Morning all!   I thought I'd open up today with something a little bit different;  a guest post by Erika Unbehaun of Flutterfly Events – an American Wedding Planner working in London.  I bet Erika has seen a whole variety of weddings in her time, and it is with this in mind that she wrote this short but interesting piece comparing American to British style weddings. I think it's good to throw something a little different in to the pot every once in a while! ;)

Image Below Copyright (c) 2011, Cat Hepple

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On a beautiful British summer morning, the wedding day is finally here. The guests have been seated and are waiting for the grand entrance of the bride. The procession starts and in walk the bridesmaids. Hold on…we’re in Britain (!), I thought the bridesmaids enter after the bride? Is this an American couple? In this story they’re British but in reality more and more British couples are incorporating American wedding traditions into their weddings and looking to the US for inspiration.

Love My Dress Wedding Blog – Photography Copyright (c) 2011, Lisa Devlin
See the full 'A Very British Wedding for a London Loving Bride' here on Love My Dress

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 As an American wedding planner in London, I’ve watched British couples take on American traditions and trends more so in the last two years than ever before. With the boom of wedding blogs and the increase of brides who want to have a unique and personlised wedding, it’s easy to find creative ways to incorporate traditions from another country.  As long as it’s meaningful for the couple and won’t confuse guests, swinging a new tradition is worth the effort!

Image Source:  http://www.stefansisters.blogspot.com/

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For all of you American and British readers who’d like to shake thinks up a bit, check out the differences between American weddings and British weddings then think about incorporating one into your wedding. Heck, even do two!

 

The Pre Wedding Celebrations…

American

British

In America, the Bride get's together with her best friends and maids to have her 'Bachelorette' party prior to the wedding.

In Britain, this is known as 'A Hen Party', of course! :)

The Grooms have a Bachelor's Party prior to the wedding day    

The Brit's have a 'Stag do'.

 

The Ceremony…

American

British

The groom faces the congregation so he can watch his bride walk down the aisle

The groom has his back towards the congregation and does not get to watch his bride walk down the aisle L

The bride walks down the aisle after her bridesmaids

The bride walks down the aisle before her bridesmaids

The wedding party stands with the bride and groom for the duration of the ceremony

The wedding party sits with the congregation for the ceremony

 

The Reception…

American

British

Sit down meals are shorter at your typical American wedding so more time can be spent on the dance floor

Brits like to enjoy their meal and make this the focal point of the wedding reception

 

Many guests hit the dance floor in-between dinner courses.

 

Dancing is reserved for after the meal

American wedding cakes are made of sponge and the tiers are usually stacked on top of one another. During the cake cutting ceremony, the newlyweds will hand feed each other a piece of cake.  Sometimes, they will stuff the cake into each other's faces! ;)

British wedding cakes are traditionally made of fruit cake and are displayed using pillars inbetween each tier. While this tradition is slowly fading out, many traditional weddings still order fruit cake, however, most couples now ask for stacked tiers.

Top Table:

The American top table consists of the bridal party and is seated man/woman/man/woman, with the bride and groom in the middle, the best man next to the bride, and the maid of honour next to the groom.

Top Table:

The British top table consists of parents and honour attendants. When looking at the table, the order from left to right is; Chief bridesmaid, groom’s father, bride’s mother, groom, bride, bride’s father, groom’s mother, best man.

The first dance is typically held after the bride and groom are announced into the dining room.

The first dance takes place after the cake cutting ceremony, which happens after the meal.

An American bride tosses a bouquet into a crowd of bachelorettes, while the groom lifts up his bride’s gown to pull off a garter and fling it into a group of bachelors. Rumour has it that the woman/man who catches the bouquet/garter will be the next in line to get married!

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a six pence in her shoe.  This last part of the ancient superstition is unique to the British. The Americans never caught on to that part!

Thank you Erika! Really interesting to see how traditions differ across the pond!

