WEDDINGS IN BRITAINCategory: Customs + Festivals
The Forms of Marriage
In England and Wales there are four forms of marriage by banns, by ordinary licence, by special licence and by a registrar.
Marriage by Banns is the form most usually adopted. Banns must be called for three consecutive Sundays in the Parish churches of both the future bride and the groom unless they both live in the same parish. They must have been resident for at least fifteen days previous to the first publication of the banns. There is a small fee for the certificate of banns.
The clergyman at the church where the marriage is to take place must be notified by letter of the couple’s intention to marry, of their names and addresses and how long they have resided in their parishes.
If one of the parties is a minor, a letter of consent must be obtained from both parents, and attached. (The form can be obtained from the Superintendent Registrar of the district.) If the marriage is to take place in the bride’s church, a certificate of calling of the banns must be obtained from the bridegroom’s parish clergyman. The marriage must then take place within three months of the banns being published.
Marriage by Ordinary Licence is a convenient alternative to the publications of banns. In London, application must be made by one party to the Faculty Office, where he will swear that he does not know of any impediment to the marriage such as being legally married to another or consanguineous relationship, and that one of the parties has lived for at least fifteen days in the parish of the church where the marriage , is to take place.
A licence is valid in England and Wales for three months after the date of issue. Outside London, it can be obtained ! from any Bishop’s Registry Office in a cathedral town or? from a Superintendent Registrar in the district of residence. The licence is granted without previous notice and is available as soon as it is issued, but the marriage must take place in a church named on the licence.
Marriage by Special Licence costs £25 and can be obtained only for special reasons such as suddenly being sent abroad. It is never granted lightly. Application must be made in person by one of the parties at the Faculty Office. The marriage can then take place at any time and in any place, celebrated by the rites of the church, and residence ; qualifications are unnecessary.
Marriage by a Registrar can be celebrated, without any religious ceremony, at a registry office. Notice must be given by one of the parties of the intended marriage, if both have resided in ‘the district for seven days immediately preceding
the notice. If one has lived in another district, notice must be given to his or her local registrar. The certificate is issued twenty-one days after the notice has been given.
Times of Weddings
Marriages can take place in a registered building in the presence of an authorized person between 8 a. m. and 6 p. m.
Marriage in Scotland
In Scotland, people over the age of sixteen do not require their parents consent in order to marry. Marriage is performed by a minister of any religion after the banns have been called on two Sundays in the districts where the couple have lived for at least fifteen days previously. Weddings may take place in churches or private houses, and there is no forbidden time.
Alternatively, the couple may give notice to the registrar of the district in which they have both lived for fifteen days previously. The registrar will issue a Certificate of Publication which is displayed for seven days, and it will be valid for three months , in any place in Scotland.
Marriage at a registry office in Scotland requires a publication of notice for seven days or a sheriff’s licence, as publication of banns is not accepted. Such a licence is immediately valid but expires after ten days. One of the parties must have lived in Scotland for at least fifteen days before the application, which is often prepared by a solicitor.
(Etiquette by Martine Legge)
As soon as the wedding date has been decided the couple will think about the kind of wedding they want. Though comparatively few young people nowadays regularly attend church, most girls still dream of a white wedding, with its solemn ceremony, bridesmaids and the rest. There is no equivalent in England of our Palaces of Weddings, and civic ceremonies in a registry office are very dull. But what with the church fees which are extremely high and other extra expenses, a white wedding costs a great deal of money, so a couple may decide against it on these grounds.
There are practically no special customs attached to weddings at a registry office. Foi this reason attention will be mainly given to church weddings, with their age-old; ritual and customs. However, the reader should bear in mind that by no means all the customs concerning the pre-’ parations for a wedding or the wedding ceremony itself are necessarily maintained, quite often for reasons of economy
Division of Responsibilities
The rules are not absolutely hard and fast, but generally they are as follows:
The Bride’s Parents are responsible for the press announce-^ ments, the bride’s dress and trousseau, flowers in th$ church,1
the reception, cars taking the’ bride and her father, mothe and any other close members of her family to the church and photographers’ fees.
The Bridegroom pays for the ring and the wedding licence fees to theclergyman, theorgan ist and choir, for the awning and anything else directly concerned with the service, al-: though if there are to be orders of service, the bride’s parentsj; will have these printed at the same time as the invitations. He will pay for the bouquet for his bride and bouquets for the bridesmaids, buttonholes for his best man and ushers and any flowers worn by the bride’s, mother and his own mother, if they want to wear flowers — many women do not. He pays for the cars which take himself and the best man to the church and the car in which he and his bride will drive from the church to the reception. The cost of cars can, however, be; divided between the parents of the bride and those of the groom, or the parents of the bride may wish to pay for it all. This is a matter for mutual arrangement.
