ‘envelope conversation’. Most of my friends said they wouldn’t open any envelope addressed to Mrs Joan Jones though so we knocked it on the head. I did like the single boys one which was something like James Smith Esq. Fancy.

    As to hats, we spread the word that ‘hats were positively encouraged’ which may explain why my Mother in Law wore no hat (and a cardigan). There may have been teeth gritting and ‘you look….lovely’. Which actually, given that she originally told me she was wearing ivory lace, was at step in the positive direction. When everyone else is attired in hats you can see from space, it looked a bit….odd.

    We borrowed the pre wedding night dinner (we had a BBQ) and added our post wedding day brunch. It was actually lovely to be able to have time to spend with guests that we hadn’t seen as much as we would have liked on the day. Thank you America.

    Although you can keep your Jam and Mason jars. Thanks,

    • CeeBeeUK

      Hats are awesome! I’m hoping for a casual welcome dinner on Friday, wedding in Saturday and a hike or highland tour on Sunday for our out of town guests.

      • Anonymous

        I can’t stand the british and their hats! I secretly think we’re subconsciously eloping to avoid seeing old ladies in horrific hats!

        • Uh-oh. You’re probably not going to want to read APW this afternoon, then.

        • But…..but……..but……………hats! HATS!

    • Rachel Wilkerson

      I love hats! I wish we could make that A Thing over here. I want to strongly encourage hats at my wedding!

      • Exactly! I have recently discovered that I look good in hats, so now I’m trying to bring them back- by wearing them quite often… which gets me some strange looks in North Carolina… Ah well, at least I look fabulous!

      • Jenna

        YES! I do, too! Not sure how to reconcile a fairly casual event with “please wear a completely outrageous hat!” though.

    • How exactly does one dance in a hat without it flying everywhere?

      • Brenda

        I think most people end up taking off the hats by the time you get to dancing. Or else they’re your great-aunts who don’t dance.

      • Abi

        Traditionally, hats are removed prior to the dancing. The proper etiquette is actually that you cannot remove your hat until the mother of the bride removes her hat. It’s considered proper to wear it during the meal.

        This brings me to an interesting question of my own. I’ve been to 2 New York – Italian weddings and the meal and dancing were mixed together. You were encouraged to damce between courses. Is this peculiar to New York – Italian weddings or is it the norm in America generally?

        • Newtie

          Ugh, I have been to NY/Italian weddings that do this, too! I don’t know if it’s a Thing now or if it’s just a NY Thing. I don’t personally like it – I like dancing, and I like eating, but I don’t like my food to get cold while I’m dancing, and I don’t like to feel like I’m dancing and keeping one eye on the table so I don’t miss the next course, and I also don’t like to feel pressure to dance when I’m hungry. I think people do this so as to get in more fun time with their band, which I can understand – but I don’t personally like this arrangement. I’d rather have pleasant conversation with my fellow guests while we wait for our food, and then whoop it up afterward when I’m done eating.

        • I think it’s a newish NY area sort of thing. I have been to tons of weddings in New Jersey and only more recently has the line between dinner and dancing gotten blurred.

          I also find that the more alcohol consumed during the cocktail hour, the more dancing during dinner occurs.

        • rys

          It’s pretty typical of Jewish weddings — which usually start dancing the hora before the meal starts and then dance between courses (but usually someone tells you to take a seat for the meal and the band/DJ plays background music and then the dancing starts up again). I’ve never thought of it as peculiar.

        • Hypothetical Sarah

          All the weddings I’ve been to have been this way (over nearly 2 decades). But, now that you mention it, they’ve all been Jewish and/or NY’ers. In my experience, they usually make an announcement and ask people to sit when food is being served so that you don’t need to worry about food getting cold.

          As someone with a limited tolerance for dancing, I appreciate the arrangement.

      • I do have a hilarious picure of my husband dancing in my friend’s hat at about 11pm, but that’s not strictly in accordance with wedding etiquette…

  • LondonSarah

    APW before breakfast, brilliant!

    The thing I don’t understand where it came from is the wedding party that they have in the US – that your friends would stand up with you at the ceremony (I think?) and be seated with you at the top table at the reception, whereas in the UK you are seated with your immediate family for dinner (like parents, siblings on both sides, and that’s it). This confused my Canadian chief bridesmaid no end but she said she preferred it. She’s a polite girl.

    That and the phrase ‘being *in* a wedding’. Well of course you’ll be in my wedding, I sent you and 80 other people an invite. I don’t think it’s quite the same thing.

    • Teatime

      The bridal party being seated at the head table has made it’s way over to Australia too! Not sure when the transition happened though because my Mum said in her day you sat with your family but now I have never seen a wedding here that doesn’t have the bridal party seated all together (usually in a long line at the front of the room)>

    • Caroline

      American here. I’ve always thought the phrase being “in” the wedding was a tad weird. I mean, it kind of implies that everyone else is just a spectator, at the wedding. At our wedding, I think of the guests as part of the wedding, intrinsic witness’s surrounding us with love. Not passively watching. My sister isn’t the only one of my friends “in” the wedding. Everyone is.

    • According to Debrett’s (see, so useful!) the chief bridesmaid and best man were traditionally stuck on the far ends of the top table as well. Mmm, how fun for them. Not. Thankfully that’s not compulsory any more, although I can see how having your friends at the top table instead of family might actually be more fun, especially in complicated family situations.

      One other thing I’ve seen at American weddings is a so-called sweetheart table, where the newly married couple sit alone. That might seem quite anti-social to us, but I think it could be great – imagine being able to have a long conversation with your new spouse about everything that’s going on, instead of trying to grab five minutes between posing for pictures and politely laughing at your great-uncle’s sexist jokes. Anyone ever seen this at a UK wedding, or considered it?

      • Charis

        Yeah, we’re having a sweetheart table. With two sets of divorced parents and step parents it would just get too complicated, so it’s just going to be the two of us :)

        • Peabody_Bites

          We considered a sweetheart table for exactly that reason, but ended up sitting with each other at a table of close friends, and giving each parent (or stepparent) a table of adults to host, and each sibling a table of friends to host, and avoiding the top table altogether. That way everyone got their own fiefdom and we got to have fun with our friends.

          • Charis

            That sounds like a really good compromise.
            We’re only having 75 guests so it’s not really enough people to do that with, and our venue is quite small so we’ll be nice and close to everyone we love anyway. We’re having it in a pub! How British is that lol?

        • Bunny

          Aye, we’re going a similar route. One set of divorced and remarried parents that hate each other on one side, and with enough acrimonious drama-creation that we knew even a formal seating plan with them nowhere near us would be grounds for annoyances we have no interest in dealing with (my partner didn’t celebrate his 21st birthday with family, because the venue he chose was apparently not sufficiently “neutral ground” – gods know what sort of petty rubbish would ensue if we accidentally sit Uncle J too close to Aunt C!).

          So we’re having no formal seating plan and an open buffet – grab food, sit where you want – and will have a small table reserved for us because we’ll already be spending the whole day mingling and trying to give enough time to everyone to be seen as “fair”, so an excuse to just sit by ourselves and stop worrying about it for long enough to cram some of my mum’s homemade coleslaw down us will be very welcome!

      • LondonSarah

        Wow, think it was better that I didn’t know about Debrett’s whilst planning my wedding last summer! All those rules I was unaware I was breaking…!

        We had his immediate family in a line, up to him, then me, then my immediate family. Bridesmaid and best man were on the closest round table, with other close important people. I’m not sure I would have wanted to be on a single table with my new husband, maybe it takes you out of the reception a bit? But perhaps that’s the point.

      • Moz

        The head table being for the bridal party in Australia has been around at least since ’92 or ’93…..I might have sat at a couple. They’re certainly standard practice these days, although wedding magazines do like the sweetheart table trend, which started around ’98 or ’99. It’s a little out of fashion right now.

      • Amy

        We’ve been to an English wedding where they had a sweetheart table – they didn’t explain why but we assume its because the bride lost her parents. It was actually really lovely.