 I followed an American tradition and down the aisle after my Bridemaids did.  I also never tossed my bouquet, although that wasn't me following any cultural custom! I simply wanted to keep the bouquet and hang dry the flowers :)

Are you incorporating any custom practice or tradition from another country or culture?  Would love to get some chat going about how different countries and cultures do different things at weddings, it fascinates me!  In pulling together this piece I was trying to find an infographic for the UK that I could compare with this one for the USA, but I couldn't. If anyone knows of one, please do tell!

For further information about Erika and her Flutterfly Events business,visit www.flutterflyevents.com, email or ring 020 7536 9160 | 0787 217 1660.  You can also find Flutterfly Events on Twitter and Facebook.

 Wedding goodness coming up shortly :)

Much love all,

Annabel xXx :)

Leave a Comment!
  • http://www.anaffairtorememberevents.co.uk Heidi Thompson

    Love this post! As an American who moved to the UK a few years ago, I found some of the differences really intriguing. One thing to add are that we love offering free booze to our friends-it’s a serious priority and people will cut in other areas to offer an open bar. Also, the concept of an evening buffet was totally new to me!

  • http://www.missbushbridalwear.co.uk Emma Meek

    An unusual custom I heard recently from one of my Brides marrying a Hungarian. A Hungarian bride will change into a red dress at midnight. This signifies the womans change from bride to wife. I love the idea of a racy red second dress to start married life in!

  • http://www.daisycupcakes.net Alison

    Without knowing, I have incorporated a lot of the American traditions into my work as a wedding Registrar.
    I always encourage the bridesmaids to walk in first as I feel it sets the scene and makes the brides entrance even more eagerly anticipated. And if the bridesmaids walk in after the bride, no one gets to see them properly! And I always prompt the groom to turn round and admire his bride walking down the aisle!
    Thanks for sharing this post – fascinating! I am most definitely an Anglo American style Registrar!
    Alison x

  • http://www.flutterflyevents.com Erika

    Thanks Annabel!

  • Alex K

    I’m having a sweetheart table. This is very American and something our venue has never had before. I thought it was perfect as I get to spend time with my new husband while all our family and friends can chatter away. I’m also coming in after my bridesmaids, this has caused no end of problems with my mum as “it’s not traditional”. I definitely think it works better though.
    Xxx

  • http://www.leafycouture.co.uk Sarah Richardson@leafycouture

    My brother married a beautiful Texan girl this year, it was so interesting the differences, as a bridesmaid we walked down the aisle first and stood for the ceremony. They also do a huge thing about the garter being taken off in front of everyone at most weddings. I think we managed a perfect mixture of all the cultural differences. We were also able to do the ceremony outside as they had married in the states first, this had quite an american feel to it also.
    We have done Indian weddings and are doing a chinese one where the groom collects the wife to be and takes her to the ceremony. I love the fact they are all different and we are constantly learning.
    I do think that most of the trends over here come filtered down from the states.

  • http://www.lisaodwyerphotography.com Lisa O’Dwyer

    I’m an American photographer based in Ireland and I was surprised at the different traditions here too (they are pretty similar to the British). I had a couple last week where the bride was Austrian and groom was Irish. She had the custom of tossing the bouquet like the Americans, so it was fun to photograph this because I never get the chance here.
    Fruitcake tiers on the cake are very common here, but I am seeing cupcakes as well which are a bit yummier in my opinion!
    In Ireland, there is a tradition of exchanging a coin as in “my wealth is yours” after the exchanging of rings.
    Also, some houses might put out “The Child of Prague” the evening before so it won’t rain on the wedding day. They never tell me where he is though and I’m dying to get a photograph of one!
    Another custom I see sometimes is a horseshoe (usually plastic) on a ribbon which the bride will carry for good luck.
    This was an interesting post!

