British wedding etiquette is a little different than North American wedding etiquette. Here’s what you need to know before attending a marriage celebration in the U.K.
If you’re heading across the pond for a wedding, you’re going to need to get familiar with British wedding etiquette. While they follow a similar formula, a few things may catch you off guard. To ensure that you’re the picture perfect wedding guest, we’ve created this handy dandy guide to help you out.
Here is your British wedding etiquette guide.
The pre-wedding parties
You may get asked to join in on a few pre-wedding events you haven’t heard of before (if you’re a VIP wedding guest). Need a rundown? Co-ed engagement parties are a lot more common than bridal showers in Britain, and, if you’re attending, you’ll probably be expected to bring a small gift along for the happy couple. If you get invited to a hen or stag party, expect the same (or similar) drinking and debauchery of a bachelorette or bachelor party. As for rehearsal dinners, they’re pretty much the same as their North American counterparts.
The main event
You may not be invited to all parts of the wedding, and that’s totally normal. There are sometimes two tiers of wedding guests, which results in certain guests being invited to certain portions of the event and not others. If you see that you’re only invited to the morning ceremony and evening reception, with a big hunk of free time in between, it’s probably not a typo. It’s most likely because the couple wanted a more intimate wedding breakfast with only their parents and inner circle or simply didn’t have enough seating or budget for everyone at their dinner. Don’t worry you’ll still be able to celebrate with them and be there for big moments like their first dance.
The dress code
The last thing you want to do is have eyes on you because you didn’t follow the dress code. Keep in mind that British weddings are usually a bit more informal (AKA not black tie) so you can probably skip the super fancy gown and tails this time around (unless the invitation or wedding website says differently). It’s also common for ladies to rock hats or fascinators, so you may want to get your hands on one. Pro tip: if you’re still not sure what to wear, check the couples’ wedding website, it should have a rundown on the FAQ page.
The ceremony seating arrangements
You don’t want to stand in the middle of the aisle humming and hawing about which side to sit on, so know your stuff before entering. If the couple is on the more traditional side, they’ll usually have the bride’s side on the left and the grooms side on the right. Unless you’re part of the family, skip sitting in the first two rows – that space is typically reserved for the couples’ families and the wedding party. P.S. nowadays many couples skip this and ask their guests to choose a seat, not a side, meaning anyone can sit anywhere.
Newsflash: you probably won’t be eating breakfast at the wedding breakfast. The name is a little misleading, but it’s actually the name for the meal served at the reception. Instead of eggs benny and omelettes, you can expect a lunch, dinner or cocktail eats (depending on the catering style the couple has opted for). To avoid getting hangry before the ceremony wraps, we suggest eating a legit breakfast before heading out from your hotel.
OK, yes, everyone loves an open bar with bottomless free bevies, but that’s usually not the case at British weddings. While it may be seen as a bit of a faux pas in North America, many couples opt for a cash bar across the pond. You’ll want to bring some extra bills along with you so that you can grab your favourite brew or spirit at the reception.
The wedding gifts
When if comes to presents, you should follow the happy couples’ wedding gift list (AKA their registry). It’s common for people to ask for money in lieu of a physical gift, so don’t be surprised if they’re requesting a cheque instead of a Vitamix. As for the actual giving of the gift, the British wedding etiquette is pretty much the same as the US and Canada. Bringing larger gifts to a wedding is a no-no, as the newlyweds will have to figure out a way to lug everything back to their honeymoon suite and then their flat. To avoid giving them that burden, send the gift to their home, instead. However, if you’re giving them a cheque (or money) it’s totally acceptable to bring the gift along and give it with a congratulations card (to be left in their card box).
By Alice Prendergast