      • We completely Debrett’s it with step parents added even though we had to then have an EPIC conversation with my Dad that repeatedly explained that M’s step mum and step dad fell into the catergory of “parents” and that etiquette actually agreed that in this case they should have the status of parents as they were his parents! So it went best man, step mother of the groom, father of the groom, mother of the bride and so on…Fun times.

      • Jenn

        I’m getting married in Cornwall in a few months and we are having a sweetheart table. Had considered the top table but didn’t want to force the bridal party to be in the front and not with their partners, friends, etc. The venue suggested it as an option so I think it is becoming more common – I assume having been borrowed from US.

      • We had a sweetheart table (though we just called it ‘our table’ – sweetheart seemed a bit.. American. ha ha.) for the divorced parents/complicated families reason too. It was really nice having some time ‘alone’, although in a room of people. Our venue was very casual though so kind of allowed for it to happen and not seem weird, but a few people commented that they thought it was a nice idea.

      • Alexandra

        When I was worrying that a head table would leave a lot of bridesmaid/groomsmen SO’s stranded with people they don’t know well, the wedding planner suggested we set up a sweetheart table, but with an extra pair of seats so that people could be encouraged to visit us during dinner. It was a good solution in my mind.

      • Mezzanine

        We’re sneaking away in the middle of the main course, to have some private-ish time. (We’ll have a cup of tea together; our photographer will hover nearby and take photos of us.)

        Having a small bit of time for just-us will really make my day…

      • I’m from the US, and I’m having a sweetheart table for slightly different reasons. Our friends and family will want to sit and visit with people they haven’t seen in a few years, and this is a great time to do that. (If we didn’t have a sweetheart table, I think we’d end up with one gigantic table because we’d want to sit with EVERYONE!) Also, the past few weddings I’ve been to, the wedding party sitting at the top table have seemed so lonely and distant from the wedding. No one felt comfortable approaching this table (Since it was front and center, and a fair distance away from the other tables, who could blame them?) We’re hoping that a sweetheart table in the middle of the other tables will encourage people to come and say hello!

    • Kat

      No idea when the change from family to bridal party at the top table happened, but it’s the same in New Zealand (used to be family when my parents got married, now usually bridal party).

      Though with the complex family strcutures at many weddings I’ve been to having the bridal party is probably much easier!

      Also, how exciting to have new content pop up in the evening :)

      • Sarah

        This is where similarity leads to confusion because things are not actually the same in British and American tradition.

        For me the British wedding party traditionally meant the bride and groom, their parents, their siblings and any grandparents. The immediate family was automatically the wedding party because they would be most affected by the official union of their family with another by marriage. They automatically became the wedding party and sat in the front row and on the top table wearing the biggest buttonholes. It was a tacit recognition that the marriage was important for them as well as for the bride and groom.

        Society has changed and families are more at liberty to break out of the pattern of man, wife and children. People leave home and have their own lives before getting married and that means you sometimes want people other than immediate family close to you when you marry.

        Traditionally in Britain the bride’s mother would host the wedding so it was natural for her to be at the top table – it was her gig!

        • LondonSarah

          Yep, exactly. And why the invites were traditionally ‘Mrs and Mrs X invite you to attend the wedding of their daughter…’

          A lot changed when people sailed away across the Atlantic, the two places (UK and USA for example, but equally France and Quebec, Germany/Netherlands/Ireland/Italy and the USA) developed language, spelling, accent and culture in some similar and some very different ways. They’re not the same and confusion arises when they are assumed to be because they look/sound similar.

          I get very annoyed when my computer tells me my English is wrong, when it’s blatantly speaking American but calling it ‘English’. Not the same. Just, not the same. I have nothing against American, but don’t claim that it’s what I speak.

          • Anne

            Okay, I get that it’s frustrating to have your spelling/grammar questioned when a computer system is programmed to use certain spelling.

            But…I’m an American, and I do speak English. I speak a different dialect than you do, perhaps, but it is the same language. Given the wide variety of regional dialects of English in the UK alone, I always find the attitude that American English is so vastly different somewhat surprising — although many of those regional dialects are rapidly disappearing in the UK, some of them are far more different from ‘standard’ UK English than American English is. I lived in the UK for a year while I did my master’s degree, and while there are certainly colloquialisms that do not translate well or cause hilarity (see: pants), the language is still the same, just with variances.

            My husband’s family is English, but he grew up in the United States, although his entire extended family still lives in England. There is certainly a large cultural gap that most people don’t realize exists, but I think you only experience or understand it when you spend a substantial amount of time in the culture that is foreign to you.

          • LondonSarah

            Hmm, sorry, I can’t reply directly to you Anne.

            I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. I tend to look at detail and want to categorise things, which may explain why I separate American English from English English. If the two things are called by different names then there can be less confusion, generalisation and misunderstanding. I agree, it is fundamentally, genetically, one language. We both speak English, we’d have a conversation and without difficulty be understood, but the strands *are* different to each other to a greater or lesser extent, just as you point out they are in dialects, and I think it is worth recognising and valuing those differences so that they don’t merge into each other and both get lost.

            If my computer didn’t switch between two versions of english unasked when I’m in the middle of a document I’d probably get less annoyed. I mean, it doesn’t randomly switch to French.

          • As a Canadian with firm opinions about words like colour and the importance of saying zed and not zee, I totally agree with you. Call it American English, not simply English. I know the software’s generally American made so I get the bias, but the American-centrism gets annoying, living on the outside of it.

            And why the hell can’t Word stick with the language you set? When I used to write French papers, I recall it randomly deciding to switch languages from French Canadian to American English, so everything would suddenly become a sea of red and green squiggle lines…. Stupid technology.

          • This is getting slightly off topic (although I suppose I started it with the “two countries divided by a common language” bit), but for those who are interested in linguistics and haven’t already seen them, these dialect maps of the US are so interesting.

            I think it’s easy for us English speakers outside of the US to think of “American English” as being a big homogenous thing trying to take over our languages – like the McDonalds of languages – when in fact, it’s made up of unique and fascinating regional dialects, just like the English spoken in the UK, or any other language.

            What’s interesting is that, from some of the comments here, it sounds like the same is true of wedding traditions: what we think of as “American” or “British” traditions can actually be Southern, or Scottish, or a great big hodge-podge of different traditions all twisted together.

            Anyway, for all of our sakes, let’s not veer off into a discussion of the pros and cons of Microsoft Word’s spell checker (seriously, don’t get me STARTED).

          • LondonSarah

            Kirsty – now those are COOL! Nothing I like more than an interactive map.

            I’ve always wondered whether it was possible to separate out an American/Canadian/Australian/NZ accent out into the constituent parts of immigrants centuries before that must have contributed to it – like, 57.3% Irish + 2.7& Italian + 31.8% Dutch + 8.2% Estonian or whatever (numbers are random), and whether the differing proportions of different immigrants in different areas contributed to different accents there today… is there a linguist out there who can help?!

      • SW

        Just to say, it is very exciting to see there are other New Zealand APW readers!

  • Louise

    I can’t tell you how much I love that there is an APW post online when I get to work!

    I’ve been planning a remote wedding with a mix of Australian, Irish and German customs… so trying to balance all these different norms and expectations has been fun!

  • Sarah

    How thrilling to find a brand new APW post as soon as I log on in the morning. Usually I have to wait until after lunch (which is always cucumber sandwiches, of course).

    What is this American idea of the bridal party as ‘people to stand up with you on your wedding day’. It sounds so strange to my British ears. Am I not enough just standing on my own to marry my husband? Do I need a phalanx of guards with me?

    (If I had wanted guards at my wedding, being British, I would definitely have got the ones with the tall, furry, busby hats).

    The biggest thing I learned from my wedding was that I was sorely mistaken about who was emotionally mature enough to just ‘be there’ for me without needing to turn everything into a drama about themselves. The corollary to that was learning exactly who was quietly, loyally, lovingly willing to be part of our getting married. It wasn’t who I thought.

    Your wedding is a process, the process by which you end up married. It can be hard to know at the beginning of that who is truly able to accompany you through the transition.