  • http://www.PaulAntonioScribe.com Paul Antonio

    Wedding Stationery (WS) is no different. This is NOT a short post!
    Up until the last 5 years or so, American lettering was usually much more prolific in design, fonts, much more hand generated calligraphy used for printing invitations, colour, added patterns but the English market has changed so much of late to encompass most of these but it is the sensibility of the designs, colours, choice of fonts and mixing them, that is most apparent.
    Monograms
    American – usually ornate with thing other than the lettering (crowns, flowers, etc)
    English – usually lettering only with the letters interlocking and flourishes off the letters
    Save the Dates
    American – generally always in an envelope
    English – Recent addition to WS. Usually in envelope but more recently on postcard
    Invitation – Main
    American – generally flourished script, usually a decorative copperplate, but more generally Spencerian which is a more ornate cousin of the copperplate hand. Lots more designs like square invites. Names are written in the body of the invitations and usually centred. The ABSOLUTELY stupid convention of Mr Paul & Mrs Annabel Antonio, or Mr & Mrs Paul & Annabel Antonio. I detest this form of addressing, It looks wrong, but it also needs much more space for writing.
    English – Copperplate, not too decorative. Capitals are being used more recently. The use of square invitations has also come to the fore. Name generally written top left, an increase in name in the centre. Generally ask advice on how to address names. I suggest couple’s friends by first name, parents friends that you know by first and surname and older people who are more formal Mr & Mrs Paul Antonio.
    Invite 2 –
    American – generally use a second invite, not only for a smaller group, for another event.
    English – seeing the increase in a second invite, but also some people invited to church and reception and some reception only.
    Map –
    American – usually a hand drawn one
    English – more recently hand drawn maps as opposed to computer generated ones
    Info Sheet –
    American – more often than not a little booklet
    English – usually a sheet for A4, more recently booklet style
    Envelope – Inner
    American – more often than not, but with first names
    English – not usually, in fact rarely
    Envelope – Outer
    American – usually same script as invite. More colour of both envelopes and calligraphy
    English – Same, contrasting or complimentary scripts. I think this is more due to price in some cases. Recently a rise in the use of contrasting colour for envelopes and more calligraphy on envelopes in colour
    Paper –
    American – usually 8×6, 9×7. Generally softer paper, medium to thick GSM
    English – both Imperial (8×6, 9×7) and Metric (A5, A6). Generally papers are much harder (much better for calligraphy) and usually thicker, more thick to thicker than medium (unless it is a folded invitation)
    Printing
    American – Litho printing, but much more Letterpress in the last 10-15 years. More die-stamping/engraving in the last 5 years, possibly in the last 3-4 years. More muted colours. Envelopes are usually paper lined.
    English – Litho Printing, generally much more die-stamping/engraving, but recently, in the last 3-4 years much more letterpress. Stronger, more intense colours. Envelopes tend to be tissue lined, of late more paper lined.

  • http://www.intimateweddingphotography.co.uk Orly {the boutique photographer}

    I love the cultural differences between us and I love the idea of cocktail hour where you can have a little nibble and mingle before the meal.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lovemydress Love My Dress

    Wow Paul that’s really fascinating stuff!! Just goes to show how much we are taking from the US in terms of design and style now that American wedding style had indeed become so accessible thanks to the wedding blogs!
    Really very interesting…
    xXx

  • http://www.destination-wedding-book.com Destination: Wedding

    Originally from Australia, I think we tend to do weddings American style with a hint of British tradition.
    I’ve never been to a wedding where the bride entered before the bridesmaids, I found the US/UK comparisons really fascinating. Love this blog topic!
    I’ve been married twice, my first wedding was in Hawaii incorporating some local traditions, and my second wedding saw me marry a Canadian in Finland (I’m half Finnish). As you can imagine, our wedding was less than traditional! Instead, we incorporated a range of elements from each culture which made our day truly our own. Wouldn’t have had it any other way :)

