British Wedding

British Wedding Etiquette

A wedding ceremony has much value in a person's life. It is the ceremony after which a man and a woman officially become husband and wife, and they start living together under the same roof. There are many wedding traditions from around the world. If you are planning for a wedding, it's good to choose a culture that can make your wedding memorable.

Sometimes you may have limited choices, especially if your partner insists on hosting a wedding ceremony according to their traditional background. In that case, if you have a partner from Great Britain, you need not worry. The wedding tradition in Great Britain is rich with fascinating rituals.  

Before the Wedding

In Great Britain, the marriage process begins with a proposal from a man to the woman he wants to marry. The proposal itself has some rituals involved. The man usually goes down on one knee, presents a ring to the woman then asks is the woman would agree to marry him. If the woman accepts the ring (proposal), then the couple automatically becomes engaged. The woman wears the ring on her ring finger. It is a tradition in the UK that a woman can only propose to a man on the 29th of February, which only comes in a leap year.

A couple only gets married after being engaged for an agreed period. This is because an engagement acts as a promise or an agreement to marry. The man becomes a fiancé of the woman, while the woman becomes a fiancée of the man. The couple then sets their wedding date, and the announcement of banns takes place in a registry office or a local parish. The banns announce the intended marriage so that anyone with an objection to the union can come forward and stop it. The common reasons for complaints may include:

  • One of the partners had been married elsewhere
  • One of the partners had taken a vow of celibacy
  • One of the partners never consented to the marriage
  • The couple may be closely related

The People Involved in the Wedding Ceremony

Apart from the groom and the bride, the wedding ceremony involves many other people. These are mostly the close friends of the couple. Some of the people involved in the wedding ceremony include:

Ushers: Usually men helpers, they assist with organizing the wedding

Ringbearer: A young boy whose duty is to carry the rings

Groomsmen: Male attendants; they support the groom.

Best man: Can be a relative or a very close friend of the groom. He always walks close to the groom.

Bridesmaids: Female attendants; they support the bride.

Maid of honor or matron of honor: Can be a relative or a very close friend of the bride. She always walks closer to the bride

Bride’s father: The father of the bride or her guardian; someone to "give her away" to the groom

Junior Bridesmaids: Chosen by the bride to assist but is older than a flower girl

Flower girl: She scatters flowers; usually a young girl

Wedding guests: All those invited to attend the wedding ceremony.

The Best Day for a Wedding Ceremony

Traditionally, Wednesday was the most suitable day for a wedding ceremony. However, many weddings in the UK today take place on Saturdays.

The Wedding Ceremony

In Great Britain, there’s no rehearsal dinner. Usually, the brides have a “hen party” while the grooms have a “stag party.” these parties are held the night before the wedding day.

The wedding day is the most stressful in the life of the groom and the bride. They have lots of anxieties as to whether the day will be successful and about their future together, from that day henceforth. There are lots of things involved on that day, and as you try to please everyone, you may end up getting involved in family rows. It provides a good test for your endurance.

As the guests arrive, ushers will guide them on what to do and hand them flowers, books, and anything that shows them the order of service. Ushers also lead them to their rightful sitting places. The side where a guest sits depends on whether the guest is from the groom’s or the bride’s side. The front row is usually for the families of the couple and their close friends.

The bridal party has individual seats reserved for them. However, in many cases, the bridal party may end up standing at the altar throughout the ceremony. They can stand together with the groom and the bride.

The groom and his team will arrive first to the church and wait for the bride’s squad. The bride's team usually comes in coaches or cars, elegantly decorated for the occasion. The team comprises of the bride, her father/guardian, flower girls, maid of honor, bridesmaids, etc. All of them get guided to their reserved seats.

Taking the Vows

The bride and the groom are guided by the priest/vicar/registrar to make marriage vows with elements of affection, faithfulness, unconditionality, and permanence. Most of those who conducted the wedding ceremonies derived the promises from other religious traditions.

However, today, many couples use lyrics from love songs or some love poems as their vows. Some also choose to write the marriage vows by themselves. After exchanging the pledge, the couple also exchange rings, after which the officiant, two witnesses, groom, and the bride go aside to sign the register and then get the wedding certificate. 

After this, the guests are supposed to throw rice, birdseed, confetti, petals, and flower petals over the couple as a sign of wishing them good luck. The bride then stands facing away from the guests and throws the bouquet to the congregation over her head.

Whoever manages to catch the banquet is believed to be next in the line of marriage. A photo session follows as the newlyweds leave the church. There are many group photos taken, and everyone tries to appear in one with the couple.

The Attire

In Great Britain, brides wear white dresses that symbolize purity. The bride wears a veil to confuse evils spirits that might be against the couple. Often, the bride will have an heirloom, or carry a prayer book/family Bible. It is the norm for the bride to have something blue, something borrowed, something new, and something old. It was a tradition for the bride and the bridesmaids to wear similar attire. This was believed to confuse the evil spirits who might have wanted to harm the bride.

In the Middle Ages, the brides sew some charms onto their dresses’ hems to provide them with good luck. A lucky charm could be a silver horseshoe or anything else prescribed by the elders. The bride could also combine a horseshoe with her bouquet to add more good luck. Furthermore, a chimneysweep kissing the bride as she leaves the church was considered a sign of good luck.

The Reception

The reception follows the wedding ceremony. It is usually at the reception that the newlyweds, their parents, and their entourage greet the guests. A lot of food and drinks get served at the dinner, and there are speeches and toasts in honor of the newlyweds.

There’s always some music, and the groom and the bride open the dance floor. This dance is usually known as the "Bridal Waltz." The couple had an opportunity to choose their favorite song or piece of music. The father of the bride can also dance with her. The groom cuts this dance halfway to symbolize that the father has to hand over the bride to him (the groom).

In the course of the celebration, the couple may get subjected to some pranks. For example, the pranksters can tie some tin cans to the bumper of the couple's car, or their window can get sprayed with shaving cream. Some of the popular songs played at UK weddings include:

  • Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran
  • At Last by Etta James
  • All of Me by John Legend
  • Amazed by Lonestar
  • Better Together by Jack Johnson
  • Let's Stay Together by Al Green
  • A Thousand Years by Christina Perri
  • Make You Feel My Love by Adele

The Wedding Cake

A tiered and elaborate fruit cake is served at the reception. There are often images of the couple on the cake in their wedding attire. The couple cuts the cake together to symbolize how they’ll work together in their marriage. The couple stores the tier so they can eat it on their wedding anniversary or when their first child gets christened. At the end of it all, the newlyweds will drive off to enjoy their honeymoon.

Today, it may not be possible to follow strictly Great Britain’s traditional wedding norms. Many couples often choose the easy way out, omitting some customs they no longer consider as necessary. Some couples also do so to save costs. The fact is, no two weddings can ever be the same. You can choose whatever suits your situation. However, the more traditional elements you include, the more memorable your wedding will be.

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