    My personal experience is that if you want to draw out the narcissistic drama queen side of someone then give them a colour co-ordinated dress and a role with a title at your wedding. For some that is carte blanche to make themselves important.

    With the family and friends who truly wish you well all you need to do is to feel those submerged ties of love which need no adornment and which will anchor you on your wedding day and, more importantly, will anchor you in the long and varied years of your marriage.

    • LondonSarah

      Yep, I don’t get the thing about ‘standing up with you’ either. I’m getting married, they’re not. Follow me to the altar (another thing that threw my Canadian bridesmaid, she was expecting to go first) and take my bouquet so I don’t squash/drop/try to put it on my new husband’s finger instead of the ring, but the marrying bit I can do myself!

      On the guard thing, a friend of mine is marrying his army doctor fiancé this summer – and last I knew the army doctor was planning an having a guard of honour, with swords and everything. Not quite sure what my friend is planning on wearing as even a morning suit will have to go some to stand up to those red coats and shiny medals!

      • Sarah

        I suspect that the ‘standing up with you’ concept is about publicly demonstrating the love, commitment and affection between you and the friends/ family you have chosen to be in your bridal party. But being open and public about your feelings? How very un-British.

        That is why tradition and etiquette exist, to safely channel raw emotion into a form that we can deal with.

        So, yes, to me a bridesmaid / MoH is someone who walks down the aisle after you (if she is directly in front of you who will see your dress!?!) and then takes your bouquet.

        Ideally she should then follow tradition and etiquette and get properly drunk, ending up with her dress round her ears and her knickers on show. That is the true British way of handling emotion.

        • Moz

          This is really interesting – are bridal parties not common in the UK?

          • Moz

            Oh I see, I’m just thick. I think the ‘standing up’ thing is just a formal way of explaining the duties you’ve just described. Drunken debauchery guaranteed.

          • Iz

            We often have bridesmaids and a best man, but they don’t stand with the couple during the ceremony, they generally sit in the front row.

          • Jenn

            smaller bridal parties are common. people would be shocked to hear you had 5, 6, or 10! (especially since in the UK it is also the custom to pay for all the bridesmaids outfits, hair, accessories, etc – so having fewer saves cost!)

            usually a best man, but not groomsmen, just ushers.

            And after the bridesmaids walk down the aisle they sit in the front row, it’s only the couple standing at the front!

          • Ally

            I was actually under the assumption for the longest time here in America that you would pay for your bridesmaids dresses because it only makes sense to me that they’re doing you a favor… Luckily I found out before I was finally IN a wedding (yes it’s a weird phrase but its the one we use, there’s plenty of other weird examples in English) that it was not the case…

        • LondonSarah

          And snog someone inappropriate… not that that happened at my wedding, it was all very well behaved.

      • Class of 1980


        I’m an American who grew up going to countless weddings with multiple bridesmaids and groomsmen.

        It never made any sense to me either. ;)

        I find it distracting to look at all those other people up there. Would rather just watch the bride and groom.

  • Brenda

    Of course it would be the one week I’m not at work waiting for the first APW post to arrive at lunchtime!

    Reading from the tube on my way to get my American mother for my British-American wedding. It’s two weeks of explaining Britain to Americans now. Yes, the fridges and cars are all tiny. No, I don’t know why they don’t believe in window screens either.

    • LondonSarah

      I believe the purpose of window screens is to keep the insects out when your windows are wide open to let the air in. Our summers are never long or hot enough to justify opening windows to have such a need. You may, (un)fortunately have had them arrive for our only summer heatwave for some years so this may, for the next 4 weeks, be untrue! On the other hand, many of us live in Victorian houses with solid brick walls that stay at about 18ºC inside anyway, so opening the windows just lets the heat in.

      • Brenda

        I live in London and feel like I spend all summer chasing the flies out! I agree that there are not nearly as many bugs here as in the US and I am getting used to have the windows just open space when they’re open, but it still annoys me when the flies come in, and the bees that are attracted by our window boxes. I am pro-screens.

        • LondonSarah

          Ah, well perhaps you need some spiders to get rid of the flies!

          • Brenda

            There’s a spider on the ceiling right now. I’ll ask him :)

    • CeeBeeUK

      My mom is here from the States and we are doing some preliminary wedding stuff. I’m using ‘but that’s the British way…’ to justify anything I don’t like.

  • Thanks so much for the British girls guide to American weddings, which is also an American girl’s guide to British weddings. I think what makes it especially complicated is that, because the two countries are so similar, people aren’t expecting traditions to be different, and they can be *very* judgmental of what they see as “etiquette breaches” which are, of course, culturally defined.
    Any tips for dealing with the inevitable judgement besides my current coping mechanism, which is cry and obsess about whether I’m a terrible wedding planner/bride?

  • Yvi

    “So, Team Practical, it’s over to you. What American or British wedding traditions have left you baffled?”

    I am German, so… a lot? Things that are different, in no particular order:

    * having a year to write thank-you cards (people commented on mine being late and that was after 2 months…)

    * religious ceremonies being legally binding

    * leaving the wedding party before all the guests are gone

    * bridesmaids and maids of honor and such things

    * engagement rings

    * wearing the ring on the left side (Germany is one of the few countries where the right side is traditional)

    * no asking for money as a gift (putting that in the invitation is perfectly normal here)

    * bridal showers

    I am sure I can think of a few dozen more things – Reading APW and Offbeat Bride (I only read two wedding blogs) left me totally confused as to what was appropriate in my own country.

    • rys

      American soldiers and officers in Germany after WWII were confused that religious ceremonies were *not* legally binding! It’s one of the oddities of the American constitutional order that religious ceremonies are, in fact, legally binding — logically, that shouldn’t be so in a nation with separation of church and state. But this odd state of affairs reflects a melding of legal traditions, communal norms, and regulatory interests.

      In England, Anglican religious ceremonies became mandatory in 1753 with Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act (except for Quakers, Jews, and the Royal Family), though this was modified in the 19th century, at which point civil marriage became an option and other clergy (e.g., Catholic priests) could officiate. In the 18th century, religious authorities tended to be more flexible about marriage than secular courts; making marriage requirements more rigid stemmed from a desire to regulate patterns of clandestine/secret/private marriage (i.e., common-law marriage), which in turn was primarily about regulating property and inheritance.

      Meanwhile in the colonies (except Maryland), couples could choose civil or religious marriage, BUT local magistrates had to co-officiate religious marriage to make it legally binding. After independence, states relaxed their laws slowly, but by the mid-19th century, most states authorized ministers (alongside a passel of other public agents) to officiate weddings and sanction marriage (and had generally made individual choices more important than public surveillance). But late 19th-century panics and Progressive Era social control led to more regulation, notably requiring a marriage license (which created an administrative framework for scrutinizing couples ahead of time but continued to allow clergy to sign them).

      Probably more history than you were looking for, but hopefully appropriately reflective of the UK/US theme :)

    • Ericka

      Just clearing up a misconception here — the religious ceremony isn’t the legally binding part. The legally binding part is when the bride, groom, and two witnesses sign the legal document, either before or after. :) Ordained religious minister-types are automatically added to the list of people allowed to officiate the document-signing, to make it easier for everyone, but there are many other non-religious people who are allowed to officiate the document-signing too. So, the legal bit is usually (but not always) done on the same day as the religious/public ceremony, but it is, in fact, distinct; if you just had the religious ceremony it wouldn’t be legally binding at all.*

      Also I know the European perception of Americans is that they’re all frightfully religious, and it’s true religion has twined itself up with our culture in a lot of startling ways, especially for a nation that claims “separation of church and state” — but really there is infinite variety of religious practice, non-practice, belief and non-belief here, and unless you’re in certain rural regions the infinite variety is infinitely acceptable.

      (*A bunch of people here seem confused about this distinction in America too — I think it’s where a lot of the opposition to gay marriage comes from, because people seem somehow convinced it’s going to force their priest or whoever to officiate gay marriages against their beliefs, which, no. LGBT folks are after the legal rights that come with the legal document; churches can bless such weddings, or not, as they see fit. My religion already does.)