  • http://loveaudrey-loveaudrey.blogspot.com/ Loveaudrey

    This is a really interesting post Annabel, thank you.
    I don’t think I realised that some of the things we’re doing are American or English, they’re just what we wanted or felt drawn to. Having said that, we’ve come up against a little uncertainty amongst older members of our families which makes me think they’re probably less English/Irish and therefore less traditional to some.
    My bridesmaids will be walking ahead of me, mainly because I want the best bit of the song for my entrance and I don’t really want to toss my bouquet either. One other point of difference is that we’ve opted to have a STEN {a joint stag/hen do, sometimes called a ‘hen with men’} but I’m not sure whether this is British or American.
    Paul’s comment is fascinating, particularly as I sourced our Save the Dates and Invitations from America. We’re also having a seperate invite for evening guests {which we’ve purchased in the UK}.
    Loveaudrey xXx

  • http://www.bijouxbride.com louise {bijouxbride}

    I love how the lines are being blurred between the traditions of the UK, US and also other countries to create uniquely personal weddings that really represent each couple! Another US tradition I love (but wasn’t brave enough to do for my own wedding) is the first look! It’s a lovely idea to have a few private moments with each other before the ceremony! xx

  • Celine

    This is a very timely post Annabel – I am French/ English and will be marrying an American next summer!
    The funny thing is it explains some of the mini-debates the boy and I have had over the past couple of months. For example, I don’t want to choose a maid of honour as I already had trouble choosing bridesmaid, but my other half was saying I had to as she would need to stand beside me in the ceremony. I found this all sorts of confusing, having never seen it before – now I understand!
    Now I need to incorporate French traditions into the mix to get the full panoply of options for our wedding.
    Thank you!

  • http://www.wanderingstarrs.blogspot.com Caroline

    Fascinating! For some reason I thought the groom watched the bride come down the aisle and that bridesmaids did go first…I’ve clearly watched far too many US Four Weddings. I’ll be watching the new series of Don’t tell the Bride tonight to remind myself of British weddings ;) I’ll also be really nervous because I’m sure the last time we watched that series we weren’t engaged and had opinions on how our wedding was DEFINITELY going to be…so with 5 weeks to go I’m going to be a state I bet!

  • Susan

    American also sometimes have a second cake, usually chocolate, called a groom’s cake. This tradition is rooted in the southeast, though it’s becoming much more popular and is often seen as a chance to have a whimsical second cake in addition to the traditional white one.
    My groom is from Guatemala, and there, the engagement ring is traditionally opal or pearl (white stone of some sort) and is only worn until the wedding. After the wedding, only the wedding band is worn. We’re going with American tradition on that one, lol!

  • http://aislinnevents.com Annie Byrne

    As a wedding planner in Ireland and specializing in Americans getting married here, it never ceases to amaze me how often people say “you can’t do that!” with Americans using their own style.
    Things are changing but I say let the couple have it how they like it! or pick and choose to use the traditions you want from either side.
    That’s what I did myself!

  • http://www.flutterflyevents.com Erika

    Cool pictures!

  • http://www.flutterflyevents.com Erika

    And one other thing that Heidi touched on, Americans always have open bars!

  • Anne

    You forgot bridal showers!
    Also, Americans seem obsessed with registering – there is so much about registries and gifts in US Brides which I’ve read a few times.
    Also… we do post-ceremony drinks and/or welcome drinks, with Bucks Fizz and canapes. Americans have cocktail hours with “food stations”.
    And US weddings seem to be later in the day and it seems (from watching Four Weddings, so possibly not representative) that they often do the first dance before the meal?

  • Anne

    Oh, and Americans don’t always have open bars – it depends on the region.
    They have rehearsal dinners, too. Think you need to add some stuff to the post :)

  • http://www.twobirdsbridesmaid.co.uk Michelle

    And not forgetting the average number of bridesmaids in the US is 8 to 10!! xx

  • http://workingonthingstoregret.blogspot.com Sarah

    Brilliant post. This is something I have been considering for my big day, being half-English and half-Maltese. I’d like to incorporate some Maltese traditions along the way but haven’t a clue where to start! It’s certainly got me thinking though!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lovemydress Love My Dress

