A lot of people have asked me what the difference is between an American wedding and a British wedding. One thing is that they often refer to the meal as the "wedding breakfast". I'm sure you've already guessed this comes from tradition when the ceremony was part of or immediately following mass. After, everyone would gather for a meal, but since the wedding party would fast before the ceremony, this was the first meal of the day...breaking...the fast. I was confused at the beginning stages of the wedding planning though, to be sure.
Another thing that's different about British weddings is it's more common to do a whole group shot with all of the wedding guests. The staff at our venue used this as a way of clearing everyone out of the main room to switch the room over from the ceremony to the reception, since everything was in one place. So immediately after walking down the aisle as husband and wife, we went upstairs for probably our only 5 minutes alone the whole day. They served us a glass of Pimm's while we waited for them to set everyone up for the photo.
After the photo, it was cocktail hour! We got really lucky for the weather and didn't have to use the back up plan for rain, which would be to keep everyone inside but not in the main hall so they could keep setting up for dinner. Instead, all of our guests mingled in the beautiful courtyard around the five olive trees. It was perfect. (The only downside was that they don't have speakers inside so you could barely hear the playlist we had spent so much time on.) Of course cocktail hour means more wedding photos, but since we had done photos after the first look, we only needed to do family portraits.
Our venue allowed us to switch out the first course of the meal, a salad, for canapes at no additional cost, so there were plenty of little bites going around the party. One waitress in particular was fantastic because she seemed to beeline straight for me every time she brought out a fresh plate. I really appreciated that! We mixed and mingled with our guests, sipped on more Pimm's, sneaked away for a few more bride and groom photos, and really enjoyed the afternoon.
Dinner was served at 5:00, so everyone took their seats while we waited to be introduced as the new Mr. and Mrs. Drake! For the menu, we chose to go with the roast chicken dinner, served family style with potatoes and seasonal vegetables. We knew everything was going to be delicious at the venue (who did the catering), so we opted for chicken, which was a bit cheaper than other options we might have liked better, like the duck or the steak, so we could spend a bit more in other parts of the budget. It was easily top three chicken of my life! (Sorry, nothing beats fried chicken and Chick-Fil-A sauce.) We also had a dessert served during dinner, which was a brownie and vanilla ice cream. Tom, who is dairy free, said the dairy free brownie was the best brownie he's ever had, so the same waitress who was serving me during cocktail hour brought him the recipe. She was fantastic!
For alcohol, we supplied the tables with a few bottles of red and white wine, in addition to Pimm's at the cocktail party and Prosecco for the toasts later. We ordered the max of everything, which was 1/2 bottle of wine per guest, 1 Pimm's per guest, and 1/4 bottle of Prosecco per guest. (I think that's correct.) The venue bought back any wine that was unopened at the end of the night, which I think was only 2 bottles! It worked out really well, in addition to having a cash bar for beer and cocktails. Some people did purchase drinks, but there was still plenty available to drink if they didn't want to spend the money. I feel like it was a good middle ground for us.
Dinner was schedule for two hours with toasts starting at 7:00. We asked my dad; Luke sister Emily, the best man; and my sister Rachel, the matron of honour to give toasts, in addition to Luke giving the final toast. Luke joked at the beginning of discussions about toasts that women don't speak at British weddings, AKA the maid of honour doesn't usually give a toast. I never considered that option though, I was going to make Rachel do it! All of them did such a great job despite some nerves for Emily and Rachel in particular. During dinner, I went to the bar to order a shot of whiskey for each of them to be brought out just before the toasts to help with some nerves. At Rachel's wedding, the best man and I had done a shot of vodka before our toasts and it definitely helped a bit. Anyway, all four toasts were funny and touching and absolutely lovely.
Immediately after the toasts, we cut the cake. Somehow a bunch of people ended up missing it as I think the transition wasn't as well executed as some of the others in the day. We had agreed beforehand that we wouldn't do the smashing the cake in the face thing. I wasn't into the mess and since we had a red velvet cake, I definitely didn't want it on my dress. Well joke's on me because during the toasts, after they had cleared the table of everything, including napkins, I dribbled red wine down my chin onto my dress. Luckily Rachel had a few tissues in her pocket to save the day! Still, you can't even tell in our golden hour photos that Brianne pulled us for right after cutting the cake.
