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Here Are All The Rules You Have To Follow To Have A Royal British Wedding

Updated June 14, 2019 393.6k views13 items
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Planning even the smallest wedding can be a massive undertaking, but marrying into the royal family is a whole other challenge. British royal wedding traditions follow a vast set of ancient rules, encompassing everything from where you can hold the ceremony to the flavor of the wedding cake. When high-profile royals get married, the ceremony becomes part of history. Millions of people watch the carriage ride to the church and scrutinize the bridal dress, hair, and overall appearance of the bride. No wonder the rules of a royal wedding are so strictly followed.

The monarchy exists because of tradition, so there's huge pressure to carry on ancient rituals. But modern royalty seems to care a (tiny) bit less about how they're wed, or about bygone marriage standards like lavish dowries. A handful of titled couples, like Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, have either updated traditions or broken down barriers that held others back from the altar. Like everything else, royal weddings must move with the times – even if that movement is at a glacial pace.

  • The Menus Are In French

    Photo: Anthony van Dyck / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Royal wedding menus are traditionally written in French. In reality, the French menu is a bit outdated; the palace employs lots of English chefs, and most of the dishes at William and Kate's wedding were British.

    The French menu tradition dates back to the 17th century, when not only royals, but also all English upper classes developed a taste for mainland cuisine. The craze began when Charles I married French princess Henrietta Maria in 1625.

  • The Wedding Cake Is Always A Fruitcake

    Photo: Neilpick / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    The royal wedding cake recipe usually includes raisins, ground almonds, cherries, and marzipan and is cut using the groom’s ceremonial sword. However the groom's cake, a tradition started at Queen Victoria's wedding, has evolved into more modern flavors. Prince William, for instance, opted for a chocolate biscuit cake at his own wedding.

    Elizabeth II started the tradition of donating wedding cakes; after she and Prince Philip were married in 1947, they gave their cake to school children to supplement strict post-wartime rations. William and Kate auctioned off a piece of their 2011 wedding cake to raise money for charity.

  • Royal Brides Don't Toss Their Bouquets

    Photo: John Pannell / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    The ancient tradition of the bridal toss has some disturbing roots. Apparently it was devised as a way to allow the bride to escape from the crowd of women who were trying to tear off bits of her dress to get her good luck. Even in modern times, it's an arguably humiliating display forced upon single women.

    Luckily for British royal brides, this tradition was retired after the Queen Mother's wedding. Instead of tossing it, she instead laid her bouquet on the tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey to honor her brother, who had fallen at the battle of Battle of Loos. 

  • Women Who Attend The Wedding Must Wear Hats

    British women have worn hats to royal weddings for generations. It wasn't acceptable to go about daily life without a hat until the 1950s, so a traditional event like a royal wedding demands fanciful head coverage.