Etiquette and Traditions


When it comes to a fondness for tradition, the UK arguably stands head, shoulders and a stiff upper lip above the rest, with the nation’s weddings flying the flag for etiquette in truly honourable style.  Modern takes on the theme might mean you’re just as likely to see Darth Vader rocking down the aisle with Shrek and Batman in tow as you are the suited and booted genteel crowd, but however cool, crazy or unconventional your nuptials may be there are some wedding traditions that continue to stand tall, and – more importantly – still play a major part in the marital journey today.  Whether you’ve yet to pop the question, or you’ve already had that moment on bended knee, it pays to know the basics before you start planning the big day.

The Proposal

Asking her Father’s permission

Possibly one of the more daunting of British wedding traditions but seeking the blessing of your future bride’s father (and in many cases, mother) is still seen as a courteous and integral part of getting engaged. It’s also a great opportunity to keep the bride’s parents involved in the process.
The stats: More than 80% of guys, and 60% of women believe seeking permission is a must before popping the question.

The Ring

The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all had a hand in the invention of the engagement ring, with one Archduke Maximilian of Austria entirely responsible for adding a diamond to the mix.  Whether you take sole responsibility for choosing the ring, or have already been reliably informed that there’s not a chance of being let loose on your own, wedding tradition, according to etiquette experts Debrett’s,  ‘dicatates that a ring, most popularly diamond, should mark the engagement’.

The stats: 32% of women say the biggest mistake you can make when proposing is not having a ring.  However, 42% won’t trust you to pick the right one!

On Bended Knee

There’s no clear history on the origin of this one but the iconic moment on bended knee is without doubt the moment your lady’s been waiting for.
The stats: 76% of guys agree that proposing on bended knee is the right way to go.  Nearly all women happen to agree!

The Big Day


It’s customary for the bride and groom to avoid seeing each other on the morning of the wedding, so as a general rule your preparation and safe arrival at the wedding venue will be firmly down to your safe hands best man, while your bride, along with the rest of the bridal party will usually spend the morning at her parents’ home before making their way to the ceremony.


There are five main journeys you’ll need to plan for on the day:

  1. Bridal party to the wedding venue
    Bride and Father of the Bride in the first car,
    Followed by the bride’s mother, bridesmaids and pageboys in a second.
  2. Groom and best man to the wedding venue.
    Usually in the best man’s own trusty (?) vehicle.
  3. Bride and Groom from wedding venue to reception.
    Travelling in the ‘main’ wedding car.
    It’s also common to take a detour and/or make extra stops on the way to the reception to get cracking on post ceremony photos.
  4. Guests from wedding venue to reception.
    Supplying transport for the guests lies firmly at the discretion of the bride and groom but consideration should be given to siblings, both sets of parents and grandparents, bridesmaids and any guests that may need extra assistance.
  5. Newlyweds to their chosen destination.
    Wedding tradition dictates the newlyweds leave before their guests, quite often this is in a cab or if the groom hasn’t partied too hearty then he’ll drive.

Seating at the service

The ushers are responsible for the meet and greet as guests arrive to take their seats.  Space needs to be reserved for the bridesmaids and groomsmen at the very front of the service, while both sets of parents should be seated in the front row, siblings and grandparents behind and then remaining friends and family.

During the service

The Best Man remains to the right of the groom at all times, producing the rings right on cue (!!) before escorting the chief bridesmaid to the signing of the register and acting as witness, if required.

Throwing confetti

Many moons ago it was customary to throw rice over the newlyweds in a bid to promote luck and good health.  Fast forward today and the wedding tradition of throwing confetti over the happy couple as they leave the service still reigns supreme.  It’s worth noting however, chaps, that many venues won’t allow confetti to be used in the grounds unless it’s fully biodegradable, and some venues have started to ban the practise altogether, so a little research will come in handy.

The Wedding Reception

Receiving line

If you opt for a receiving line to welcome and thank guests as they arrive at the reception, general wedding etiquette dictates the bride’s mother and father head the line-up, followed by the groom’s mother and father, the bride and groom, maid of honour, best man and bridesmaids, with an usher or two on hand to make introductions.

Seating plan – the top table

It’s up to personal preference and family dynamics on this one, gents, but the traditional plan for seating the top table;



Time for the well-rehearsed speeches.  The traditional order for taking the mic;

1)       The Father of the Bride
2)       The Groom
3)       The Best Man

Cutting the cake

Photo ops aplenty while the newlyweds make that first symbolic slice.

First dance

Twinkle toes or two left feet, the bride and groom take to the floor for that first iconic number.  It’s customary for the bride to then dance with her father and new father-in-law, the groom to dance with his mother and mother-in-law and the best man to hit the floor with the chief bridesmaid.


Check out our ‘team groom’ pages for details on the duties, expectations and traditional roles of each member of the party;

  • Best Man
  • Ushers / Groomsmen

After the main event


We don’t need to explain this one…. do we??  Check out our guide for tips on picking the perfect spot.


Now…… Pimm’s o’clock anyone?




Asking the Father –

Not having a ring –

Don’t trust to pick right one –

On bended knee –

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