    • Bunny

      Also it’s only actually about half a dozen religions in England that can do it. Catholic weddings, Anglican weddings, Jewish weddings… erm and a few others. Hindu weddings aren’t binding, for example, nor are Pagan ones.

      Except in Scotland, where they passed a new law that fixed some of that.

      All it really means though is the celebrant for your faith can also be a legal-type person with the authority to sign off on your marriage licence. You still have to do both bits separately – went to a church wedding recently, and as soon as the religious service was done there was a quick 10 minutes of music and readings while the bride and groom, two witnesses and the priest went into a back room to take care of all the legal jiggery-pokery.

  • Riah

    Why is a hen do called a hen do? I get that it’s like a bachelor party, but the name baffles me.

    • Brenda

      Hen do is a bachelorette party, the bachelor party’s called a stag night. I have no idea why on either of them though.

    • meg

      Hen is the british slang for woman. Hence, Hen Do, (Do = Party, rough translation) bachelorette Party. Stag, and this has always just been my contextual translation so it could be wrong, is the slang for single men.

      CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG KIRSTY. But I’m pretty sure I’m not. Entirely, at least.

      • I honestly don’t know. I was hoping someone else would chime in. Hen is definitely a Scottish term of endearment for women, like ‘pet’ or ‘love’. But ‘hen night’ or ‘hen do’ is used throughout the UK, so I’m not convinced it’s as simple as that. I’ve never heard a single man called a stag here, either.

        If I was living my dream alternative life as a forensic linguist (look it up, it’s the most interesting job ever) I would totally know this. I’m disappointed in myself.

        • Peabody_bites

          While I have never heard of a single man being called a stag, I definitely know the expression “going stag” to parties / weddings meaning that a man is going without a date. I assumed it was an Americanism as I’ve only ever heard it there (East Coast). Random piece of info – in Australia/New Zealand, stags are bucks, so your bachelor party is your bucks night.

          Definitely agree with Kirsty that “hen” is Scottish, not English (British) though the whole idea of a hen party could easily have come south, bringing its terminology with it.

          • dragonzflame

            In Australia it’s definitely a ‘buck’s night’ but I’m from New Zealand and I’ve only ever heard it called a stag party/stag night.

            Hen party, I have no idea at all why. Once I was in a bar and had some drunken guys on a stag night come up to me, explaining that they were getting girls to write messages on the stag in Vivid (marker pen, to you Americans). So I wrote ‘To the stag: do the doe!” But a doe’s night does sound weird.

          • Getting married

            Scottish is ‘British’ as well as English, Welsh and Northern Irish. Why do people assume that the English are the only Brits? And that the whole UK is therefore English?

        • I thought it was just Hen Party/Do for the women because it was a women only party – like a group of hens don’t need a cockerel, they’re just single hens going about their hen business. They are often given the persona if a load of women sitting about gossiping. Stag Do for the men because its men only.. So a single man is ‘going stag’ because they are solo.. like a Stag.. as they are usually alone and then come together in mating season to fight.. or something.. right? As I am writing this I am doubting myself but it has always made perfect sense to me in my head. Stags are single men, Hens are single women.

  • Moz

    Jam = jelly.

    Interesting about the evening guests. In Australia we seem to do things arse backwards a bit too, several times I’ve been invited to a wedding ceremony but not the reception, which has been labelled ‘cheap’ by some (not me, I’m just saying).

    Usually when this has happened the couple often does the equivalent of a cake and punch thing in the church hall/park afterwards, which is a nice balance.

    Love having you, Kirsty, really looking forward to the next few days.

    • Emilie

      This reminds me of my senior recital in college. We had salty snacks, cake, and punch at the concert site for all guests who attended. Afterwards there was a smaller invitation-only gathering involving a dinner, dessert, and coffee. I never thought twice about it being rude or cheap. It’s funny how labeling something WEDDING suddenly changes the rules.

    • meg

      Jam does NOT equal Jelly. They’re different! Jelly is more gelatinous.

      • Excuse me Meg, I think you meant Jelly is more gel-y. ;D

        (Also ignore me I just ran my brains out and I make no sense to anyone)

        • Lucy, I don’t think you’re ready for this gel-y.

      • rys

        Jam has seeds. And pieces of fruit. And is easier to make (less straining out seeds and fruit bits). Definitely different.

      • I always thought our Jam = your Jelly. With our Jelly being your.. Jell-o? So what is American Jam/Jelly like? Irrelevant but.. when else can I ask.

        • KC

          Close! UK jelly (wibbly, fruit-flavored gelatin dessert) is US Jello. Not spread on toast. Jelly candies (UK – I unfortunately don’t remember the exact term) are gummy candies in the US – chewy-sproingy – many Haribo products fall under this umbrella. The US doesn’t have an equivalent to wine gums that I’ve found (somewhere between swedish fish and gumdrops and…?), but I admit I haven’t looked too hard, as that’s one culinary experience I wasn’t incredibly anxious to repeat.

          US jam is a sweet fruit spread, not clear but sometimes with clear parts, often with some berry seeds still in it, often with very small bits of fruit or at least mashed/pureed fruit. Spreadable on toast.

          US jelly is also a sweet fruit spread, but totally clear (fruit juice pectin-ized into a spread). Also spreadable on toast.

          US apple butter [or other fruit butter] is a thick, smooth puree, also used as a spread; I didn’t see any parallels in the UK, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there; procedure for apple butter is to take cooked, pureed apples, then cook that down until it’s reduced to 1/3 or 1/4 of its original volume, then puree again if desired. Amazing stuff.

          Marmalade, if citrus, is more or less the same in both, accounting for regional or personal differences of opinion (sweeter! tarter! smaller bits of peel/zest! larger bits! long skinny bits! square bits! etc.).

          Of course, some things are referred to less specifically (asking for jelly or jam here will usually net you the nearest available fruit spread), and there are regional variations. But these are the general guidelines?

          • I think I get it! So I was right with our jelly/your jello. Our jam and your jam are the same, and your jelly is.. not really like our anything (unless I have missed an area of the jam section with smooth clear jams.. it’s possible!). Is apple butter the same as applesauce that I am always seeing in recipes?

            *apologies for lack of wedding talk. uh.. there was jam in my cake?*

          • KC

            Totally right about the jelly->jello thing. :-)

            I’ve put various fruit spreads in as cake fillings in wedding cakes, so… um… that’s on-topic, right? ;-)

            I don’t remember seeing jammy things with no bits of fruit in them in the UK, but I also didn’t go comprehensively through the spreadables. (we did go straight through all the grocery store cheeses, one by one, though; I’m sure there are better examples of those cheeses, but “what cheeses appear in a grocery store?” was the easiest way to pin down the “normal” kinds of cheese.) The US has no Marmite equivalent whatsoever (that I know of), if that makes you feel any better about the lack of US jelly equivalent, though? ;-)

            Applesauce is just plain cooked apples which are then mashed or pureed or sieved (sometimes with added sugar). Apple butter is what you get when you cook applesauce down slowly until it is thick and spreadable (with optional spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, etc. added while it’s cooking down). It’s not incredibly widely known/used even over here, but so. good. I suppose my love of fruit butters can be adequately explained by the fact that it’s just fruit, concentrated, with very little to no added sugar, instead of fruit, not so concentrated, with a massive amount of sugar added, but it always seems more impressive than that…

            Applesauce, on the other hand, is very common here and is not a spread (dessert? side dish? thing you feed to small children as a snack?) and is easy to make at home if you want to try – there are lots of recipes online, but it basically boils down to: cook apples, then mash them, then add sugar to taste (and cinnamon, etc., if desired). It’s pretty cheap and is used sometimes as a substitute for part of the oil or fat and a small part of the sugar in a recipe, to make it more healthy-ish while keeping it somewhat moist/tender. This substitution works better in some recipes than others, though.

          • Brenda

            Janet – no, applesauce is different, it’s mashed/puréed apples, generally eaten by children and sometimes used in cake recipes. Is there really not applesauce here? I don’t particularly like it so I haven’t paid attention.

