english wedding thoughts

I’m a lover of love. As the universal language, the great unifier and the most powerful component of the human experience, love speaks more than any other action on the planet. Maybe that’s why I love weddings so much, because for a moment the noise and angst of the world is forced to bow to Love’s superior. For that reason, I count myself luckier than most that, as a dual resident of America and the UK, I get to experience these rich moments in two similar, yet strikingly (and dare I say comically), opposite ways.

Before we jump in, a quick disclaimer: I love England, English culture and English weddings. I associate more with the English side of my demographic make-up than I do the American side. However, I always love a bit of wit and jovial banter where I can get it. After all, I’m on a journey of learning to not be so darn serious all the time!

So enjoy the following if you, too, are a lover of love. Here is an American’s thoughts on an English wedding:

Always one for a fun social experiment, looking back I was intrigued and utterly naive when it came to the cultural differences between weddings around the world. The first time I attended an English wedding I could not have been more excited. New to the UK I went shop to shop trying to find the perfect dress and dreaming of the impending day’s festivities — from the ceremony to the quick succession of toasts and dinner, all culminating in my ecosystem of friends hitting the dance floor till the wee hours of the morning.

english weddings

With my anticipatory dreams of the perfect English wedding firmly in place, let’s just say that this American was in for quite a reality check. I mean, English weddings will blow your mind! They are so stunningly rich in history, intricate in etiquette and vast in experience that there should be a prerequisite class about it in every college across America (okay, I’m being a bit dramatic here, but you get the point).

A class would only be fitting so that the most important questions about English wedding variants could be answered. Questions like:

English women and their hat game.

I’ve never seen so many glorious hats in one place before; hats of all shapes, colors and magical sizes! I didn’t know marvels like that could exist outside of a museum, let alone secured firmly atop a woman’s head. Two questions with the hats: How on earth do English women get those things to stay on? And, where can I get one? #Need

When speeches and low attention spans collide.

Seriously, what is up with the toasts? After two hours of speeches, while standing in 4” heels might I add, I was about to gnaw my arm off in hunger and amputate my feet to give them a break. A few questions: Why are we still standing? When is the food coming? And do all the groomsmen need to speak? And for that long? Is giving a time-limit out of the question? Or, perhaps there is a covert competition at play here to see who can speak their opponents (and the guests) into submission? Like the show Survivor, but for posh people.

That time I was surprised when they didn’t feed me.

I loved the champagne, loved the wine and loved the hors d’oeuvres that you insist on calling canapes, but when is the real food coming? Wait, what? There isn’t real food coming? This is a drinks and canape only reception? You’re serious? If only there had been room in my clutch for a Snickers…

When there is no dancing and your greatest dreams in life are crushed.

How on earth did this happen? It’s like a whole country watched Footloose and forgot the ending.

wedding bride
Image via Emily Reiter

The English tradition of Hen and Stag parties.

There’s only one question about the English version of bachelorette and bachelor parties: Why do they have such awesomely better names than American ones?

Drinking wine directly after the wedding ceremony.

Psst. We are drinking wine. In a church. Not communion wine, but real and very large glasses of wine. Is this even legal? And that guy over there keeps topping mine up. What twilight zone am I in and how do I stay here forever?

Best-in-class for endless polite conversation.

Everyone stands around and talks over drinks for hours, while still wearing heels. (An introvert’s nightmare.) We gave up dancing for this?

English churches are magical.

Why don’t our churches look this amazing and otherworldly? And this church has a real, like really real, crypt in it? People are actually buried in here? Ah-mazing!

Morning suits: The greatest invention of all time.

I can’t even. It is like a morning suit immediately makes all men look like James Bond.

When being a bridesmaid is actually a win for the checkbook.

You mean bridesmaids don’t have to pay for their own bridesmaid dress here? The bride’s side pays for it? I feel like I’m owed so much money right now.

There we have it, an American’s thoughts on an English wedding — a rich history of celebration at its finest. I love how different, yet how similar, such an event can be across a vast ocean. We have so much to learn from each other and there are so many laughs to be shared.

If you don’t have a passport, then get one! If you haven’t travelled yet, then do it! This stunning world is unceasing with its surprises and merriment. I may jest, but my wish remains that we would never stop exploring, learning from and honoring each other’s heritages while having a wee bit of fun along the way.

And seriously, where can I get one of those hats?

Have you been to an English wedding? Do you share any of these sentiments?

Images via Kate Holstein


  1. Adorable article. Try a French wedding; those people know how to EAT (and DRINK) and DANCE (seriously. it’s eat dance eat dance eat dance eat dance alllll night (and they know their delicious foods and very fun dancing too); sleeping happens sometime perhaps near sunrise).

  2. I’ve never been to an English wedding, but this post is so well-written and adorable and I can picture everything the author is illustrating! The differences between English and Americans always make me laugh, and to see it so starkly in wedding format is just too much. Thanks for the clever insight! I hope I do get to attend an English wedding… even if I have to sacrifice the dancing.

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