6 Surprising Differences Between British And American Weddings

Our neighbors across the pond tend to do things a little differently ― driving on the left side of the road, for one.

British weddings are no different. When you tune into the royal wedding on May 19 (or inevitably come across clips of the event online), you’re sure to see some cultural elements that might strike you as a bit different.

“In general in the U.K., we have quite strict rules sometimes,” Zoe McKeown, the owner of Cherish Wedding Planner, told HuffPost. “For instance, the locations people choose to marry in are more formal. But both countries enjoy the celebration.” 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have certainly gotten the formal location thing down; the pair are set to wed at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in front of 600 people.

What else should we expect? Below are six things that set British wedding traditions apart from American ones.

Bachelorette parties are called hen parties.

The cultural differences begin before the big day even arrives. In the U.K., the bachelorette party is known as a “hen party” or a “hen do.” (The “hen” refers to the bride, while “do” is a Britishism for a shindig. British men have “stag parties.”)

Oftentimes for a hen do, the bride’s pals will steal her away for a ladies-only weekend fête. Before the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister Pippa Middleton got married in 2017, the sisters and a group of friends were whisked away to the French Alps for a skiing trip.

Markle reportedly kept it more low-key for her hen do: In March, there were reports that the future duchess treated her pals to a spa day at the Soho Farmhouse, a luxe Oxfordshire retreat she’s been known to frequent.

There are usually adorable pageboys and mini bridesmaids running around.

Expect to see a line of adorable little people making their way down the aisle at the royal wedding: Unlike in the U.S., where bridesmaids tend to be the bride’s closest friends, bridal attendants in the U.K. tend to be cute mini bridesmaids and pageboys from the inner circles of the bride and the groom. They resemble the ring bearers and flower girls we have in the U.S., but there tend to be more of them and they have varying levels of responsibilities, with some holding the rings or the bride’s train, and others dropping petals down the aisle.

Last year, Prince George and Princess Charlotte stole the show at their aunt Pippa Middleton’s wedding to James Matthew. Will the littlest royals reprise their roles at Harry and Markle’s wedding? Sure sounds like it.

When questioned by The Sunday Times on whether the dynamic duo would be in the wedding party, Kensington Palace simply stated, “The wedding will be a family event. You can expect the family to be involved.” 

The palace has also confirmed that Markle will not have a maid of honor at her side on the big day.

The bridesmaids walk behind, not in front. 

In the U.K., the bride usually walks down the aisle first and any bridesmaids trail behind her, usually to hold the train of the dress. Pippa Middleton famously turned heads at her older sister’s 2011 wedding wearing a now-iconic sleek white dress.

Sister act.

A “wedding breakfast” is served. 

In the U.S., we’re become accustomed to rehearsal dinners, a reception meal and sometimes even a morning-after brunch.

Though some of those pre- and post-wedding events have made their way across the pond, for the most part, the Brits tend to keep it focused on one meal: the “wedding breakfast,” a sit-down meal or buffet given to the newlyweds and guests at the wedding reception. (British weddings tend to be held much earlier in the day, hence the name.)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge did a little more than that after their wedding. The ceremony was followed by a wedding breakfast, a luncheon held by the Queen, and later, a more intimate evening reception featuring a sit-down dinner.

It’s been reported that Markle and Prince Harry won’t have a big-sit down lunch. Instead, friends and family will be served canapés and bowl dishes ― small bites designed to be eaten standing up so guests can socialize.

Later in the evening, a wedding dinner will reportedly be held at Frogmore House, in the grounds of Windsor Castle. The evening party will be hosted by Prince Charles for about 200 close friends and family members.

They go wild with their hats.  

Expect female guests to be donning their fanciest headdresses at the royal wedding, whether it’s a hat or a fascinator, those frilly decorative headpieces we saw so much of at William and Kate’s wedding. 

“When it comes to a special occasion in British society, the special occasion is not complete without a hat,” Hilary Alexander, former fashion director at the Daily Telegraph told ABC News. “There has to be a hat. It’s part of the social fabric.” 

Some of the many fancy hats and fascinators worn at the royal wedding in 2011.

Traditionally, they’re very big on fruitcake. 

Meanwhile, Harry and Markle are opting for a lemon elderflower cake from chef Claire Ptak of Violet Bakery in London. 

“The couple have asked Claire to create a lemon elderflower cake that will incorporate the bright flavours of spring. It will be covered with buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers,” the palace said on social media.