In our line of work, featuring real weddings from all over the world, it’s always pretty fascinating to see the little (and sometimes, the big!) differences in how different countries and cultures celebrate marriage.
Even between countries as close as Ireland and the UK, the variation is visible, so when it comes to Transatlantic idiosyncrasies, there are quite a few gapping differences.
So, to investigate further (it’s Thanksgiving tomorrow, after all!) the lovely Meghan Fay of Extraordinary Days has stepped in to help. (We featured some of her gorgeous work last year – check it out.)
As a talented American wedding planner who calls the UK home, who better to assist us in discovering the difference between US and UK weddings?
Take it away Meghan…
The Differences Between US & UK Weddings
As an American wedding planner in London, I often help couples plan fused British-American weddings.
Also, with the boom of international wedding blogs and the rise of personalised weddings, I have seen more and more American traditions popping up in the UK. With this in mind, I have summed up the differences between American and British weddings!
Which traditions will you be incorporating in your wedding?
After living in the UK for so long, I’ve learned that Americans’ die-hard love of celebrations is somewhat unique to our country.
From memorial day to Halloween, there is no holiday that is too small to decorate and draft a guest list for! So, is it a surprise that a wedding is really a year long of festivities?
Often a month or two before the wedding, and an American tradition, a bridal shower consists of a ladies lunch where the bride is “showered” with gifts and games are played.
Hen Nights, Stag Dos, Bachelor, and Bachelorette Parties.
Next, comes the bachelor and bachelorette parties. These are the same or similar to stag and hen dos in the UK but with different names.
In the US, there is almost always a ‘rehearsal dinner’ the night before the wedding.
Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner consisted of those that had a role in the wedding ceremony rehearsing the wedding then having a dinner.
While this traditional format often still takes place, today the rehearsal dinner may simply be a pre-wedding celebration.
There are small nuanced differences in US and UK ceremonies.
As a bride, don’t you envision the moment your groom first sees you walking down the aisle? Well, these moments play out differently in each country.
In the UK, the tradition is that the groom faces away from the bride and only looks at her when she reaches him at the Altar.
Did you notice that Prince William and Princes Catherine stuck to this tradition?
Photo via Daily Mail
Another difference is the order of the processional. Traditionally in the UK, bridesmaids walk behind the bride to straighten her train.
However, many UK brides are adopting the US way of allowing bridesmaids to go first which builds excitement before the bride walks down the aisle.
Once every one is down the aisle, US bridal parties typically stand with the bride and groom while UK bridal parties sit.
Page Boys, Ring Bearers, and Flower Girls
Finally, in the US young ring bearers and flower girls are traditional. Ring bearers carry the wedding rings down the aisle on a cushion and flower girls toss petals on the aisle just before the bride makes her entrance.
In the UK, flower girls more traditionally carry posies or floral pomanders. Page boys simply walk down the aisle and the best man is usually entrusted with getting the rings to the altar.
Dinner & Reception
Once the ceremony is over and you have sat down at dinner or the ‘wedding breakfast’, things can be a little different depending on what side of the Atlantic you are on.
In the US, guests are accustomed to selecting from a choice of two different main courses for their meal (this is in addition to any dietary restrictions). For example, they may select ‘beef’ or ‘chicken’ when they RSVP.
In the UK, this concept baffles most wedding venues and caterers!
The Wedding Cake
The traditional UK wedding cake is fruit cake with fondant icing. The traditional US cake is a white sponge cake with white fondant or buttercream icing.
In both countries, couples might save the top tier for a first child’s christening or for a first anniversary.
In the US, couples will sometimes pretend to (or actually!) smear a little cake on each other’s faces when they feed each other a piece of cake after their ceremonial cutting!
There are no evening invites in the US. If you are invited to a wedding, it is to all parts of the day.
In the UK, usually the bride’s father will speak, followed by the groom, and then the best man. In the US, it is customary for the maid of honour to speak rather than the groom.
The US groom may say a few words but he often does not give the long, eloquent speech, gushing about his new wife that is common in the UK.
If you are an American (or British) bride, marrying a Brit, listening to your groom speak is definitely a magical moment!
The US has a couple of “interesting” wedding traditions. First, there is the dollar dance where guests pin dollars to the bride and groom in exchange for a dance.
Second, there is the garter removal, in which the groom removes the bride’s garter (which is around her thigh) with his teeth. Both can be a bit awkward and are in decline in popularity.
Both the UK and the US have first dances, father-daughter dances, cake cuttings and the bouquet toss. US weddings may have a mother-son dance also.
The differences in who pays for what can oftentimes be the most difficult Transatlantic difference for a British- American couple to navigate.
It is more common to see open bars in the US and more common to see cash bars in the UK.
Bars are more expensive in the UK, the British worry more their guests are going to get a little crazy at the site of a free bar, and Americans blush at the thought of asking guests to splash out cash at their wedding.
In the US, being a bridesmaid is a large financial undertaking. Bridesmaids usually pay for part or all of the bridal shower, bachelorette party, their bridesmaid dress, and hair and make-up on the wedding day.
In the UK, the couple almost always pays for bridesmaid dresses and hair and make-up if a professional service is offered. This is likely the reason why British bridal parties tend to be smaller than American ones.
So many differences that we’d never thought about, now watching Four Weddings & A Funeral or Father of the Bride, will make so much more sense to couples on either side of the Atlantic!
I love seeing how even in countries that seem so similar, the differences can be so glaring.
Have you noticed any differences in international weddings? We’d love you to share them in the comments below.
Be inspired by Real Weddings from around the world.