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British Life and Culture

by Mandy Barrow

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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
Dating and Marriage Customs in Britain


Dating usually starts in the teenage years, although some kids at primary school age are now having boy and girl friends from the age of 8 years and upwards.

Traditionally, girls used to wait for the lads to make the first move, but these days equality rules.

Groom and brideMarriage

What is the legal age for marrying in the UK?

In England and Wales people cannot marry if they are aged 16 or 17 and do not have parental consent. (In the UK, the age of sexual consent for women is 16).

In Scotland both parties must be at least 16 years of age (parental consent is not required).

A marriage can take place in:-

  • a Register Office
  • a church of the Church of England, Church in Wales, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian or Roman Catholic Church in N. Ireland
  • a synagogue or any other private place if both partners are Jewish
  • any other religious building provided that the person marrying the couple is registered by the Registrar General
  • premises approved by the local authority
  • a place where one partner is seriously ill and not expected to recover
  • the home of one of the partners if the partner is housebound, for example, has serious disabilities or is agoraphobic
  • a hospital, if one of the partners is unable to leave or is detained there as a psychiatric inpatient
  • a prison, if one partner is a prisoner.

Marriages today

The trend nowadays is to marry later. Many couples are living together first for all sorts of reasons such as finance.

See Family Life for more details.


Over half the weddings in the UK take place in local register offices and the rest are religious ceremonies of one kind or another. A few years ago changes in the law allowed couples to get married in all sorts of places (known as a civil Wedding Ceremony).

Most weddings take place on Saturday afternoons, this is very much the “peak period” in any week for getting married.

Before the Wedding takes place

Brides have 'Hen' nights and bridegrooms have 'Stag' parties (similar to bachelor/bachelorette parties).

For couples getting married in a church, 'banns' announcing the proposed wedding are read aloud in the church three Sundays before the wedding.

The groom chooses a Best Man who will look after the couple rings during the wedding ceremony.

The Wedding Day

It is unlucky for the groom to see the bride on the wedding day before the service.

Traditionally the bride wears a white dress and the groom wears a suit (top hat and tails).

Groom and bride

The bride may be attended by bridesmaids and pageboys.


The groom and the bride say their vows.

Saying wedding vows

They give each other rings

They sign a wedding register

signing the register

After the wedding ceremony

After the wedding ceremony guests are invited to attend a meal and further celebrations. This is known as the Wedding Reception.

wedding reception

Guests leave presents for the bride and groom on a table in the room where the reception takes place.


It is traditional for the Best Man, Brides Father and the Groom to give a speech at the wedding reception.

Best man giving a speech

Wedding Cake

It is traditional at weddings to have a special wedding cake at the reception, often with two or more tiers - each tier may be made of a different type of cake to satisfy the tastes of all your wedding guests. It's also customary for the top tier of a three or four tier cake to be kept aside for the christening of the couples first child.

Wedding cake

The Honeymoon

It is traditional for the bride and groom to go away on a holiday, called a Honeymoon, after the wedding has taken place.

Interesting fact
Centuries ago it was customary for the Bride and Bridegroom to drink mead made from honey, for a month after the wedding. A month was known as a moon, hence honeymoon.

Wedding Superstitions

Bride and groom must not meet on the day of the wedding except at the altar.

The bride should never wear her complete wedding clothes before the day.

For good luck the bride should wear “something borrowed, something blue, something old and something new”.

The husband should carry his new wife over the threshold of their home.

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All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the Mandy Barrow.

© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2014

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consultant.
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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