          • Of all the things I saw happening with this post, a lengthy discussion about the definition and international availability of condiments was not one of them.

            The internet will never cease to amaze me.

          • KC

            Sorry for getting off-topic! After trying to find equivalents in the UK for US ingredients (and other things) when making things from scratch and then trying, upon return to the US, to find equivalents in the US for UK foods (I *still* haven’t found sausages that taste right in toad-in-the-hole, and I haul back marzipan every time I visit, for use on wedding cakes – the US has marzipan, but UK-style is far better for cakes and figures), I tend to discourse at length, given any opportunity. Because: tasty things! that baffled me! and that hopefully don’t have to baffle anyone else!

            (I didn’t go to any weddings while we were there, so I’m not useful for providing comparison in the thread-relevant direction, anyway. But I can talk about other things all day long. :-) )

        • Moz

          And does this mean you crazy revolutionaries actually eat jello like jelly with peanut butter.


          • KC

            I’ll second your “ew”, and no, the kind of jelly paired with peanut butter is a clear spreadable fruit jam thing, not a gelatin-based thing.

            (but in addition to the ew-jello-with-peanut-butter-sounds-terrible, I also do not like peanut butter and jelly/jam sandwiches, so I am perhaps a bad American?)

            At any rate, very, very, very few American weddings have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches anyway. So you don’t have to worry. :-)

          • CinColorado

            I never realized that when I said “peach jelly” my British friends probably assumed I meant a Jello type wiggly dessert thing… We made both peach jelly and peach jam from our peach trees last year (and peach raspberry jam) and the jelly is good, good, good. Deep pinky orange and tastes like solid peach juice. Amazing on toasted breads and such. We also made brandied peach butter (it was a big year for peaches in Colorado!) which is just like the apple butter described earlier, but with different spices and an added splash of brandy. My new husband is from Illinois and did not know what a fruit butter was, so I think it may be a regional thing here (my parents grew up in the South). I believe apple butter is the best thing to add to a peanut-butter sandwich. Try it if you can!

        • Kara E

          Jam = preserves.

    • Mary Clare

      I had never heard of evening guests either (American here). But some parts of the US do something similar to what Moz describes. When my friend from the South got married, I learned that it’s traditional there to invite everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) to the wedding and a simple reception (cake, fruit, tea sandwiches, punch, sit where you like), and have a small dinner for family and close friends afterwards.

      If it were entirely up to me, that’s what my wedding reception would have been. I love the simplicity of it. No matter though, I ended up really enjoying our big dinner reception, even if it wasn’t my first choice.

    • In the circles I run in, more people to the ceremony than the reception thing is so common no-one calls it anything, and my partner was astonished when I told him there was any other way to do a large wedding.

  • B (the other one)

    My parter and I are both European mutts raised in Texas who now live in Cornwall, England…and we just got engaged hooray! We have decided to elope, since we can’t plan or pay for a wedding in 4 countries and don’t really want to. So far, it’s the British family that seems taken aback from our decision. Having a wedding in Britain would be my worst nightmare!

    Since we’re doing a destination elopement and it’s a mix of several countries etiquette involved any tips? Try and find a happy medium of debrettes and miss manners? Engagement parties? Engagement announcements? Elopement notifications? Registries? Where is thr elopement guidebook?! Do you just mix and match customs from weddings in both the uk and the us?

    • Iz

      We mixed and matched (see my comment below) and I would say the main thing is to be clear about everything – don’t assume everybody will know how things work.

    • Congratulations!

      Elopements can be tricky enough without all of the international relatives weighing in. Reading all of the APW elopement posts ever probably isn’t a bad place to start. And yes, it seems like the mix and match approach has worked well for others in your situation. Good luck!

    • a nonny mouse

      I hope I am misunderstanding the part about the registries here.
      We struggled (and judging by the times it has been discussed, we were not the only ones) with the decision of whether we would set up a wedding registry or not. The whole asking for stuff to our guests, the “get us this, and get us that” made us uncomfortable, but we do understand the practical sides of setting up a wedding registry.
      It is not considered polite / correct etiquette to include the registry in the wedding invitation, normally it is spread by word of mouth from the mother of the bride and groom, siblings or other close people.
      If you choose to elope, I have trouble conceiving the idea of also setting up a wedding registry.
      That said, I am sure once your loved ones find out they will be thrilled for you and will probably want to contribute to your new life together in their own way.

      • B (the other one)

        I completely agree, I don’t think we need to set up a registry and the logistics of that seem complicated in and of itself. I think some people who are objecting to our lack of normal wedding activities are latching on to other things and being extra adamant that we follow them.

    • E

      My reply has nothing to do with weddings, I just want to say that I love Cornwall, and I am super jealous that you live there! I’m American but my family is Cornish (which I proudly tell anyone who asks, even though I just end up with really confused looks because nobody here has heard of it) and I visited Cornwall a few years ago and absolutely fell in love with it. Such a beautiful place!

      • B (the other one)

        Beautiful but so different! I have to ask though since you are Cornish- are you 5 feet tall?! There are so many buildings my fiance and I have trouble with since they weren’t built with 6 feet and taller Americans in mind!

        • E

          Haha! Well I am rather short (5’2″) but the rest of my family is not so I can’t explain that one!

      • Jenn

        a’gas dynergh! That’s a bit of Cornish there for you, yes there is a Cornish language. :) I am getting married in Cornwall this year to my Cornish man. And yes – Americans have rarely heard of it even though it’s such a popular destination for British people. Gorgeous part of the country, not that I’m bias!

  • Iz

    I am British and married my American husband a month ago. We got married in England but included some American traditions too – like a rehearsal dinner (actually an opportunity for our families to meet for the first time), cutting a slice of the wedding cake and feeding it to each other, rather than the traditional British symbolic cut and nothing else, and my breidesmaid walked in first (I liked the idea of making an entrance as the bride!). We basically mixed and matched and left out anything that wasn’t important to us (like a first dance). We also had a lot of international guests, so the good thing was that most people chalked up anything they were unfamiliar with to it being from another culture!

  • More American wedding things I don’t understand:

    The party generally being over at 10pm. At an Irish wedding, it would be considered a serious breach of etiquette if the dancing ended before 2am. And then, there is the obligatory sing-along in the Residents’ Bar of the hotel – which goes on into the wee hours. We went to bed at 4am the night of our wedding, and this was considered just about acceptable.

    The father-daughter dance. Or mother-son dance. Basically, any ‘special’ dance other than the first dance is a bit odd, unless it’s approved traditional dance like the Siege of Ennis (think less Riverdance, more square dance – without the funny costumes). Bonus points if non-Irish guests make it through one of these unscathed.

    And a special reference to my favourite bizzare Irish wedding tradition – placing a statute of the Child of Prague in the garden to guarantee good weather for a wedding. Preferably placed under a hedge, or buried, and especially lucky if the statute’s head has fallen off (but very unlucky to deliberately decapitate him).

    • Yvi

      Heh, same in Germany. I got “home” (we stayed in a hotel very close to where we actually live) at around 4:30 at my wedding. And we had plans to have breakfast with my parents at 10.

      At a wedding I went to last month, my husband and I were among the first to leave at around 4. The couple’s parents and lot of uncles/aunts were still there.

    • I’ve heard of the Child of Prague thing! I think it might also happen on some of the Western Isles of Scotland that have large Catholic populations. (Well, none of the Western Isles have large populations of anything other than sheep, so it’s all relative.)

      As for weddings finishing late, Scottish weddings are the same, and I’ve heard that Polish weddings can go on for days. I know that brunch weddings are beloved of the APW team, but I seriously cannot imagine trying to explain that one to my parents. I do love a good brunch, though, so hopefully I’ll get invited to one someday…

      • Abi

        Yep! Scottish and Catholic. I had a Child of Prague under a bush in my parents’ front garden to ensure good weather. In fact everyone in the family had one because it had been raining for weeks so we were really up against it. It’s apparently even better luck if the statue has previously had its head accidentally knocked off. I kid you not.

