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Ask Kate: American Versus British Wedding Customs

August 6, 2013

Kate Thompson has been offering heart-felt advice and sparklingly different wedding inspiration for ten years. She is married with two children, and often features in the national press. With her warm and caring nature and off-beat sense of humour, she'll answer every question with knowledgable insight and understanding to help and inspire or simply restore your peace of mind.


I am an American woman who is going to marry in UK. Can you give me some advice on several points in my planning. I want to do things the British way! 1. Is it common to have a separate bouquet to toss to the waiting bridesmaids etc. or do I toss the one I have been carrying? 2. Are rehearsal dinners popular in this country?  3. How about a bridesmaids luncheon? Is this another term for a hen party? 4. Is it common for the bride and groom to have a separate cake? 5. Are bridal showers popular here? Is a shower another name for the hen party? 6. Is it popular for the bride to toss her garter at the reception?


While Britain and America share a common language, it’s still surprising to discover how different we are when it comes to weddings! While many traditions which originated in the US have found their way over here, there are still quite a lot which haven’t. If you want to do things the ‘British way’…

1. Many brides choose to throw their bouquet. Unless they especially want to keep it, they would tend to throw the bouquet they carry down the aisle.

2. Rehearsal dinners are not a tradition here. While a church ceremony usually includes a quick rehearsal for the main players the day before the wedding, the rehearsal doesn’t tend to be followed by a dinner. The evening before the wedding is a time when the bride prepares her self for the big day and perhaps spends time with her parents or close friends. It isn’t common for people to get together to celebrate the marriage until the day itself.

3. While I have never heard of a bridesmaids luncheon, Hen nights are extremely popular here and can take any form you like. Most hen nights are simply a fun night out with the girls! In recent years, it has become more common for brides to have alternative hen nights, hen days or even hen weekends.

4. There is only one wedding cake on the day and it is traditionally a tired rich fruitcake covered in a hard white icing and decorated to complement the brides colour theme. Many brides now though choose an alternative such as a novelty cake, or a chocolate filling. The cutting of the cake usually takes place after the speeches.

5. Bridal showers are getting more popular here, but would tend to be considered a hen party. Generally, presents aren’t given at hen parties – although there might be a few ‘fun’ treats or gifts.

6. While many brides still wear a garter as their ‘something blue’, it’s not popular to toss the garter.

I hope this helps! People are always open to new traditions and ideas so… there’s nothing to stop you holding a bridal shower or a rehearsal dinner, or tossing your garter!

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