    What a fascinating response to this post!
    Michelle – wow, the average number of BM’s is 8-10? That’s a lot! I know Alexis of the OMG I’m Getting Married Blog {a Philly girl who as it happens eventually married her man last weekend} telling me about her plans and the 400 odd people due to attend, I was like whaaaaaaat? But apparently that’s kind of normal too !;)
    Sarah – you incorporate and put your own spin on as many Anglo-Maltese traditions as you wish!
    Anne – we missed a few things off from the post to generate some discussion, it was a little bit intentional, I think it worked! Thanks for your take on things :)
    Celine – very best of luck planning your big day, please do drop me some images once you are a happily married wife, I would so love to see your.
    Big love all,
    Annabel xXx

  • http://www.naomikenton.co.uk Naomi Kenton Photography

    The American wedding I photographed out in the US had a massive lead up to it, with some really special times with family before the wedding – the rehearsal dinner was brilliant and the bride also had a bridal shower – a meal that caterers were hired for, then female friends, family, local women in the neighbourhood etc all turned up and all gave presents and played games and said prayers for the couple and it was really thoughtful and lovely!
    Also a recent Canadian wedding I did over here, had the maid of honour giving a speech as equal to the best mans speech, and for Canadian weddings the women are always expected to give speeches, including the bride.
    Also with alcohol – think American weddings don’t have the same culture as British weddings and often I think it would be frowned upon for the guests to all get drunk – and the guests wouldn’t feel right doing so or would respect the couples day too much to be drinking a lot – and there is a much different approach to guests
    drinking at weddings and it doesn’t really happen so
    much?
    Recently photographed a big Chinese wedding in London though, and there all the guests were drunk in the evening, and the couple are expected to go to each table and all drink lots of shots together, it was crazy and some guests were so drunk that some were being
    taken out by ambulance afterwards!!

  • Susanna

    My wedding this summer in Hungary to a wonderful Hungarian man was certainly different even though most parts are pretty much the same. So yes, as someone posted above, lucky me got two dresses, one white and one red to change to after midnight. Hungarians also wear their rings on the opposite hand. During the party some of the guest will kidnap the bride and the groom must then perform certain (more or less embarrassing tasks) to get her back and last but not least – every guest gets to “pay” (put money in a pot) to dance with the bride!

  • Hilary

    I’m a Canadian marrying a Brit, and our traditions are closer to American ones. Another difference is speeches – it’s much more common for women to speak at North American weddings (though that is catching on here of course). We also play more table games, I find – making up songs or poems to get the couple to kiss. We don’t have a line on invitations where guests’ names are written in. We also don’t have ‘evening guests’ – if you’re invited, you’re invited to the whole thing!
    I think the lines are becoming blurred now, and of course the US is such a huge country that there are different traditions even just based on geography, city v country, etc. But the average number of bridesmaids in the US is definitely not 8-10! :)

  • Sukai

    I found this post really interesting. I am a Scot living in France and marrying an Irishman in Bordeaux in (eeeeeek!) three weeks time. (Oh my God just writing that looks so surreal – where did the time go?!) Anyway, we’re having what I think is a mostly British/Irish ceremony, with a few French touches – like the cake, which is a French croque en bouche (basically a big pile of profiteroles) Perfect for us as we were not really interested in having the big snowy tiered job and LOVE profiteroles. We’re mixing things up with the speeches, with me saying a few words (tears permitting!) and my two bridesmaids giving a speech in place of the traditional father of the bride one – a best women speech, if you will. I don’t think that’s a tradition of a particular country, it just suited our circumstances. Anyway….wish me luck! I love this blog, btw – it has inspired me with a lot over the past few months, inc. my looooooovely Flo and Percy headpiece. Rambling now…:-)
    S xxx

  • http://english-wedding.com Claire

    A fascinating blog post – I had no idea of all the differences, although I definitely see many American traditions gradually making their way over here – even the way we talk about our wedding stationery for example: I used to hate seeing the word ‘invite’ used for ‘invitation’ – but it’s second nature to use it now.
    2 comments:
    That blog post definitely skimmed over the differences in drinking rates at stag / hen / bachelor/ette parties here and in the US! Probably for the best…
    I love Paul Antonio’s detailed reply. Again, it’s fascinating to hear about invitation etiquette and trends in this area, and as a calligrapher it’s great to hear about traditions with formal scripts.
    Thanks for a great blog post (and brilliant comments from all above too!)

