Royal Wedding 2018: 9 British wedding traditions to brush up on

With the royal wedding under three weeks away, it's time for us Americans to brush up on some of the biggest British wedding traditions. Meghan Markle's father is already one step ahead of us on his studies-- he was recently caught browsing for a book on England in preparation for his daughter's nuptials! 

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British wedding traditions
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British wedding traditions

The cake

Forget the 6-tiered cake with buttercream frosting and pastel flowers. Traditional British wedding cakes frequently consist of a fruit cake.

Duchess Kate and Prince William's wedding cake was multi-tiered with white icing. It was made with brandy, apricot jam, marizpan as well as cherries, raisins and currants. 

Hats

The bigger, the better.

Hats are a traditional part of wedding wear for the British. Female guests frequently sport fascinators during daytime weddings, but all guests are expected to wear a hat at a high society wedding like Meghan and Harry's. Male guests will remove their hats once they enter the church, while female guests will keep it on unless it blocks the view of other guests.

Those who don hats must choose one smaller than the Mother of the Bride, and one that is understated as to not outshine the bride. 

Ushers

In the UK, it's bridesmaids and ushers, not groomsmen. 

And whereas our weddings include close friends and family members in the bridal party, a British wedding, especially a royal one, typically consists of children and page boys. That being said, expect a lot of Prince George and Princess Charlotte sightings on the big day. 

Bridesmaids

Unlike many of today's weddings, where bridesmaids lead the procession before the bride, traditional British weddings feature bridesmaids who follow the bride.

Wedding breakfasts

According to PopSugar, British weddings feature a meal called the "wedding breakfast," no matter the time of day. Kate and Will's wedding breakfast, which was attended by 300+ of their closest friends at Buckingham Palace, included lamb, salmon and chocolate parfait. NBD

Hen-do and stags 

Stags and hen-do are the English equivalent of our bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Explained one New York Times article about the difference between bachelorette parties and hen-dos: "Everything is about making the bride feel like the most loved, amazing, brilliant person in the world.” 

Since showers aren't regularly thrown for the bride in the UK, friends take the time to shower and pamper the bride during a hen-do.

Brides wear white

While brides in the US have been known to dabble with ivories, blushes and the occasional creams, brides in the UK almost always wear white. It's actually a tradition set by Queen Victoria at her wedding in 1840.

Morning suits

Weddings in the US maybe organized by dress code -- black tie, cocktail, casual -- but in the UK, almost all weddings have the same dress codes for men: Morning suits.

"Daytime formal dress" includes a 3-piece suit, consisting of a waistcoat and trousers. 

Speeches

“Americans always give such emotional and touching speeches, but in Britain, the best man—or woman—generally sets out to mortify the groom with much hilarity," explained a 2016 Vogue article

Embarrassing the bride and groom is typically reserved for the rehearsal dinner -- which isn't a thing for Brits! 

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It seems that weddings across the pond vary greatly from the typical wedding back here in the States. British nuptials, which are almost always during the daytime, don't include rehearsal dinners, but do feature wedding breakfasts, wild stag parties, and the classic monstrous fruit cake. From centuries-old customs to rules on the appropriate wedding attire, scroll through above to learn all you need to know about traditional British weddings! 

Related: Here's how Prince Harry and Meghan's wedding will make history: 

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11 ways Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding will make history
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11 ways Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding will make history

Meghan Markle is an American

Meghan Markle is the first American to be officially engaged to a British royal. A few other firsts this bride-to-be checks off: she's a woman of color, divorced, a well-known actor, and was raised Catholic. Markle was just recently baptized and confirmed in the Church of England. After her wedding to Prince Harry, she will have to go through the process of becoming a citizen of the U.K. Don't miss these royal wedding etiquette rules every member of the family must follow.

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The date

The day that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will exchange vows is May 19th, 2018, which breaks a couple royal traditions. To start, the wedding is on a Saturday. In the past, royal weddings have typically been held on a weekday. Queen Elizabeth II got married on a Thursday, Prince Charles and Princess Diana on a Wednesday, and Prince William and Kate on a Friday. Also, the wedding will be held on the same day as Britain’s historic soccer cup competition, the Emirates FA Final Cup. Prince William is the president of the Football Association and usually makes an appearance at the Final Cup. But this year, we guess he has other events to attend!

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The cake

This is just a rumor, but there has been talk that the royal couple's wedding cake will be banana. Multi-tiered fruitcake has typically been the wedding cake choice of royal couples before them. Formal royal chef Darren McGrady said that Harry has always loved anything made with bananas, so it could be the chosen dessert at their wedding. Check out these other weird eating habits of the royal family.

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It's not a holiday

When Prince Harry and Markle announced their engagement, the British government told the public that there "isn't a precedent in this area" for a bank holiday to be declared for the royal wedding. The date, however, falls on a Saturday, so it’s likely that crowds will still be able to gather to celebrate the royal nuptials.

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It won't be as grand as previous royal weddings

Yes, in comparison to your average wedding, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding will be extremely grand. But in comparison to other royal weddings, it’s going to be much more low-key. Since Prince Harry is fifth in line to the throne, there’s less pressure for him to have a super traditional wedding. It’s going to be held in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle just outside of London, which is a little quainter than Westminster Abbey where Prince William and Kate wed. Don't miss these secrets about Windsor Castle you never knew.

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There won't be a famous balcony kiss

Many recently married royal couples have kissed on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. However, since their ceremony is taking place at St. George’s Chapel, they likely won’t be making the hour-long trip back to London and Buckingham Palace to capture this classic royal moment.

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There will be no procession through London

You probably guessed that this isn’t going to happen either. Since the couple likely won’t be coming back to London after the ceremony, there won't be a London procession for the public to congratulate them—however, Kensington Palace announced there will be a procession through Windsor directly following the ceremony at 1 p.m. local time. Find out the special flower that must be included in every royal wedding bouquet.

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They invited the public to their wedding

Prince Harry and Markle want the public to feel as though they are a part of the celebration as much as possible—so they plan to invite 2,640 members of the public to watch them arrive and depart from St. George’s Chapel. Those lucky enough to be chosen to attend the royal wedding will be allowed onto the grounds of the castle for the nuptials.

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There won't be as many dignitaries in attendance

Prince Harry and Markle want the public to feel as though they are a part of the celebration as much as possible—so they plan to invite 2,640 members of the public to watch them arrive and depart from St. George’s Chapel. Those lucky enough to be chosen to attend the royal wedding will be allowed onto the grounds of the castle for the nuptials.

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There will be many more celebs in attendance

Prince Harry and Markle want the public to feel as though they are a part of the celebration as much as possible—so they plan to invite 2,640 members of the public to watch them arrive and depart from St. George’s Chapel. Those lucky enough to be chosen to attend the royal wedding will be allowed onto the grounds of the castle for the nuptials.

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Meghan Markle's father may not escort her down the aisle

Meghan Markle is certainly not afraid to do her wedding her own way. Markle reportedly wants her mother, Doria Ragland, to walk her down the aisle. While this isn’t that much of a surprise given Markle's close relationship with her mother—and many brides have chosen to forgo the classic tradition of having their father walk them down the aisle—for a royal wedding, it’s definitely something new.

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