        We also have very long weddings here. Mine was 1pm start at the church, straight to the reception, the dancing went on until 1am and we all sat in the residents bar until 3am. We went to bed at that point but a lot of people stayed up until at least 5am. I have read about brunch weddings on APW with interest but thought to myself that would never work here. People just wouldn’t leave!!

    • In Mexico if you want to avoid rain on your wedding day,superstition says you can do one or two things:

      -take a knife and bury it in the mud, and pray / ask that no rain comes.
      -bring a basket of eggs to Saint Claire (you would have to find a church, fountain or image dedicated to her)

    • melise

      As an American planning a wedding, my response to your first question is that we would LOVE for our party to last much longer, but there are very few venues that would make that possible. In my large southern city, it seems that venues typically require you to be out and cleaned up by around midnight, and every venue lets you rent for only a certain number of hours. Keeping the party going would cost an exhorbitant amount of money because that’s just not how the venues work!

    • Canadian here, and crawled drunkenly home at 3:45 am from our wedding, with people still cleaning up the hall for us (while drinking all the booze that was left, natch.)

      The wedding I was at last weekend was mostly empty by midnight, as the bride and groom had already quietly slipped out.

      I was once invited to a Northern Ireland wedding a few years ago, and was so disappointed that we couldn’t attend, because the party sounded beyond epic.

    • Haley

      In the South (of the US) you bury a bottle of bourbon upside down one month exactly before your wedding day to ward off rain.

  • Ellie

    This is great. Are we going to get an American guide to British weddings? I think I get to go to my first next year!

  • What about the bridal “breakfast”? In America, you are never feeding your guests more than one meal.

    Also, in America, with the proper legal person (sometimes it can even be arranged to be a friend or family member), you can get married anywhere you like. In Britain, there are only a few folks in each region who can legally marry and very specific places where it must take place. Not outdoors, for instance!

    All this comes from the one wedding I photographed in York. I was very surprised that weddings were so different. Also, the photographers left after the first dance! (We’d been there for like 10 hours already). British weddings are much longer.

    • Oh, BOOM. Now I’m going to have to bring out my favourite little-known fact about outdoor weddings in the UK.

      While it’s true that, in England and Wales, ceremonies can’t take place outdoors and have to happen in licensed venues, in Scotland you CAN get married outside, or anywhere at all, as long as the ceremony is being conducted by a religious or humanist celebrant. Yay, Scotland! Here’s a perfect example. (And yes, you heard that right – humanist weddings are legally binding in Scotland, too.)

      Apparently a change in the law in England and Wales to permit outdoor ceremonies and legally binding humanist weddings is currently “under active discussion,” whatever that means. Fingers crossed!

    • LondonSarah

      Ah, I was confused about the wedding breakfast (in the UK) but it was explained to me that since it is the first meal after the ceremony you are ‘breaking fast’… what I don’t know is if in days gone by people would have fasted up to the wedding. Or whether through nerves people just didn’t have breakfast or lunch that day.

      • I think it is related to church weddings. I don’t know if it applies outside of the Catholic Church but we were told that you were not suppoed to eat before church (or if you did it had to have been at least an hour before you would be having communion). I used to know the logic behind it but the main thing that stuck was not eating before church (or within an hour of attending evening services)

    • Linsey

      Oooh I know this one, wedding breakfast is a weird term for the meal served at the wedding (usually about 4/5pm!). I’ve no idea why.

    • Brenda

      My husband is British and even he was confused by how people keep referring to a meal served in the afternoon or evening as a “breakfast.” We finally figured out that it means the meal after your wedding, breaking your fast as a married couple.

      I also find the religious/secular divide quite strange here. We had to separate our legal ceremony from our wedding for immigration reasons, but it’s meant that our wedding, though we consider it a real wedding, is not a legally binding ceremony which means we’re can do whatever we want. The big thing for me was that the legal bit is either religious or complete secular. There is no religious reference allowed in a registry ceremony. At his cousin’s wedding last year the registrar had to pointedly say, “the wedding is completed and I am leaving now” before her grandfather could do a Catholic blessing. We’re able to have a vaguely Jewish, mostly secular ceremony because we’ve already done the legal bit and the registrar won’t be there.

      We worried at first that people would be confused and wouldn’t think our wedding is a “real” wedding, but it’s really worked out fine, everyone’s excited and no one’s offended, and they understand why we had to do it this way.

  • Kirsty, brilliant post. When I got married (2009) British wedding blogs didn’t really exist, and so I only had American how-to’s to go by, and I spend many a night in a cold sweat at the thought of mixing my in-laws and parents more than I had to at a Rehersal Dinner.

    Luckily, I chickened out.

    On the subject of direct conversation, my GOD Kirsty, what are you trying to do to us as a nation? Get us to open up, and be FRANK? Start a conversation with the important topics, rather than SMALL TALK? Say what we MEAN, rather than be terrified of offending others? Careful, you’ll start a revolution. A revolution of British people saying “erm…I’m terribly sorry, but this dress you’ve made is not at all, even remotely, what I asked for, pass the sugar please”

    I note there is overwhelming support for APW posting from now on to a British timetable :)

    • LondonSarah

      It’s possible of course that most of the US is still in bed asleep and not yet here commenting. I confess I would be less active if either of my bosses were in the office today… Perhaps the old posting timetable would be better for my productivity!!!

      • Pfffsh. FINE :)

        • LondonSarah


        • I accidentally hit report and not Exactly – sorry!

  • American here. Seriously can someone explain why y’alls weddings last so long? How do you feed all those people and not spend a billion dollars (er, pounds)?

    Also, hen party. What do chickens have to do with a bachelorette? Is a hen referring to the bride or her friends? I’m so confused.

    • Yvi

      It seems like timeline-wise, British weddings and German weddings are about the same, so this is what usually happens over here:

      6-8: dinner starts, followed by dessert
      Midnight: cake and coffee and dessert leftovers if there are any

      That’s it. It’s not like we’d usually eat a ton of food between midnight and 4 a.m. :)

    • Iz

      Yeah, a lot of British weddings start pretty early and last for the rest of the day. We took the latest timeslot offered for our ceremony, which was 4 pm. I have been to a lot of weddings that started earlier and there was a lot of hanging around… I agree that they can last a bit too long!
      And the hen is the bride-to-be!

    • Brenda

      Because they like to PAR-TAY! That said, I also think the all-day wedding is a bit much. Ours is going from 6pm to midnight, with a possible after-party if people are up for it.

      • Ok, then the timelines do sort of align with US weddings. My first wedding went: ceremony at 6, cocktail hour 6-7, dinner at 8, dancing till 2am, after party at hotel till everyone passes out.

        I think the difference is that in the US we avoid long gaps between the ceremony if possible. We’re more the “six hours of straight wedding merriment, then go home and have sex with your new spouse” set. :)

    • LondonSarah

      It’s just quite spread out. Taking a traditional quintessentially English church wedding with a fair number of people:
      – start at 3 in the church, ceremony is an hour long
      – faff around in the churchyard talking to people, have a few pictures taken
      – transfer to reception venue, wait for everyone else to find their cars, find their way
      – 4pm drinks reception with/without canapés/crisps
      – 5:30 ish start dinner
      – 7 ish speeches
      – 8 onwards dancing/talking/drinking etc
      – if you want to, extra party food in the evening, but I am normally too stuffed to eat anything more.

    • Melissa

      American here, with many, many Scottish relatives – ‘hen’ is a term of endearment, like calling your friend ‘dear’ but much more common and not as old-fashioned sounding as ‘dear.’ It’s an affectionate term that lots of people use too, not just for a bachelorette party – it wouldn’t be odd if a taxi driver said, “Where are you headed to, hen?” Or, “Ach, hen, tha’s too bad.” So, having a ‘hen do’ is kind of similar to saying ‘girls night out’. Hope that helps!

      • Ok that makes a lot of sense.

