I wish I could say I was a professional wedding guest, getting paid to attend these lavish affairs. But no, I simply have a boatload of friends who happen to be getting engaged at this time of my life. In fact, the majority of these friends are friends of my British boyfriend (since he is slightly older), but in the next few years, I have a feeling those tables will quickly turn with my friends hitting prime time wedding age. In fact, in the past two weeks, four of my friends have gotten engaged, so it’s coming up quickly!
With the benefit of dating a British guy comes attending weddings on both sides of the pond. I’ve become a bit of an expert on both. So, here’s my list of the best bits that both a British and American wedding have to offer.
Best Things About British Weddings
Bridesmaids don’t pay for their dresses.
Honestly, 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, and give them a measly gift at the end of it all.
It’s like saying, I want to get married, have all my best friends there, wear an outfit that I picked out for them that they can never wear again, and celebrate ME, ME, ME at the mere cost of $3,000 that they must shell out. But don’t worry, I’ll thank them with a $50 gift that I got at ‘Bridesmaids Galore’ that goes with the same dress they can never wear again. Ah hem, excuse me – I mean, it’s an honor to be a bridesmaid.
No, but seriously, the British have it right. I mean, if you’re paying £15,000 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.
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 & 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 which you probably know personally. However, knowing that I have the chance to win a pot of 200 quid makes it that much better!
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 trumps it.
I’ve attended weddings in a 9th Century castle, in a 10th 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!
Best Things About American Weddings
The first time I truly found out about the horror that is a cash bar at a wedding, I was just invited to 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 see the ceremony.
Apparently, it’s quite normal in England for a significant other to not 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.
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 when we’re allowed to speak.
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 been 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 religions as well.
Meagan Adele Lopez was an expat in England for nearly two years, and now resides in Chicago. Since her return to the US, she has finished her first novel, “Three Questions” loosely based on her quarter life crisis, and how she met her British bloke. Find her on her blog.