English Quirks and Traditions.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding is fast approaching on the 19th of May this year and we at Active England – being experts on all things English: from cream teas and cucumber sandwiches to Jane Austen and Shakespeare – thought we would shed a light on the particular and peculiar differences between American and English wedding celebrations, so that when you sit down to watch it you’ll know exactly what’s going on.
St George’s Chapel, Windsor
The first thing you’ll notice when you tune into the ceremony, is that this lovely couple are tying the knot in a more intimate venue that Wills and Kate. Harry and Meghan have chosen none other than St George’s Chapel within the grounds of Windsor! For those who have been on our tours will know we begin many of our tours with a walk or cycle around Windsor’s grounds, as well as Windsor Castle itself It is right next door to Eton, where Harry went to school, and is the same church in which he was christened as a baby. This will mean a smaller crowd of close friends and relatives will be attending, not unusual for British weddings operating a tier system, with an A list and B list of guests and only the A listers invited to the ceremony. Alas, we don’t hold out much hope for an invitation ourselves.
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Next, you’ll need to get ready for some seriously fancy headwear. In English ceremonies, those sat at the back might not even get a chance to see the couple take their vows due to the increasing trend of women wearing intricate, bright and sometimes quite large fascinators. And they are fascinating. Not worn for such occasions in the US, these head pieces are often of spectacular design and colour and you can expect many of the royal ladies and guests to be sporting such a piece.
Once we hear ‘Here comes the bride’ blasting out enthusiastically from the organist, all heads will turn toward the bride, Meghan, as she walks down the aisle. Well, nearly everyone’s heads will turn. While in the US the groom may turn and watch the bride, in the UK the groom traditionally faces away from the bride, until she gets to the altar, at which point the couple may finally face each other. We all remember Prince Harry’s glee and joy at the last royal wedding, turning around to see beautiful Kate before his brother was allowed to!
Stags and Hens
There are even some differences between American and British weddings that occur before the wedding has even begun. While in the US there are have Bachelor and Bachelorette parties, we like to be a little different and so these are called ‘stag’ and ‘hen’ dos respectively. There are less pre-wedding events overall however, as bridal showers and rehearsal dinners are rare.
A Toast to Roast the Groom
Finally, it is the Best Man’s job to give a toast. Americans might expect a short sentimental toast looking back on fond memories and wishing the newlyweds well. Not so on this island. Here this toast has evolved into a full blown speech intended to embarrass and mortify the groom, through stories of misplaced youth, ex-girlfriends and drunken exploits, all with the goal of fully roasting the recipient. Normally tied up with some sentimentality and well-wishing, this part of the wedding is highly anticipated and hilarious to all… except maybe the groom. Who knows what stories will emerge?!
Hopefully this has lent some insight into our weird and wonderful ways on this side of the pond. We look forward to showing you around!
Read more about our English quirks and traditions or book onto one of our tours.