  • http://gladley.blogspot.com Gillian

    Hello there – Just saw this post.
    I am a British lady who recently married her American boy in Scotland in May. We had lots of fun (and tussles) planning our wedding while separated by that big old Atlantic ocean. The subtle differences in wedding culture allowed us to create some of our own rules and to share elements that we both felt strongly about.
    One of the most contentious items for us was indeed the wedding invitations (and Save the Dates – another US tradition), especially as I wanted to design them myself and Mr wanted them printed professionally. I did design them, and he got them printed by a local printer in the US so he could choose the weight of the paper, the inner envelope and bits of tissue to go inside. I soon became expert in the differences even just in paper sizes in the US (I was gutted that they didn’t use imperial/international sizes and had to re-size my designs!).
    It would have been handy to have those comparison tables while we were planning, but reading them now makes me realise we created the perfect combo, especially regarding cake. We had fruitcake, vanilla cupcakes AND a chocolate cake, but I refused to be ‘fed’ cake in the American tradition.
    He had his back to me as I walked down the aisle, a British tradition he truly embraced, while I followed my bridesmaids down the aisle.
    One thing you didn’t mention was the Bridal shower. My sister-in-law and mom-in-law decided it was really important for me to get one, and they threw one for me while I was visiting the US a couple of months before the wedding. It was a complete surprise and I had no idea what was going on, while all the guests treated it like an ordinary tradition. Very fun indeed (and you can read about it here: http://gladley.blogspot.com/2011/03/british-brides-guide-to-american-bridal.html)
    The wedding was just the beginning it what will be a lifetime of cultural experiences for us…I move to the States next year…

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lovemydress Love My Dress

    Wow thanks for the really interesting feedback everyone.
    Gillian – good luck in your move to the States ;)
    Claire – want to tell us more about those drinking rates??? ;)
    Sukai – GOOD LUCK! Report back here please! ;)
    Susanna your wedding sounds like it’s going to be so much fun! ;)
    Naomi – I have to say I much prefer the US approach to not drinking to get blind drunk at someone else’s wedding – like, why would anyone do that???
    xXx

  • http://www.boutiqueevents.it Gloria and Lorella – Boutique Events

    This is really interesting! Now we can’t wait to write a post to compare the American and the British style wedding to the Italian style wedding!

  • Leia

    Great article. I have a question for anyone who can help. I am American and have English/Irish ancestry. It is important to me to honor my heritage in my wedding but I would like to do this through colors and florals. Can anyone give me some suggestions? I do love the English country style and a less is more approach. Thank you for any tips.

  • http://calligraphy-for-weddings.com Claire

    I know I’m very late to the party with this comment, but another difference which strikes me so much is stationery in general:
    Here in the UK wedding stationery is very much a DIY thing these days, with couples making their own to save money and far fewer buying from local designers or online craftspeople.
    Yet in the US the blogs are full of stationery and calligraphy – it’s flourishing (so proud of myself for that pun!).
    It’s interesting to see how US blogs are using stationery in shoots, with escort card displays leading the way and looking absolutely fantastic. (I think escort cards now are what cupcakes were a few years ago: the best way to create something fab and exciting as a big wedding display – and anyone can do it!)
    I hope the trend for all that paper-loving makes its way over to the UK this year because I think it’s fab (and because my calligraphy pens are primed and ready to go!)
    Claire x

  • http://www.weddings.webadvertizers.com kimberly anne Muli

    actually i love them both ^^ but i think I love the british wedding style :)) so fabulous and stunning!
    You guys what do you think?
    weddings.webadvertizers.com