Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Traditions Across The Pond

Day 2 of Wedding Week is a Bridal Battle of epic proportions. Just kidding. I like to be a bit dramatic.

I get asked all the time, "What are differences between American and English weddings?!"

I end up babbling for hours on the subject and eventually give up and just say "Google it"

Sometimes I would ask Alex "is this normal??" or "is this how you do it??" regarding our wedding planning. He would respond, "I don't know, I've never gotten married before!" Thank Zeus and all the heavens he has a pretty accent, because he was seriously zero help at times.

Obviously, American weddings and British weddings have a lot of similarities.

But there were also plenty of differences everywhere, from planning the wedding to the actual ceremony to the party in the evening!

With my experience of planning a wedding in England, this is what I noticed are some major differences between American and English weddings.

(Note: Our ceremony was a civil ceremony, which meant no religion was incorporated or even allowed. Our wedding planning/ceremony is where this list of differences comes from. It may/may not differ from other types of ceremonies.)

Ceremony vs. Celebration

In America, you tend to invite everyone to both the wedding ceremony and the party afterwards. Everything just sort of flows into the next event without more people arriving.

In England, the wedding ceremony is much more intimate. It's really only family and close friends that attend. And they're the only ones who eat a full sit-down meal, as well.

The celebration guests come later. This consists of all of the people from the ceremony, plus other friends and colleagues. There is usually a buffet for the evening guests throughout the night, but nothing like the presentation and elegance of the intimate sit-down dinner.

(Our wedding consisted of about 40 ceremony guests and 120 evening guests.)

The party has arrived! By the way, in no part of the evening was I drunk. I know it appears like I am, but I'm not!

Personally, I like this concept better. I know there's always stress knowing who to invite and "whether you want to spend the money on a meal for your mother's sister's grandchild's stepsister". But for us it was pretty clear who was coming to the ceremony and who would just be coming to the evening celebration.

The only thing I will say is that because of this, we had to have 2 different invitations with 2 different times to arrive. It honestly wasn't that big of a burden, but just make sure you stay organized so you know who you invited to which part!


In America, you can get married practically anywhere! Getting married on the beach is common where I lived in Florida. All you have to do is arrange someone to come marry you at a certain time. You don't even need to reserve the part of the beach or let anyone know.

In England,  they are much more strict (which I found incredibly frustrating when first planning the wedding). The venue has to be licensed. Because of this, they are also quite pricey.

And also because of this, getting married in a registry office is common.

(Here's where I'm going to sound like a snob. I have no intention of sounding like a snob, but I know I will. It's not my intention to offend anyone, so I'm sorry if I do.)

There is nothing that I wanted less than to get married in a registry office. I felt like Alex and I had sacrificed enough in our 3+ years of dating, and that we deserved not to have to settle for a registry office wedding. (See, I told you. Snob.) Especially when we could get married on a free beach in Florida and have a gorgeous surrounding instead of a stuffy registry office. (Snob.)

I kept telling Alex that I would rather get married in our back garden than a registry office. (Snob.) He just kept saying "you can't do that!" and I didn't understand why! He said it's to preserve the meaning of marriage and I said "bullshit, I don't care."

We ended up finding a lovely, affordable place to have both the wedding and the evening celebration.

But keep all of this in mind if want to get married in England.

Giving notice vs. having a marriage license

I was completely clueless about both of these things to be honest.

In America, you get a marriage license. (Which sounds hilarious to me.... Like a drivers license for your wedding.... Waiting for hours at a DMV to take a test and a bad picture...) I couldn't tell you the first steps of how to get a marriage license.... Good thing I never had to!

In England you "give notice". It's basically giving your intentions to marry. They post your intentions to marry, as well. They ask you basic questions about each other. (spelling of names, birthdays, occupation, very basic things) You can get married 15 days after giving notice and it's valid up to one year.

Carrying a horseshoe 

I've never heard of this custom in America, but I also haven't been to or been a part of many weddings. So I just decided to go with this one. 

I was given a small, decorative horseshoe a few days before the wedding. I opened the box, looked up at everyone, and just said "I don't get it". They said it's for luck. Noted.

Then, when I was nearly ready at the venue, someone handed me my bouquet and the horseshoe. I was like, "what do I do with this??" Finally, someone had explained to me that you hold it with your bouquet. I wish someone told me this sooner so I didn't sound like an asshole the whole time wondering what I was supposed to do with it!

Stuffing cake in each others faces

Purely an American tradition, and I was set on keeping it that way. My husband, however, had other plans....

Nice picture before he went to the dark side...

We talked about it and agreed no caking stuffing. But when the moment came, my American family starting shouting "Stuff it in her face!!!" and like a good in-law, he did.

(I also got the feeling that if I did it to him, some of the older English family would be appalled. Like I would get the "Ugh... Americans..." glare and head shake. I know that's probably not the case. I just felt like that at the time.)

The wedding party was sitting

Alex and I had a small wedding party consisting of 2 people..... His Best Man and my Matron of Honor.

I was utterly confused when they had them sit in the front row (on their respective sides) instead of standing next to us during the ceremony! I thought maybe it's because we had a civil ceremony instead of a religious ceremony that things were less formal. But then I Googled it and it turns out it's normal in the UK.

Something blue, and a sixpence in your shoe

Everyone knows the rhyme "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" for items the bride wears on her wedding day.

In England they add "and a sixpence in your shoe" meaning an old form of currency.

I didn't do this one. Not for any reason. I could have found a sixpence somewhere (and John Lewis actually sells them for brides at a ridiculous price.... Ridiculous considering what they're worth really...) Oh well!

Oops upside your head

This is a popular dance done at wedding celebration parties in England.

I had never seen it before until it was turned on and I was dragged to the dance floor and plopped on the ground! (in a white dress... classy) It's like a Macarena, Electric Slide, or Time Warp dance... Everyone just knows what to do!

Basically, everybody lines up and links legs while sitting on the ground and you shimmy or clap your hands from side to side a certain way. My freakin' hips and legs were killing me afterwards! Even though you're sitting, you're moving your upper body around so much and your hips take the brunt of the strain. Maybe I'm just out of shape!

Regardless, I don't think my American family participated. Actually, that's a lie. One of my family members stood at the front of the lines and conducted everyone into perfect synchronization! But no one got down on the ground to clap and shimmy with me. 

In the end, both weddings get the job done, am I right? I'm sure there are plenty more differences (Bachelorette Parties vs. a Hen Do, bridal showers, etc.) but these are what played major roles in our across the pond UK wedding!

Anything else you can think of? Have you been to a wedding that was different to your traditions? What traditions did you/will you incorporate into your wedding?? Have you done the "oops upside your head" dance??


  1. I have never heard of the sixpence in your shoe addition to that rhyme or seen a bride carry a horseshoe down the aisle, I'm a bad Brit, "oops upside your head" I can do though.

  2. haha my incredibly english wedding bears almost no resemblance to this! i've never heard of sixpence in your shoe either! my mum had a horseshoe with her bouquet when she got married years ago and when we came across it recently, she said it was just something they used to do; it never even occurred to me (or anyone else) to have a horseshoe in my bouquet! NOR did i dance to oops upside your head (but we were very strict with our band and playlist, so maybe it's one for the wedding DJ's!) We also invited everyone to the ceremony and the reception - intimate sit-down meal for 150! the bridesmaids and ushers/best man were seated during the ceremony though, so i can relate to that part!

    1. oh my god, just noticed that every sentence is punctuated by an exclamation mark. how infuriating.


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