When Prince Harry and American-born Meghan Markle exchanged their “I dos” at St. George Chapel, the pair became a part of thousands of years of tradition. But some English traditions are pretty different from what we’re used to on this side of the pond.
While we still only have a limited amount of details about the evening’s events, we do know the party was catered by the elite company Table Talk, and the cake was created by Claire Ptak of Violet Cakes. But how did the reception and cake, as well as the bridal party, differ from what we’re used to seeing in North America? For starters, you get to take home the cake!
Check out all the ways British weddings differ from North American weddings.
1. The wedding parties are taken up by young bridesmaids and page boys
North American weddings tend to have one or two flower girls and only one ring bearer, but in the UK, you will often see a soccer team of flower girls and page boys making their way down the aisle and posing for pictures, and Prince Harry and Meghan’s nuptials were no exception. In the UK, what we would consider flower girls are actually bridesmaids, with little girls as young as two years old walking down the aisle. Harry’s niece, Charlotte, and nephew George joined the royal wedding party on May 19, but it was the little Mulroneys who stole the show (and Canadians’ hearts).
2. Hats, hats and more hats!
If you’ve ever watched a royal wedding (or just a rom-com set at an English wedding), you know that hats and fascinators are standard fare. We really should incorporate more hats in North American weddings: For one, they’re fab; not to mention, heatstroke during an outdoor ceremony is no joke!
3. Bridesmaids can wear white
Wearing white as a bridesmaid or a guest at a North American wedding will quickly get you shunned, but at English weddings, many bridal parties include white bridesmaid dresses. Pippa Middleton’s satin white gown at her sister Kate’s wedding now makes a lot more sense. Traditionally, English bridesmaids walk behind the bride, not in front, and in many cases the bride pays for the bridesmaid dresses.
4. The wedding breakfast
In the 1500s, tradition held that the bride and groom fasted before the wedding, so the reception meal was referred to as the ‘wedding breakfast’ as they were literally breaking fast. Prince William and Kate Middleton had a wedding breakfast back in 2011, with the menu including lamb, spring vegetables, English asparagus, Jersey royal potatoes, and a trio of Berkshire honey ice cream, sherry trifle and chocolate parfait served with coffee and mint tea.
5. There’s no cocktail hour
Many North American weddings use the cocktail hour as a chance to take photos while guests sip on drinks and try a variety of appetizers, but English weddings typically do not include a cocktail hour. Some English weddings have begun having their own version of a cocktail hour, which does not include appetizers, instead, serving guests champagne. This seems like a poor drink choice for guests with empty stomachs, but it probably makes for some memorable speeches!
6. There’s no bridal shower
Meghan’s American roots were showing as she reportedly escaped to a Soho farmhouse for a bridal shower with some friends, an event that’s not typically held in the UK.
7. Location, location, location
While North Americans pride themselves on finding adventurous locations for their wedding ceremonies, the English are much stricter. Religious ceremonies must take place in a place or worship and civil ceremonies can only be performed in licensed permanent structures.
8. You get to take cake home!
Rather than eat the cake during the reception, guests are often given a piece of cake in a napkin to take home with them. At William and Kate’s wedding, the guests were presented the cake in a tin. Sounds like the perfect midnight snack after a night of dancing.
9. Speaking of the cake, there are usually two
Traditionally, English weddings serve fruit cakes covered in marzipan. For William and Kate, their eight-tiered wedding cake was made with currants, cherries, raisins, orange marmalade and brandy. Harry and Meghan struck a balance between their cultures by going with a lemon elderflower cake with buttercream frosting and flowers and opting to not serve a fruit cake. However, English weddings often feature a second cake known as the groom’s cake. Prince William opted for his grandmother’s favourite flavour, chocolate biscuit cake, and ahead of the big day, many were speculating that Prince Harry will honour the queen with the same groom’s cake.
ICYMI, you can relive every magical royal wedding moment in etalk Presents Harry & Meghan: Happily Ever After, streaming now on etalk.ca and CTV.ca.