The Great British Wedding

Last weekend we attended a friend’s wedding, a first for The Duchess. Mr and Mrs R were both glowing with happiness and it was such a lovely day to share with them and so many nice people. If I’m honest before the day arrived we were nervous about how she’d do and this is why: there is a difference between British and American weddings. The differences mean more opportunity for an unhappy baby to have a meltdown that would put any nuclear power plant within 100 miles on red alert and send your stress levels into orbit.

In America it’s more common to have weddings in the evening, say from 6-7pm. I’ve been to wedding services that have been as short as 10 minutes. The Reception immediately follows where people await the arrival of the wedding party. Their arrival is announced in Red Carpet fashion with a spotlight and a Deejay saying things like, “And now put your hands together for the Best Man, Dirk Dierkerson and Maid of Honour, Tiffany Google,” and then they enter doing cartwheels and the splits and other entertaining things. The Husband is always amused by this because, let’s face it, American’s excel at flair. The Father of the Bride takes about two minutes to welcome everyone and to welcome the new son-in-law to the family and the Best Man takes another two minutes to wish the happy couple years of bliss. We then use the rest of the night as an opportunity to show off our best dance moves to anyone who will watch. And who cares if a baby screams through the “Grease Medley”?

British weddings aren’t so full of flair, but they are steeped in tradition. Usually, the wedding takes place around 12-2pm. It lasts for around an hour. This is the first and probably most stressful hurdle for a parent of a young child. That day, the Duchess did have to be taken out part-way through because she got her thrice daily dose of the hiccups and after 15 minutes of them she understandably starts to get cross.

After the ceremony everyone lingers and eventually head to the Reception venue. There most couples have a ‘photo list’ which has groups of guests who they want their photos taken with and want to make sure to include each guest, a-like so:

• family of the bride
• family of the groom
• friends from school
• friends from college (American=last 2 years of high school)
• friends from the summer after college when I travelled across North America
• friends from university
• bride’s co-workers
• groom’s co-workers
• people who don’t work
• people we don’t have a category for
• people we were obligated to invite to this wedding because of a pushy relative

Meltdown Hurdle #2, as this generally takes some time as the Best Man goes around to herd guests for the next photo. During one of the group photos on Saturday it started to rain, but the enthusiastic photographers (who were lovely) decided to persevere, in true British fashion. The Husband was trying to tuck The Duchess into his suit jacket to shield her from the drops collecting on her face. She remained calm, but had a very disapproving look for a long time after.

You then go inside. Food is served at what is called “The Wedding Breakfast” even though it takes place anywhere between 5-7pm. Speeches follow. The speeches, given by the Father of the Bride, the Groom, and the Best Man, are the piece de la resistance of a British wedding with the captive audience putting on their Simon Cowell caps to cast judgment on which speech was best. They don’t actually give feedback, but a good (or really terrible) speech becomes historical in its fame or infamy. This is Hurdle #3 as they can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour in total. The Duchess behaved beautifully. The only sounds she made were little giggles or tiny squeals because she wanted to play before bed.

Once the speeches were over, we could breathe a sigh of relief. We had made it through the day and enjoyed ourselves.  We even avoided doing what The Husband calls the ‘tuck and run,’ which is shoving the screaming baby under your arm and, red-faced, running for the nearest exit.  This has to be partly because the bride did an AMAZING job of thinking about the kids (and their parents) and had provided little things along the way to help.

Next month she is IN her aunt’s wedding. As I write this I have premature butterflies setting flight in my stomach. Last weekend was great practice, but oh please let there be no poo-namis, spewing incidents, or ‘tucking and running’ on that day.


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