The Essentially English Wedding

Published date: 23rd November 2016

While we at FBFW enjoy weddings that incorporate new cultural influences, clever innovations, and the creative, we do dearly love a traditional English wedding. When we actually tried to define what goes into making one, however, it proved difficult, and we accept our conclusions may differ from yours.

First up, we’re talking about the romantic, traditional, and yes genteel wedding here. So even though for some of our fellow-countrymen it’s almost customary for the groom to arrive worse for wear, to have a fight break out at the reception, and old feuds to be noisily resurrected, that’s not what we mean.

There is no one type of venue that can claim exclusivity as traditionally English. You could cite country houses, fine hotels, village inns, city institutions, golf clubs and anything by the sea or a river as fitting the bill, but would have missed others that deserve their place in the list – not least anything that offers a huge marquee on a soft green lawn.

When it comes to dress it’s easier. White (or variation thereon) full length dress with veil for her and an absence of bling, though she should keep to the old, new, borrowed, blue jingle for luck and tradition. It should be morning dress (with grey topper please) for him and for male guests, though sober lounge suits are fine too. Female guests in below-the-knee pastel dresses please, (never, ever white), and a hat.

If it’s a church ceremony, the vicar should have tombstone teeth and the organist try a voluntary slightly beyond his or her ability; a crying baby will disturb the peace until its mother eventually grasps not everyone is charmed by it; and less cynically there’s nothing lovelier and more traditional here than the sound of church bells as the newlyweds leave the church, and for whatever reason there’s something life-enhancing about throwing confetti or rice over them, though that can happen (with permission) at registry offices and licensed venues too. How very English by the way that our two most frequently used pieces of wedding music are German – Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, and Wagner’s Bridal Chorus.

At the reception quite a few things qualify for inclusion in the essentially English wedding. The menu will feature roast beef and/or poached salmon, with a pudding of sherry trifle or fruit crumble. The toasts require champagne (though we have some fine sparkling wines of our own now), and must be in the traditional order of bride’s father proposing a toast to the happy couple; the groom responding to that, with ‘my wife and I’ in his opening line met with loud hurrahs, then thanking the bridesmaids; and the best man responding for the bridesmaids (yes, it’s sexist but rather nice still), adding some more or less tasteful laughs at the groom’s expense before toasting the bride and groom again. At some point in the proceedings it is sadly a legal requirement that a child is violently sick.

The newlyweds cutting the cake is a must, and that cake must be tiered and covered with white icing beneath which is found fruitcake and marzipan (we said traditional, not necessarily desirable – we’d prefer light sponge). And when the happy couple depart their car has to be decorated with ‘just married’ in shaving foam, and have a pair of shoes tied to the rear bumper.

Traditional works. Subtract the tongue in cheek bits from the above and you have the simple skeleton of a great day, for you to flesh out with your own touches. And because it fits the model of what we consider romantic, people will think it romantic – hopefully you included.

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