The groom is expected to give a small present to each of the bridesmaids, and such a gift can range from a piece of jewellery to a beautifully bound book, a powder compact or any personal and pretty article.
Giving Away the Bride. The bride’s father gives her away or, if he is dead or cannot be present at the ceremony, his place is taken by her brother or a close relative, or even a great family friend.
The Bridesmaids are usually the sisters, near relatives and close girl friends of the bride, and sisters of the groom. The number is purely a matter of choice but usually does not exceed six. There may be two small page-boys and four grown-up maids, or child attendants only. The bride chooses the kind of dresses her maids will wear and she may supply the material. The custom used to be for the bride’s mother to pay for all the bridesmaids dresses, but today they usually pay for their own. A girl asked to be a bridesmaid can always refuse politely if she feels she cannot afford such a dress.
There is always a chief bridesmaid who will take the bride’s bouquet during the ceremony and hand it back to her before she goes into the vestry to sign the register.
The Best Man is a brother, relative or close friend of the groom, and his main duty, apart from giving moral support before the wedding, is to see to the clergyman’s fees, the tips to the vergers and to hand the wedding ring to the groom in the church. He is .also responsible for seeing that the bridesmaids are looked after during the reception and he should reply to any toast to the bridesmaids.
The Ushers are male relatives and friends of both bride and groom. Their duties are to stand just inside the church and ask each guest “Bride or groom?” They will place friends °f the bride on the left of the aisle and friends of the groom on the right. The ushers should te at the church at least three-quarters of an hour before the ceremony, and may hand out forms of service if these are not being placed before every pew.
The Bridegroom’s Clothes. When the bride is in while, the bridegroom wears morning dress with a white carnation in his buttonhole (without fern or silver paper).
Widows or Divorcees, when re-marrying, do not wear’ white, but a short dress or a pretty suit or coat. They remove their first wedding rings and never wear them again. They do not have bridesmaids or pages.
The parents and close relatives of the bride and groom’ arrive a few minutes before the bride. The bridegroom and his best man should be in their places at least ten minutes before the service starts. The bridesmaids and pages wait in the church porch with whoever is to arrange the bride’s veil before she goes up the aisle.
The bride, by tradition, arrives a couple of minutes late but this should not be exaggerated. She arrives with whoever is giving her away; The verger signals to the organist to start playing, and the bride moves up the aisle with her veil over- her face (although many brides do not follow this custom). She goes in on her father’s right arm, and the bridesmaids follow her according to the plan at the rehearsal the day before. The bridesmaids and ushers go to their places in the front pews during the ceremony, except for the chief bridesmaid who usually stands behind the bride and holds her bouquet.
After the ceremony the couple go into the vestry to sign the register with their parents, best man, bridesmaids and, perhaps a close relation such as a grandmother. The bride throws back her veil or removes the front piece (if it is re- ‘ movable), the verger gives a signal to the organist and the bride and groom walk down the aisle followed by their parents ; and those who have signed the register. The bride’s mother walks down the aisle on the left arm of the bridegroom’s’ father and the bridegroom’s mother walks down on the left, arm of the bride’s father (or whoever has given the bride away). Guests wait until the wedding procession has passed them before leaving to go on to the reception.
The bride’s parents stand first in the receiving line, followed by the groom’s parents and the bride and groom. Guests line up outside the reception room and give their names to the major-domo who will announce them. They need only shake hands and say “How do you do?” to the parents, adding perhaps a word about how lovely the bride is or how well the ceremony went. The bride introduces to her husband any friends that he may not already know, and vice versa.
The important parts of the reception are the cutting of the cake and the toast to the bride and groom. There should never be any long speeches. When all the guests have been received, the major-domo requests silence and the bride cuts the .cake, with her husband’s hand upon hers.
The toast to the bride and groom is usually proposed by a relative or friend of the bride. He may say, “My Lords (if any are present), ladies’and gentlemen, I have pleasure in proposing the toast to the bride and bridegroom.” He should not make a speech full of jokes or silly references to marriage. It should be short and dignified. The bridegroom replies with a few words of thanks. He may or may not then propose the health of the bridesmaids. The best man replies with a few words of thanks. If a meal is provided, the toasts will come at the end of it.
After the toasts the bride and groom may move around the room talking to their friends until it is time for them to go and change. When they are ready to leave, guests gather to see them off.
Wedding Presents can be anything, according to your pocket and your friendship with the bride or groom. Such presents are usually fairly substantial compared with most other presents, and should preferably be things useful for a future home. Some brides have lists at a large store near their homes. It is always wise to ask if there is one, as this eliminates your sending something the couple may have already. The list should contain items of all prices and when one is bought it is crossed off. A wedding is one of the few occasions when money can be given, usually as a cheque. Presents are sent after the invitations have, been received, usually to the bride’s home. You address the card to both the bride and bridegroom.
(Etiquette by Martine Legge)