We’ve spent the last two weeks looking at festivals and parties around the world, and today it’s time to take a glimpse at nuptial celebrations, with a guest post by Meagan Adele Lopez. As an American who once lived in the UK — she also has a British boyfriend — Lopez can be considered an unofficial expert on British versus American weddings.
Please don’t invite my British beau and me to a wedding unless you really want us to come — we are more than likely going to reply “yes”!
Many have made that mistake. For some reason, it is impossible for us to say “no” — perhaps we are living vicariously through the bride and groom (going to a wedding is much cheaper than throwing one, let’s be honest).
Over the course of four years we have been invited to 28 weddings, 23 of which we will attend/have attended. These weddings span four countries (Wales, England, Dominican Republic and the USA) and 14 cities.
I wish I could say I was a professional wedding guest, getting paid to attend these lavish affairs. But no, we just happen to have many friends who are getting engaged at this time of my life. Some are even going through their second weddings.
One of the many benefits of dating a British guy is being able to attend British weddings — complete with hats, fascinators, castles and tail coats. I’ve become a bit of an expert on both.
So, I’ve been keeping a running tally of the best things that British and American wedding celebrations have to offer. Right now Britain is winning, but only by one, so that could change!
4 great things about British weddings
1) Less financial outlay for bridesmaids
It’s kind of atrocious that Americans still “invite” their best friends in the world to have the “honor” of becoming a bridesmaid only to pick out the most expensive dress they can find, make their best friends pay for it, and take them on a lavish bachelorette party that they must also pay for.
The British have it right. I mean, if you’re paying £25,000 on a wedding already, why not shell out an extra thousand to make your poor bridesmaids happy? After all, they didn’t choose to get married, you did.
2) Betting on the speeches
Let’s face it — sometimes speeches at a wedding can be really, really hilarious and entertaining. They can be so entertaining and hilarious that you have no idea how much time has gone by, whether or not you’ve eaten, or if the dancing has even happened yet. But, a lot of times, they can be painful and long, and somewhat boring. So, what better way to keep the crowd entertained than by going to each table and getting the guests’ bets on how long the speeches will last?
Personally, I love speeches and find it fascinating to see how each person tackles this challenge to charm a crowd of 150 people — 20 of whom you probably know personally. However, knowing that I have the chance to win a pot of 200 quid makes it that much better!
3) The Groom’s Speech
I actually find it a travesty that American grooms aren’t made to give a speech. Perhaps it’s because a woman marrying a British man knows that this one speech might be the only time she will hear her husband tell her how gorgeous, wonderful and amazing she is, and how he is the luckiest man on the planet. After all, British men aren’t known for being overly flattering or sentimental. I blubber like an idiot, wiping the mascara from my eyes, when I hear a doting British man, for the first (and probably only) time, open up to his friends and family about why he is truly in love with this woman.
But I’m sure most brides who marry a British man will tell you that the groom’s speech is one of the best moments of their wedding night. For me, as a guest, it beats the father’s speech and even the first dance. Perhaps the vows are the only thing that trump it.
4) Romantic venues
I’ve attended weddings in a ninth-century castle, in a tenth-century church, in an old manor house in Sussex, on a farm in the West Country, in a hotel where prime ministers stay, and next to a marsh in West Wales. Something about a British wedding makes it that much more romantic. Of course, it’s every girl’s dream to get married in a castle, but in Great Britain, you actually can!
3 great things about American weddings
1) Open bar
The first time I truly found out about the horror that is a cash bar at a wedding, I was invited to just the evening part. You see, my boyfriend and I had been together for over a year, but since the groom had never met me, he didn’t think it important to invite (ah hem, “pay”) for me to come to dinner, or attend the ceremony.
Apparently, it’s quite normal in England for a significant other not to be invited to the entire evening with their partner if they have never met the girlfriend. Being an American, I was already incredibly offended — especially since we had traveled an hour to be there, stayed in a really expensive hotel (the only one in the entire town), and paid for two separate £40 cab rides to the venue from the hotel (since we weren’t leaving together). So, you can imagine my dismay when I got to the reception and had to pay for my own drinks! I understand that not everyone can afford to have an open bar, but I most certainly prefer the American mentality that when you invite a guest, they are to be treated as such.
2) The women’s speeches
In Great Britain, traditionally, the speeches include the Father of the Bride, the Groom and the Best Man. I agree with all of these choices for speeches, but I have to admit, I did find it a teeny bit sexist that no women spoke at weddings the first time I saw it happen. Most British women don’t mind since they would rather the attention be off of them for the night, but what happened to the Maid of Honor? Why can’t she throw in a speech?
Women bring a different take to speech land, and I definitely prefer the American tradition of allowing us to speak.
3) Creative venues
Where the British score points for tradition, history, elegance and romance, American weddings score points for creativity, grandiosity and variety. Obviously, America is a much bigger country with many more choices for venues, and many more options for good weather. I have been to a wedding on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, at a museum in the middle of downtown Chicago, a country club in Maryland, and by a river at a historic house in Austin, Texas. The possibilities are truly endless in America, and always keep you guessing. While many British weddings have struck me as being similar, it’s hard for me to say that any American wedding has resembled another. This is also probably due to the diversity of the American population and the variety of religions in this country.
Combining the two traditions — still working on that!
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that with all of these weddings I didn’t think about how I would like my half British, half American wedding to go…but I simply can’t admit to what I dream of just yet. Call it superstition or what have you, but until I get engaged I won’t disclose my dream wedding. My worst nightmare is having my dream wedding down on paper, and then it never happening!
In the meantime, I’ll continue to break down the weddings I go to and figure out which bits I want to keep for myself.
Editor’s note: This post is adapted from a post that appeared on Smitten by Britain: “British vs. American Weddings” (25 January 2012).
Question for readers: Have you been to weddings in the country where you live? How do they compare?
MEAGAN ADELE LOPEZ is the author of Three Questions: Because a quarter-life crisis needs answers, which was featured in February on The Displaced Nation. You can learn more about Lopez and her book at her author site and by following her on Twitter: @meaganadele.
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, an interview with first-time novelist Martin Crosbie. (Sign up for our Dispatch to be eligible for the giveaway of his book, A Temporary Life!)
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