Our Wedding: The Guests
A friend of mine, a guest to our wedding, asked me today what was going to happen at our wedding. She’s not been to a British wedding before (and I say British because American and Australian weddings are different) so I thought it might be a good idea to tell you all what happens at your average British Wedding.
What to Wear
The first thing most wedding guests think about is what to wear. For men, it’s easy, a suit and a tie. Men should avoid tails or Edwardian suits unless asked to wear them.
For more informal weddings such as beach weddings or forest weddings, you may not need to wear a tie but it can’t hurt.
Female guests have a mine field of choices for outfits! Do you go long or short? Flowery? Go with the wedding colours? Can you wear black?
Most British wedding guests wear cocktail length dresses to weddings. As you can see, Kate Middleton wore a nice blue, knee length dress with a black coat and hat to her university friend’s wedding early last year.
I would suggest that most female British wedding guests will wear knee length dresses with heels. However, there’s no need to wear something like this if it’s not your style. As long as you wear something smart and comfortable, the choice is up to you.
When Are You Needed?
Whole Day Guests
If you’re invited to the entire day of the wedding, like my friend who asked me about British weddings, you need to arrive at the ceremony venue up to half an hour before the wedding. Find a seat near the front on the correct side of the wedding (left for the bride, right for the groom) so that when the bride arrives you’ll get a good look. Once she’s arrived, the ceremony will begin. You will probably have orders of service to tell you what will happen in the ceremony.
After the ceremony will be the wedding breakfast. This may take the form of a sit down meal or a buffet, either way you would typically go directly from the ceremony to the place where the meal is held.
Once the wedding breakfast is finished, it’s typically time for the speeches. A bride and groom can choose to say the speeches whenever they want in modern times, but many brides and grooms continue the tradition of having speeches after the wedding breakfast.
Then the evening reception would begin.
Evening guests have the option of attending the ceremony if possible. Most church weddings invite guests to the ceremony but often civil ceremonies have smaller venues and that’s not possible.
Evening guests are usually asked to arrive at the reception from 7:30 – 8:30, depending on when the wedding breakfast is due to finish.
(I was once asked to arrive at an evening reception at 7:30pm, but the wedding breakfast over ran until 9:00pm! The downstairs bar made a lot of money out of the evening guests that day!)
Once the cake has been cut and the first dance has been danced, the evening reception is an excuse for a big knees up! Sometimes a bride and groom will provide an evening buffet where guests can help themselves to finger food.
Time to Go Home
Most venues have carriages between 12am – 1am. Sometimes the bride and groom arrange travel for guests to get home or guests can ask the venue to ring for taxis, if they’re not staying at the venue.
A Long Day
For guests invited to the entire day, the wedding can last 12 hours or more, depending on the time of the ceremony.
As a guest to a British wedding, I think there are a few things to remember:
- Wear comfortable shoes, or take flat shoes with you. Nothing ruins a night like painful feet and if you’re stuck in those shoes for 12 hours (or more) it can be a rather tiring day.
- Have breakfast! Wedding breakfasts are typically not served until 4pm and there won’t be any opportunities for you to have lunch so make sure that you have breakfast or put a small snack in your purse. A wedding breakfast is a 3, 4 or sometimes 5 course meal and can last a few hours, but it won’t start until roughly 4pm.
- Find people you know. Your bride and groom will have invited all their family and friends which can be a bit daunting if there’s no one you know there.
The most important thing is to have fun!
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