      • Iz

        While that is true about “hen” being a Scottish term of endearment for women, I’m pretty sure it has noting to do with the origins of “hen night/party/do”. As others have said, it is called a “hen party” all over the UK, where hen is not used as an endearment…

    • Jenn

      To be fair, most weddings here (UK) start around between noon and 4pm really is the latest. Partly being that you can’t LEGALLY get married in England (different for Scotland) after 6pm. So none of these starlight wedding ceremonies here.

      Most of the weddings I have been to are around 1 or 2pm. (earlier ones tend to be religious ceremonies).

      So ceremony at 1 or 2
      an hour or so to mingle and get to the reception venue
      Welcome drinks (this is like the cocktail hour)
      Have ‘wedding breakfast’ (which is just the main meal) around 4-6
      A bit more mingling, waiting for the evening reception to start (cake, music, etc)
      often an evening buffet comes out around 8 or 9 when people start to feel peckish again
      drinking and dancing until the wee hours

  • Corrie

    Oh, but darling, have you ever TRIED a corn dog!? GUILTY PLEASURE.

    PS: this was fantastic, and as an American, also very informative about the British ways of doing things

    • meg

      I have to say, I agree with Kirsty about corn dogs. And I have tried them. Shudder shudder. We have better treats…

      • Corrie

        Agreed, we do have better treats. But I do love them, despite their general sketchiness. I typically avoid hot dogs and other ‘mystery meats,’ but I do love a good corn dog. It probably has more to do with nostalgia reasons from going to fairs and amusement parks as a kid.

        • meg

          Oh. I do love a hot dog. Just not a corn dog.

          Off to eat hot dogs…

      • Emily

        What do you know, you don’t even like Frito Pie! ;)

    • Catalicous

      Omg… I read that as have you ever TRIED TO corn a dog. Snarfle!!

  • Naomi

    Can I just put in my tuppence worth about hen dos. They definitely seem to be more than just girl’s night out nowadays. More like a whole day or weekend of fun. For my sister in laws last year we went quad biking during Saturday, then had a picnic complete with massive hats, then went on to Brighton for drinks and a night out clubbing until the wee small hours. My sister and I had to leave the next morning but the rest of them carried on strong with a trip to the amusement arcade etc on Brighton Pier. Mine was afternoon tea in a London hotel followed by cocktails, then a night at “kitsch cabaret” at Madame JoJos in Soho. My 70+ year old mother in law attended and spent the entire night amazed at the drag queens, frequently checking with my mum that they were in fact men and not ladies. She then exclaimed at the end of the show that it took her back to when she was a girl, as it was just like some of the rougher parts of Cardiff! And she came clubbing with us, didn’t comment when my younger sister had us stop the taxi on the way home so she could get out to be sick, just offered her mints when she got back in. Seriously made my MIL amazing in my estimation. But generally hen dos are just ladies only, which is why “hens” is used. Although I did have my best male university friend at mine too- he loves a good drag queen, and a night out in Soho.

    Loving UK APW, and makes a lot more sense for me of some of the americanisms! Happy Independence Day and thank you!

    • KW

      ack! Sorry, I accidentally clicked report comment and totally didn’t mean it.

  • OMG, Mason jars. What the hell, really???? All of a sudden they were everywhere, and I really still have no idea what they actually are.

    • Brenda

      They’re just jars that you can preserve stuff in, like jam or pickles. They’re pretty cheap and look nice, which I guess is why people in the DIY arena started using them. We got a bunch for flowers for my friends wedding just because they were easy and cheap to get at the hardware store. I think it was a completely reasonable solution to a common problem (what do we put the table flowers in?) that got really popular really quickly.

      • Ah. Ok. See preserving jars aren’t really all that cheap here (which is a shame, I’d love to do more preserving, but getting set up is expensive!), and we tend to hire tableware, so its cheaper to hire the vases as well – a lot of hire places include them for free for weddings when you spend over a certain amount :)

        • Dusty

          The weirdest thing about Mason Jars, is that we don’t have them in Australia but they are now something that is frequently (and expensively) hired out or bought from wedding supply shops or florists (no, you can’t DIY your own mason jars – what would be the point of that)

          Why would something that epitomises DIY chic be expensive in Australia?

          We are an odd bunch.

  • Wear more hats.

    Stop addressing envelopes to Mrs Bean Bean.

    Say no to evening guests, its just so rude.

    Otherwise have the funs.

    • Charis

      I really don’t mind being an evening guest, I don’t find it rude when I get invited to a night do, I still feel honoured the bride and groom want to celebrate with me!

      I understand that sometimes you just can’t afford to have everyone you want there, and that speeches etc are nicer to do just in front of those closest to you.

      I find it much more practical than inviting everyone to everything, and personally think more countries should adopt it.

      • CeeBeeUK

        Agreed! Mine is divided between ceremony (people I love and who I won’t mind crying in front of) and evening reception (people I love and want to celebrate with but feel embarrassed crying in front of)

  • Emily

    This Australian has 2 questions:

    What are escort cards?
    What is the guesbook for at the wedding?

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      (American/NY’er responding, specifying since this thread is all about cultural/regional differences)

      There are “escort cards” and “place cards” (or something like that). One is set on a table by the entrance to the reception. You find the one with your name on it and it tells you what table you’re sitting at. The other is on the dinner table telling you which seat to sit in. At our wedding, we had escort cards (assigning people to tables) but no place cards (once they got to the right table, they could choose whatever seat they wanted).

      Guestbook are meant to be a keepsake. Your guests sign their names and often write little messages like “Congrats! You look beautiful!” and “Wishing you a lifetime of happiness!” and “Man, I totally got trashed at your wedding. Great party!” One of my friends had a photobooth at her wedding and asked people to glue their photos into the guestbook so that she could look at them in the future and reminisce.

      • CinColorado

        Think of escort cards as “escorting you to the correct table” and place cards as “which place setting is yours at said table”. We had escort cards to make sure people ended up at tables where a. they knew at least one other person and b. we got to live out years of wondering things like “oooh, wouldn’t Bob and Jim have a lot to talk about if only they ever met?”.
        Most guestbooks I’ve seen here are white, lacy books with a line for people’s address and such, then they get put in a box and forgotten. Our guestbook was actually a photobook we made online of our engagement photos. We handed out permanent markers for people to write directly in the book, yearbook style – thoughts, wishes, advice. It was great, because what are you going to do with 20 engagement photos, otherwise? Also, having grown up in Germany, I’ve always wanted a school yearbook, sniff… And now I have the best one! Love and well wishes written all over our faces! :-)

    • The UK equivalent of escort cards would be a table plan. It’s just a different way of doing things – instead of listing your guests by table, and having them look through the lists to find their name and consequently their table, you have individual cards for each guest and their table number is written on their card.

      In one way it’s a lot easier, because if they’re set out alphabetically then guests can find their names much more quickly. On the other hand, I like to have a look and see who else is going to be sitting at my table, which you can’t really do with escort cards.

      As for guestbooks, they’ve become very common at UK weddings. I can’t make up my mind about them – I always find it hard to think of something meaningful to write, especially when I’ve already written the couple a card. But in the land of online wedding registries, when lots of people probably don’t give paper wedding cards any more, it can be nice to have a physical reminder of your guests’ love and good wishes.

      Top guestbook tip: allocate a bridesmaid or usher to be in charge of getting people to sign it, otherwise it will languish on a table while your guests are too busy having a good time.

      • CinColorado

        Good tip, Kirsty! I was thrilled with my photo guest book (see above) and realized afterwards that some really close people didn’t ever get around to it because they were having too much fun. We meant to bring it to the next-day picnic, but it ended up elsewhere instead. However, awesome new brother-in-law had already planned for everyone sign a Frisbee and volleyball for us as a keepsake (Yes, I’m more than a tad on the sentimental side, why do you ask?). Point is, do what you want in a way that makes sense to you and your new spouse. :-)

      • Blimunda

        At a friend’s wedding, another guest somehow gathered all the other guests’ emails a few weeks before the wedding and sent out a message asking everyone to bring an A4 paper with wishes, memories etc. She later built, as a gift to the couple, a guest book with these papers and the pictures of every single guest playing around with a big picture frame (that another friend volunteered to take). It was a nice way to leave a message to the couple, while avoiding the awkward “what do I write now” moment.
        At another friend’s wedding I was the one in charge of the “guest book”: I went around asking people to remember to leave their fingerprint and signature on a painting of a tree that she had made.

