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What’s the difference between a Chief Bridesmaid, Maid of Honour and Matron of Honour?
Not much! They’re a Maid of Honour if they’re not married, or a Matron of Honour if they’re married. Chief Bridesmaid is an alternative term for either.
Who goes first down the aisle, the bride or the bridesmaids?
For civil ceremonies, you can do it either way, and most choose bridesmaids first (flower girls, then bridesmaids, then bride). We've adopted the American way to some extent, contrary to the old UK church tradition that the bride goes first. And for church weddings, it still varies - some vicars are flexible, and will let you choose, but some still have a strong preference for the bride to go first, following the vicar, so you may want to check.
If the bridesmaids are going in front of you, bear in mind that they may block the photographer's view of you and your father (or whoever's giving you away) as you walk down the aisle - so maybe best to let them walk down first and for you to follow at a bit of a distance.
It's worth thinking about where your bridesmaids and best man will be during the ceremony too. Usually, the bridesmaid will sit in the first pew, or row of chairs, on the bride's side, and the best man in the first row on the groom's side. But sometimes they stand to the side of, or behind, the couple. If that's your preference, and photos of the ceremony are important to you, again just have a think about the photographer's sight lines (including the second photographer if you have one). Usually, the photographer will be to your right, as you face the vicar/registrar (in the choir stalls, for a Church in Wales or Church of England ceremony).
Should we have a receiving line?
Well that's the traditional way, and it's a good chance to say hello to everyone quickly, but nothing eats into your schedule more. Auntie Joan who you haven't seen since you were in year 9 will want to chat for 5 minutes, and you don't need many like that for it to take around 1/2 hour for everyone to be seated, so just allow for that in your timings. Nowadays though, most brides and grooms just hang back while everyone finds their seat, before making a grand entrance!
Something similar applies in the few minutes after the ceremony, when you've left the church or ceremony room. If you stand too near the exit door, that can tend to turn into an impromptu receiving line, as everyone else follows you out. If that's what you want, then great, but otherwise it's probably best to stand well away from the exit, and just let everyone gather round informally to congratulate you. You'll be able to draw it to a close whenever you're ready, and keep your schedule on track, and then if you find yourself with spare time later on, you can catch up with everyone then.
Who sits on Top Table?
Traditionally, it looks like this :
But of course, if one or both sets of parents are divorced you may want to include their new partners. Or you may have 2 Best Men. To some extent, your layout will depend on the venue, and how many they can accommodate, but otherwise the only rule is that people should be comfortable with your choice, and get on with whoever they're sat next to.
When do we cut the cake?
Traditionally, it was during the afternoon reception, at the end after the speeches, or maybe between courses to allow the venue to divide it up, and serve it as dessert. If your photographer is leaving after the speeches, and not covering the evening, you may still want to do it then, or at least have a mock cut.
But nowadays, it's more usual to do it in the evening, just before the First Dance, and it's a nice bit of ceremony and a photo-opportunity, for your evening guests. If your cake (and the table it's on!) can be easily moved without damaging it, some venues will even place it in the middle of the dance floor for you to cut it there, and let everyone get their photo, before whisking it away for you to go straight into your dance. (At Lion Quays, for example, it's almost always done that way).
I've seen videos of the groom removing the garter & throwing it to the men ...?
Chances are, they're all from the US. It's quite rare in the UK (though as with pretty much everything, no reason that you can't do it if you want). Throwing the garter has never been a tradition in the UK, though in the 1970's & 80's most brides in the UK would wear one, and a lot would have had a cheesy photo lifting their dress to show it too. So a lot of Mums remember that, and think their daughters should have one too! It's less common now though - a few still wear one, maybe as their 'Something Blue', or if it belonged to a relative as their 'Something Borrowed', but that's about it.
So what about throwing the bouquet?
That's always been a tradition in the UK, for the single women to try and catch of course, and with it the 'promise' that they'll be next to walk down the aisle. Most brides choose not to now, often because they want to preserve their bouquet, but florists will be happy to provide a second cheaper bouquet if you want, or you can throw a bridesmaid's bouquet instead. If you're planning on doing it, your DJ will probably orchestrate it for you, and make sure your photographer's ready for it! Just make sure too that there's plenty of room for the melee, and watch out for ceiling fans and chandeliers!
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