The one thing British couples never do at weddings
The Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is the stuff of fairytales. An American “commoner” marrying British Royalty is what dreams are made of.
In college, I spent a semester in London, interned at a couture bridal salon by one of London’s most renowned gown designers, Phillippa Lepley, and visited Buckingham Palace and Windsor castle. I absolutely fell in love with London’s history, culture, and people and feel such a close connection to anything British. Lately, knowing that this Royal wedding was coming up, it got me thinking about how our neighbors across “The Pond” do weddings. Are they the same? Are they really different? What do couples do to prepare? What’s their bridal style like?
To find out, I asked Emma Salt, a British-based wedding planner and Owner of Married in NYC, who helps couples navigate all the administrative paperwork and coordinating needed for them to travel to America and get married in NYC. We covered all aspects of British weddings including the one thing American couples do that British couples NEVER do at weddings.
Let’s start at the early planning phases. Do British couples have engagement parties or wedding showers?
Emma – “We don’t typically. I’d say 50% of my friends had an engagement party a couple of weeks after they got engaged. We just gathered with our family on they day (they all knew and so were waiting for us!)”
Can you explain what bachelor/bachelorette parties are like?
Emma – “So, a “Hen do” is for the bride and her friends and family, apparently the term “hens” was used in the 1800’s to describe a group of women gathered together. A “Stag do” is for the groom and his friends. I think it is just because a stag is such a masculine animal!
A typical Hen do will have the bride in white, friends in any other color, and the bridesmaids/friends will dress the Hen (the bride) up in a sash (usually saying “Bride to Be” or similar) and a cheap tiara and veil…It’s usually a night out drinking and dancing, or a cocktail making class etc.
“A “Stag do” is for the groom and his friends and family. Again, its usually a heavy night of drinking, and the “stags” quite often dress the groom up as something really embarrassing!”
“Recently, hens and stags have been abroad, there have been a lot if long weekend breaks in Spain or somewhere else hot in Europe.” Salt says “adult” items are often thrown into the mix as well to add to the fun. “It is like people make it deliberately cheap and tacky now”, she says.
What are some British wedding traditions?
Emma – “Things are changing now, there aren’t any definite traditions. However, it is often a given that the groom DOES NOT see the bride before the ceremony. The first time they see each other must be when the bride walks down the aisle. We cut the cake, however we don’t usually slice it and feed it to each other. At our NYC wedding, the photographer was like “that’s it? You aren’t gonna eat it??” because typically we slice it, then it gets served later to the guests. We give our guests “favours” and they can be anything from candy, to flowers seeds (to plant in the couples honour) or a lot of couples donate the money they would have spent to charity and put the details of which charity (and sometimes with a pin or badge of the charity, etc.) on each table.”
What is typical British wedding style for brides and grooms?
Emma – “…What brides wear varies so much! Some go for full lace sleeves, reminiscent of Kate Middleton. Some go for slinky strapless dresses… Grooms often do 2 piece suites, but there has been a big bow tie, tweed and braces (suspenders) trend the last few years.”
Are bridal parties a thing in Britain?
Emma – “Yep, though the Maid of Honor is sometimes called the Chief Bridesmaid and the Groomsmen are called Ushers.”
What about the reception? Do British couples have parties with DJ’s, dancing, cake, bouquet toss, etc. or are they more reserved?
Emma – “Pretty much. We have a reception with a sit down meal and speeches. Then a DJ/band and a buffet for evening guests to attend. I went to a wedding where we all did line dancing and a lot of people choose a live band if it is in their budget.”
Do couples do first looks?
Emma – “No way! First looks a NOT a thing here. The groom is kept well away from the bride and it is considered REALLY bad luck to see each other before the ceremony.
Featured photo credit: J. Ferrara Photography