  • Grace Roberts

    I have to say as a British reader trying to navigate wedding traditions, the idea of a Bridal or even Baby shower sounds excruciating to me. We are taught here that you should never be presumptuous and lots of brides here are still uncomfortable with the idea of a registry, so the idea that you would throw a party essentially asking for gifts..! Of course I understand that if it’s the norm where you live then people will be excited about it, but one of my biggest wedding fears is asking too much of my guests and costing them money they don’t have.

    • 39bride

      Bridal showers are generally not thrown by the bride. In some circles/regions even a family member throwing the shower is considered sketchy. Often it’s the maid of honor, or other friend or bridal party member. In my case, a woman in my church approached my mother and aunt about throwing a shower for me. It’s similar with baby showers, but it’s
      “okay” to have an aunt or other extended family member host it.

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      The idea of a bridal or baby shower sounds excruciating to some American readers too :)

      People often try to register for a wide range of items, from little things like measuring cups to expensive things like china and appliances. That way, if friends and family want to give physical gifts, they can choose something that they know you want for the amount they’re comfortable giving.

      When you go to a British wedding, do people typically give physical gifts, money, or no gifts?

      • dawn

        Hi – I’m an American and the idea of a bridal shower is excruciating. I had to have one but managed to avoid having three. In my case, it would have been seen as elitist and condescending to refuse. For the same reason, I had to have a registry. Without one, people would have seen me / us as “too good” to receive gifts, or possibly as “asking for money.” It would be a sign of rejecting the love that people wanted to show us.
        Also, it would have been considered unacceptable to throw a for myself or to have any relative throw it for me.

  • Tamar

    “It’s revolutionary, sure…” I see what you did there!

    (Even if that wasn’t intentionally a Revolutionary War joke, I’m going to pretend it was, because it made sleep-deprived me crack up.)

    • THANK YOU FOR NOTICING. My work here is done.

  • dawn

    This post made my July 5th! 3 notes…

    1. I’m American and I love Cornwall, although the roads are alarming. Dublin has the loudest 4 ams of any other city I’ve visited. It must be the weddings.

    2. Pickles in America are pickled cucumbers. If the vegetable being pickled is not a cucumber, that will generally be specified “pickled beats/onions/ etc.” Pickle in England is what Americans (at least some?) call chutney.

    3. Re “hen-do”
    I took a look at my university’s subscription online version of the Oxford English Dictionary. Here is the most pertinent information I found:

    hen-party n. a gathering consisting only of women.

    1887 W. Westall Her Two Millions xxvii, It was a ‘hen party’ to which his wife had gone.
    1960 Guardian 15 Feb. 4/3 A hen-party can be a very pleasant, relaxing affair, particularly for the older woman.

    Using the OED’s Historical Thesaurus feature supplies “hen-party” as the “for women only” specification under “party.” The “for men only” party terms included are: “stag-party” from 1856 (available by following a link), “bachelor party” (defined here as “one for men only, esp. one marking the end of a bridegroom-to-be’s bachelorhood, also bachelor dinner” from 1902, and finally “stag” from 1971 defined here as “ellipt. for stag-dinner n., stag-party, n. ” which is specified as North American.

    And I’ll stop with the quotations at the “stag-party”link:
    stag-party n.

    1856 Knickerbocker Mag. Apr. 407 in R. H. Thornton Amer. Gloss. (1912) , A party of old bricks [read bucks], who, under pretence of looking at the picture, are keeping up a small stag-party at the end of the room.
    1923 ‘Bartimeus’ Seaways xii. 234 We don’t want any women. We’ll just have a stag party and talk Service shop and play pool afterwards.
    1978 J. Wainwright Thief of Time 83, I know people… Class strippers. Stag-party hostesses. There’s a real market.

    There is more research and analysis to be done here, but I can’t do it at the moment!

  • AVA

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, so this may have already been answered… forgive me if so (and point me in the direction of the answer).

    As a wedding guest I almost always have one outfit for the ceremony, and a different outfit for the reception. Especially if there’s a few hours gap between the two parts. I’ve noticed that this isn’t actually common amongst wedding guests here in Australia. What’s the norm in Britain, and the US?

  • Blimunda

    I enjoyed this post so much. I read all the comments adding my third (Italian) point of view to the mix. Very interesting, and funny :)

  • Blimunda

    I enjoyed this post so much. I read all the comments mentally adding my third (Italian) point of view to the mix. Very interesting, and funny :)

  • Pingback: Ask Team Practical: A British Person's Guide To American Weddings … | Wedding Budget Help()

  • Mikell

    American here, living in Devon, and got married in Cornwall a couple months ago to my Australian husband. How much fun was it solving THAT cultural combination problem?

    I absolutely agree with the points made saying that one of the biggest issues is that, by virtue of speaking (mostly) the same language and (in my case as a very white girl) looking mostly alike, everyone kind of expects the other countries’ etiquette and traditions to be like our own, and it’s sort of uncomfortable when it differs even a little bit. I told people I’m pretty sure my mother would have had an easier time handling me marrying someone of a radically different religion and culture than she did with the whole British/Australian Catholic thing, simply because when it’s so close to what you’ve pictured, you get more pissy when things aren’t what you envisioned.


    (1) We had a Catholic wedding, since my husband is Catholic. (I am an atheist; my parents are nominally some version of Protestant) When I tried to convince my mother she had to wear a hat, she fought against it for months before I finally figured out that she thought it was a Catholic thing forcing her to cover her hair for modesty reasons, not an English thing that is just fabulous.

    (2) The whole British thing where the groom doesn’t watch the bride walk down the aisle. (See: Royal wedding, Mary’s wedding in Downtown Abbey) My mother got all pissed about that too and was encouraging me to “make” my husband watch me because that is a THING, in the US, to watch the groom as he watches the bride walking down the aisle, and my parents were expecting it!

    (3) I’m still not sure if this is a British thing or an Australian thing, but my parents were a little hurt that they and other family members weren’t part of the procession down the aisle. (In the US, parents of both the bride and groom often process in before the bride and her bridesmaids, +/- the father of the bride who may be escorting her. Sometimes grandparents are in the procession as well) It was just me and my father, and then my Maid of Honor. (AKA Chief Bridesmaid over here)

    (4) And yeah, bride coming in before bridesmaid(s), that was different. Not a big deal, but it looked weird to the Americans.

    (5) Signing the registry. Even though we were already legally married for immigration reasons, we still had to sign the Church’s records, and that took a good five minutes with our eccentric priest trying to spell my MoH’s complicated full name. If it had been the full legal registry as well that would have added what, another ten minutes? My American guests were really confused why they were all watching us write stuff for ages after we’d been declared husband and wife and done the kissing thing. This does not happen in the US. Once the talking’s over, it’s party time, and only one piece of paper — the marriage license — gets signed, once, quickly and usually out of the way of everyone else. Let’s face it, signing paperwork is not a spectator sport.

    Fortunately I have always found wedding showers a little painful, and so does my mother, so we could at least agree to forego that part of the American tradition!

    In the end, my parents adjusted to what they had to adjust to, everyone wore fabulous hats and fascinators, and as some of my husband’s British relatives said, “It was a very typical English wedding that happened to be almost entirely populated by Americans and Australians.” So I’m calling the cultural etiquette navigation a success!

  • Just wanted to point out that evening guests are still fairly common in Canada, or at least the bis that I summer in (the Maritimes). I’ve been to weddings where a sizable crowd came after the ceremony and dinner, at the invite of the couple, for the “wedding dance.” I think one of the couples even printed the invite in the local paper . . . ah, rural Canada, I love you.

  • Sasasadie

    This was great. Can someone please now write this for Mexicans and Americans surviving each other’s customs? Would really come in handy as I plan to marry my Mexican fiancé in Mexico with all of my American friends and family.

  • Albert einstien

    guys, quality information you have given!!!