The Differences Between UK and Australian Weddings

The Differences Between UK and Australian Weddings

With Celebrant Cara Hodge of Brisbane City Celebrants

We have just returned from the UK where we attended my brothers wedding. Knowing our involvement and passion for the wedding industry here in Australia, the moment the ceremony concluded we were bombarded with questions from fellow guests, “Was that the same as a wedding you would conduct in Australia?” “Did you check if they got all the legal bits right?” and the most common question “What’s the difference between a wedding in the UK and a wedding in Australia?” so for the benefit of UK couples getting married in Australia and vice versa, I have dedicated the following blog post to cover the main points of difference between each countries wedding traditions and formalities.

Neil and Jas at their wedding at Shendish Manor in the UK

Neil and Jas at their wedding at Shendish Manor in the UK

Firstly to set the scene, my brother and his girl married in a beautiful old Manor House in Hemel Hempstead near London called ‘Shendish Manor’. The property sits on 160 acres of immaculately kept gardens, including a gazebo, golf course and 70 hotel rooms providing an abundance of photo opportunities and convenience for the guests.

This venue is licensed for civil ceremonies, bringing me to my first point of difference:

  1. Where weddings can take place:

UK Wedding venues need to be licensed to conduct civil ceremonies, and in the UK you can only marry with a roof over your head.

As Registered Celebrants in Australia we are authorised to perform weddings ANYWHERE in Australia, and no ‘licensed venue’ or roof is required.

Weddings have taken place on top of Brisbane’s Story Bridge and Jamie has even performed a wedding in a terminal of Brisbane’s airport, a quirky choice of venue chosen by the couple as that was where they shared their first kiss!

The special day arrived and with much excitement a convoy of guest vehicles all pulled up at the venue and we made our way across the crunchy stone driveway to check in to our hotel rooms.

The bride and groom had booked a wing of the building that comprised of a room where the ceremony would take place. This room opened out to a lounge and bar area which joined on to the reception room. This was really great for early guests as it meant they could mingle in the lounge area, enjoy a sneaky pre wedding drink at the bar or simply take in the amazing old building which was full of character.

As Celebrants we were particularly interested in seeing how the ceremony was conducted, what really surprised us was this:

2.       Being able to choose a Celebrant

In the UK you do not have a choice of Celebrant, you are assigned 2 Wedding Registrars on the day, one will present and do the talking while the second one will verify that the ceremony and documentation have met the legal requirements. We were interested to see them actually using an old fashioned ink stamp on their paperwork.

It is also worth mentioning that in the UK you can not book your Wedding Registrars any sooner than 1 year before your special day. While planning her wedding my super organised sister in law called the office at the earliest possible date, 1 year out for their wedding date, only to be told there were only 2 time slots still available that day, neither were the time they had planned to have their ceremony, but they quickly snapped up the better of the 2 time slots and locked it in.

Thankfully they were yet to have their invitations printed and the venue were able to work with the earlier ceremony time.

In Australia as with your other wedding vendors you have a choice of Celebrants, you can be as specific as you like with the kind of Celebrant you would like, many of our clients secure Jamie as their Celebrant as they envisage having a younger male Celebrant perform their ceremony.

In respect of the legal requirements there were a lot of similarities but one thing that that we did notice was that the first words that the bride and groom were to say:

3.       Legal Wording

During a UK wedding the bride and groom have to verbally state that there is no legal impediment to their marriage

In Australia, this is not mentioned in the ceremony, instead before the ceremony takes place the bride and groom complete legal paperwork known as the ‘declaration’ stating there is no legal impediment to them marrying each other.

Interestingly the other required legal wording which we know as the Monitum and the mandatory vows are very similar almost word for word to that of ours in Australia.

4.       Having a choice of ceremony wording

In the UK as the local registers come along to deliver the ceremony (as opposed to Celebrants like we have here in Australia), it was interesting to hear that generally they are provided with a ceremony script, or a choice of script a, b and c without the option to edit this or share your own story. Also for civil weddings in the UK there can be absolutely no religious connotations or references, one couple told us how they wanted the instrumental version of Robbie Williams ‘Angels’ as one of their ceremony songs, however this wasn’t allowed for this reason.

In Australia Marriage Celebrants give you freedom to choose, plan, design, edit or even write segments of your own ceremony. Personally we love creating ceremonies that are about our couples, and the bond they share. We specialise in non-religious weddings, however occasionally our couples indicate that they would like to include some religion such as a reading or prayer which we are only too happy to accommodate and include in their ceremony. We also don’t have any restrictions on what ceremony music couples choose, anything goes!

5.       Photographing the marriage certificate

In the UK it is a legal requirement that the actual marriage certificate that the bride and groom can sign must not be photographed. So a secondary ‘mock’ certificate is provided for the purpose of photos.

In Australia, there is no legal restrictions on photographing the marriage certificate or any part of the wedding for that matter. That said photographers generally exercise discretion with publishing images from the marriage register as we all have a duty to protect our clients privacy and a lot of personal information of the couple is contained here, besides the couples certificate is a lot more photogenic!

6.       Throwing of Confetti or Petals

In the UK they generally don’t allow rose petals or similar to be thrown as soon as the couple exit down the aisle much to my disappointment after I had torn the bouquet of roses I had bought my Mum a few days earlier to shreds! Mainly because weddings tend to take place indoors. Instead these are usually thrown as the couple exit the building or during their group photo.

In Australia, well particularly in Queensland where the vast majority of civil weddings take place outside the guests can throw rose petals as soon as the bride and groom make their exit as husband and wife, and likewise the flower girl can sprinkle petals down the aisle in front of the bride.

It is also worth mentioning that different ceremony venues have different rules and as a general rule confetti and rice is not favoured in QLD, flower petals or bubbles are generally preferred however it is always worth checking with your venue as they all have their own requirements.

After the ceremony concluded all the guest enjoyed a cocktail hour drink, while the typical cocktail hour drink in the UK is Pimms, this bride and groom choose warm mulled wine, a great choice of a cool winters day.

We all proceeded to head outside for group and family photos, while it was a lovely clear day especially with it being winter, it was cold! Brrr. The Photographer who had over 20 years experience shooting weddings in the UK was very mindful to direct guests back indoors as soon as she had finished with them before they started shivering!

7.       Bar Tab/ Drinks at weddings

Typically in the UK several bottles of red and white will be provided on each table for the guests to enjoy while they dine. After which guests are responsible for purchasing their own drinks from a cash bar.

At weddings in Australia, there is generally a bar tab up to a set amount or a drinks package provided by the venue, with either selected drinks or all drinks available for guests.

8.       Wedding Speech Wager

Finally I thought I would share this British wedding tradition with you, the wedding speech wagers involve everyone on your table placing a bet on the duration of the speeches from the first word of the first speaker to the last word of the last speaker, everyone notes their estimated time on a piece of paper, and places a couple of pounds on a glass, the winner or closest too takes all, it’s a great ice breaker for the table and fun too, especially if you win!

In summary I think it’s fair to say that while there are more tradition and formalities around civil weddings in England compared to civil weddings here in Australia, these traditions are also what make these weddings special and so fitting to the beautiful old buildings where these weddings take place. We loved every moment of this special day and were honored to be guests at this wedding.

Congratulations Jas and Neil x

If you enjoyed hearing about the differences between UK and Australian weddings and are looking for a Celebrant for your Brisbane wedding, Cara would love to hear from you. Contact Brisbane City Celebrants for more information and to confirm availability for your special day.