During all of this, the DJ, who came highly recommended by our venue, arrived to set up and the staff once again turned over the room for the party. We were introduced to the dance floor as everyone gathered around to watch our first dance. We should have practised just a bit because we weren't sure about what to do with our hands, which made for a bit of an awkward start. The DJ played the intro music from Strictly Come Dancing (the British show that inspired Dancing with the Stars), which was totally unexpected. At first, I worried he had totally messed up our chosen song!
The first dance was easily one of my favourite moments of the whole day. I totally forgot about everyone else being there and Luke and I danced and sang our song, I Don't Mind, to each other. I hope I never forget how perfect that moment was. I was a bit worried everyone would join in halfway through because some people had said that's pretty standard at UK weddings, but I wanted to have the whole floor to ourselves for the whole of the song. Somehow, it managed it work out that way, but I honestly don't know if I would have noticed if they had.
The father-daughter dance was up next, which is an American tradition that's starting to pick up a bit more here in the UK. I definitely wanted to do it and our DJ was happy to accommodate, saying he had done a few weddings which included one. I had the hardest time choosing a song that wasn't too cheesy or cliche or wasn't a country song written specifically for the father-daughter dance at weddings. Ultimately, I chose My Girl, which may be cliche, but The Temptations are also one of my favourite groups and I've loved that song for years. We skipped the mother-son dance, which I think Luke and his mum we're very okay with.
The rest of the evening was spent dancing, chatting, and taking photos in the photobooth. The whole reception went by so quickly, but it was so much fun! The DJ was absolutely fantastic and read the room really well. Even though a lot of people had to leave around 10:00 because they had work in the morning (remember we got wedded on a Wednesday), it was a lot of fun. The dance floor wasn't so packed that it was hot and sweaty, but it was still a lively party.
The kitchen staff cut up the bottom tier of our wedding cake into strips to be passed around on two platters. In hind sight, I wish I had asked them to start by cutting up half or three quarters of the bottom layer because I think a lot of it went uneaten. We also had a meat and cheese buffet and tea and coffee. We ordered enough of the buffet for about 75% of our guests and enough tea and coffee for about 50% of our guests, but I think we definitely could have gotten away with less on the buffet. People just didn't seem to be eating much, even though dinner was at 5:00 and the reception went until 12:00.
The party ended with the DJ playing our first dance song one more time, which I thought was really nice. It was fun to dance to again, this time with everyone. For the final song, he played Bump N Grind because two people had requested The Wobble, which he didn't have, and one responded with "well the bride wants a little bump and grind", which he took literally.
We didn't have an exit planned, which was fine by me. Instead, we just said bye to our guests and left with two of the groomsmen and the top tier of our cake who were giving us a lift home. Luke carried me across the threshold at our house, just like he did after our marriage.
CHECK OUT MORE POSTS ABOUT OUR WEDDING:
Bridesmaids' Dresses: Weddington Way (US)
Cake: Amerton Cakes (UK)
Cuff Links: Tesoro Jewelry (US)
DJ: Benny Smyth (UK)
My Dress: Allure Bridals via The Bridal Connection (CO)
Engagement Ring: ROX (UK)
Florist: Penny Johnson Flowers (UK)
Hair + Make Up: Sam Larson Hair (CO)
Paper Flowers: Lia Griffith (US)
Photo Booth: Peter Horrox (UK)
Photographer: Brianne Haagenson Photography (CO)
Ring Box: Amonie (AUS)
Robes: David's Bridal (US + UK)
My Shoes: Hobes (AUS)
Stationary: Minted (US)
Luke's Suit: Next (UK)
Venue (Catering & Alcohol): Shustoke Barn (UK)
Vow Books: Elmo Paperstories (UK)
My Wedding Band: Ernest Jones (UK)
Luke's Wedding Band: LuxuriaJewelers (US)
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All photos in this post, including the header photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.