An English Wedding

Today was the day that I got to attend my first ever English wedding. Now given the things I have said in the past, it might come as a surprise to you that it was actually the wedding of an English colleague of mine, someone I met at work and who has since become an actual friend, even to the point of being one of the first people here to invite me into his home for a little dinner party. The beautiful bride is someone I had gotten to know over the last few months, and I was so happy for the couple when they announced their engagement and then invited me to the wedding on top of it.

Somehow, I had forgotten about the hats. It was totally surreal, like something out of a movie, to be at a wedding at which the men were mostly dressed in morning suits and the women were mostly wearing fascinators if not full-on hats. I shocked a few locals by mentioning that where I grew up, it was considered disrespectful to wear a hat in church. “Even for a wedding?” several of them said back to me. They didn’t seem to comprehend it when I noted that hats (or fascinators) were not normal attire for North American weddings.

Other differences from any wedding I had ever been to: the bride and groom had chairs and sat down (I never could have done so in my wedding dress!); those in attendance sung hymns; the bride and groom moved around the church for different parts of the ceremony; there was a real trumpet for the Purcell trumpet voluntary recessional.

The day was beautiful. The weather was gorgeous, and the champagne reception outside in the garden was amazing. I teared up both during the ceremony and during the speeches at the reception. There had been a snafu and I had not ended up on the seating plan, but unlike previous experiences in England, room was found for me and even my dietary restrictions (I’m a reformed vegetarian but still only pescetarian) were accommodated — no problem. I had hoped to slip away at some point and get some work done, but the day was just too beautiful and that was not to happen.

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7 responses to “An English Wedding

  1. In the UK, men remove their hats before going in to church.

  2. > I shocked a few locals by mentioning that where I grew up, it was considered disrespectful to wear a hat in church.

    How extraordinary! Disrespectful to whom?

    Did your church not pay even lip-service to 1 Corinthians 11, 5: “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head”?

  3. This is very interesting. I’ve so far avoiding an English wedding. I HATE hats and just will not wear one. And ABSOLUTELY it would be a no-no for a woman to wear a hat in church in the US.

    At least you had a place at the table…and appropriate food! I just read that post from 2007 about the dinner party. Sigh…

    Janet

  4. > And ABSOLUTELY it would be a no-no for a woman to wear a hat in church in the US.

    This appears to be at considerable variance with what the American etiquette guru Miss Manners (Judith Martin) has to say about it, Janet, if you care to google it. Also, if you do a Google Images search for “hats church” you will find plenty of pictures of American women wearing hats in church. There has even been a book (with a foreword by Maya Angelou) written on the subject – see http://tinyurl.com/3ehrm6 !

  5. Just as with everything in the states, there is likely some regional variation as well as variation with denomination of church–saying “THE Christian church in America” as though it was some sort of uniform entity is a total fallacy! Janet and I must be familiar with the same sorts of churches, where wearing a hat would be absolutely not allowed. An East Coast Anglican church might be very different than a midwestern evangelical protestant one.

  6. > saying “THE Christian church in America” as though it was some sort of uniform entity is a total fallacy!

    Agreed! I tend to view all generalizations and categorical statements as potentially fallacious (and yes, that too is a generalization, albeit a heavily qualified one! 🙂 )

    I continue to be intrigued as to who is the subject of disrespect when a woman wears a hat in church. Can someone help me with this?

  7. I am invited to my nephew’s wedding in southampton…I live in IN ITALY, I have never attended an english wedding. It will be rather a formal event. I already have the dress…..and this suddenly has created a doubt..it is a haute couture Roberto Cavalli…BLACK ..I WOULD WEAR IT WITH BURNT RED silk stole , Black hat (sent to me from UK, which I have added a burnt red silk ribbon to match the stole…All extremely chic. My doubt…is black ok? The marriage is end of May.
    I don’t want to let my sister down..Much thought has gone into my shopping, husband will wear cream Kalvin Klein suit ..black shirt and tie..In Italy this is fine… I do not know the bride’s parents..only the bride. I went along with the Italian style..(hat aside) It is too late to change, after spending a mini fortune…..however I would appreciate a comment. Thank you.
    RITA.

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