The Big Difference Between UK & US Weddings
Updated: Jan 11
You'll be intrigued to know that half of my 2021 weddings were international couples, all of which had a wedding over here in the UK, they all live over in the states and travelled to the UK for their wedding day.
Funnily enough all the couples were an American bride marrying an English Groom... weird huh?!
It was great to help so many couples planning their wedding from afar and we actually have quite a few more international couples booked in for 2022 who are again having their wedding over here in the UK.
So I thought it would be fun to write a blog on the differences between UK and US weddings, please note that I haven't actually done a wedding in the US but having a lot of American couples I've learnt and know the US traditions or translations, but please if I've got anything wrong or missed any out then do feel free to comment on the blog as I always love finding out more!
Hen & Stag
Bachelor & Bachelorette
So let's start at the beginning of the wedding process and before the wedding day it's tradition to have separate bride and groom parties or celebrations before the big day, which to us Brits is the Hen & Stag Do's whereas over in the US they call them Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties.
Hen & Stag Do's usually involve the same things, they have turned into weekends away in the UK or aboard or could just be a day somewhere with just the girls or just the lads. It entails lots of games, tonnes of drinking, maybe some fancy dress and most likely some chaotic behaviour, all to give the bride and groom the last final send off before they become married.
I have never done a Bachelor or Bachelorette party but I assume they would be very similar!
So over in the US the invites are very simple they send one invite, to their guest, to their wedding for the day and that's it!
Over here in the UK we have two types of invites, we have a day invite and an evening invite. A day invite is where the guest is invited to the whole day including the ceremony, reception, wedding breakfast and evening reception, whereas an evening invite only invites the guest to the evening reception after the sit down meal so those guests will be there usually for the cake cutting, first dance and then the party.
The evening invite guests are usually people that aren't within your inner circle of close friends, are new friends, work colleagues and plus ones. This evening invite really helps us when it comes to budget as you can invite more guests for the evening part that sadly you didn't have the budget for, for the rest of the day. Now some American's out there must be thinking 'What! OMG you can't do that!' but honestly it works over here and no-one get offended!
Now I have heard, and do correct me if I'm wrong, that bridesmaids over in the US have to pay for their own dresses whereas in the UK we usually (not always though) pay for the bridesmaids dress and groomsmen suits as we feel that if we've asked them to be a bridesmaid or groomsman then we should put and pay for them to be in the attire we desire.
Both in the UK and US the bride has bridesmaids and a maid/matron of honour, so this is very similar, the only slight difference is that US brides may also have a Chief Bridesmaids whereas UK brides do not.
When is comes to Groomsman in the UK we just have a Best Man or Best Men and then ushers whereas grooms in the US may have those two roles plus then another role of Groomsman.
Another big difference when it comes to the bridal parties is their roles during the ceremony. In the UK is it tradition for the bride to walk down the aisle first followed by her bridesmaid whereas in the US the bridesmaids walk down the aisle first followed by the bride. Now my fellow Brits may be thinking what... really...? Well yes, that was tradition but now over here in the UK we are now taking on the US tradition in this instance.
The final difference is that the bridal party will stand with the bride and groom during the ceremony whereas in the UK the bridal parties will take a seat with the rest of the guests once they've walked down the aisle.
Something else that you'll notice between a UK and US weddings is that in the UK we are a big fan of a hat. You'll see everyone wearing a hat if you've seen any of the Royal weddings and it is a tradition, however, a lot of the younger generations now getting married do not enforce this tradition, you might see the older generations attending these weddings still wear hats and maybe a few others wearing fascinators but it's becoming less and less of a thing now.
The Wedding Breakfast
Now, I have had many a comment on my Youtube, when talking about the wedding breakfast, asking if you can have another meal other than breakfast. Let me clarify! The wedding breakfast does not mean you are having scrambled eggs on toast, you are not being served breakfast dishes. It is called the wedding breakfast as this is the first meal you are eating together as a married couple and therefore named after the first meal you would usually have in the day, which is breakfast.
And another fun fact that I learnt as to why it's called the wedding breakfast is that back in the day it was tradition for the bride and groom to fast before their wedding and this would then be the first meal they ate together after their fast.
Now I'm not sure if it's called something different in the US but that's what it's called here in the UK and it traditionally consists of a 3 course sit down meal where the wedding cake is not classed as dessert!
Traditionally speeches, here in the UK, are left until after the wedding breakfast but couples can really decide on when they want them as some have them before or some split them before and after the wedding breakfast it's completely up to the couple.
I would advise avoiding speeches in between courses as this can cause delays with the caterer which could result in overcooked or cold food being served! It also doesn't give your photographer, videographer and wedding planner time to sit down and eat either!
I do believe in the US the speeches are more tame with mainly just the groom giving a quick thank you speech. Whereas here in the UK it's tradition for the Father of the Bride to give an emotional and sentimental speech, the Groom saying thank you to all family, friends and suppliers and then speak about their new wife and their love story and then finishing off with the Best Man's speech which is usually a bit of a roasting for the groom!
After the wedding breakfast in the UK, the couple will then move onto cake cutting which as I mentioned before is separate to dessert. They will cut the cake and this will then be sliced and served later on in the evening usually alongside the late night snacks.
Whereas in the US I believe it's tradition to cut the cake and then serve this as dessert for everyone.
Open Bar vs Cash Bar
It may be a surprise for US couples but over here in the UK the evening bar is usually a cash bar where guests pay for their own drinks and it's not paid for by the couple. I know at US wedding it's usually always an open bar paid for by the couple but remember in the UK we usually have extra guests coming for the evening who haven't been drinking throughout the day already and it can therefore get pretty expensive if those new guests want to play catch up and start getting the shots in!
Over here in the UK weddings usually finish between 11pm and 1am depending on the venue and whether or not they have a late license, whereas I think US weddings usually wrap up around 10pm but please do comment on the blog if that's completely wrong!
All I can say is that we like to party over here in the UK
So there we have it, a few differences but also a lot of similarities between UK and US weddings. I love that each country has their own traditions for weddings and watching them be combined at weddings is really special.
Now I'd love to know more about US weddings and the differences so please feel free to comment on the blog below!
And remember if you need any help with planning your wedding don't forget to check out my digital products to help with all your wedding planning needs or if you need someone to run your wedding for you on the day then please get in touch!
Photos by 1 & 3. Anneli Marinovich, 2. Ross Hurley Photo, 4. Mindy Coe Photography