12 American Wedding Practices Couples Must Know

America - "land of the free". This is a country where liberation in all senses of the word forms the cornerstone of society. Americans live their lives where they have the freedom of choice as to what to do, where to live and who to love. And unlike so many other people throughout the world, Americans are not shackled by centuries of traditions that are still adhered to despite their lack of relevance in modern-day society. There is, however, one area in which tradition still plays an integral part and that is in the area of weddings. The American wedding is a combination of tradition interspersed with a distinctive American flavour and it is these uniquely American wedding practices that set the American wedding apart.

1. Popping the question
More and more, couples are attempting to make their marriage proposal as unique and unforgettable as possible. As there are no specific traditions regarding the actual act of becoming engaged, couples are more inclined to first become engaged and then inform their respective parents of their engagement.

2. Making it official
Although not a requirement of engagement, many couples choose to host an engagement party. The party is generally not as formal or lavish as a wedding reception and can be a dinner party, a luncheon or a cocktail party, dependant on the requirements of the couple. For many couples who have financial constraints, the engagement party may include a number of people who will not be invited to the wedding, but with whom they wish to celebrate their pending nuptials.

3. Showered with gifts
American wedding practices, more often than not, involve a bridal shower. This event is generally organised by the maid of honor and the bridesmaids and, along with the bride, all the female guests who will be attending the wedding are invited. It is often common practise that the groomsmen organise a bachelor's party for the groom, which is often held the night before the wedding. It is obviously advisable for the groom to refrain from overindulging in alcohol and running the risk of spoiling his wedding day.

4. Coming or not
A general guideline regarding the timeframes during wedding preparations, is that the invitations should be dispatched around four to six weeks prior to the wedding. One of the most efficient American wedding practices is the inclusion with the invitation, of a response card. This card is returned to the bridal couple to inform them whether or not a guest has accepted or declined the invitation to the wedding.

5. Try, try and try again
In preparation for the big day, most couples have a rehearsal of the wedding several days prior to the main event. This rehearsal usually includes all members of the bridal party and a rehearsal dinner is then hosted by the groom's parents thereafter.

6. Food, glorious food
An American wedding practice that is not always adhered to, is that of a bridal luncheon, hosted by the bride for her attendants on the wedding day. For most brides, however, time constraints render this impossible. Should he so choose, the groom may host a dinner attended by his groomsmen.

7. Keeping the faith
Despite a lack of religious observance, many couples still opt for a religious wedding ceremony. For inter-faith couples, however, the choice of ceremony may prove to be difficult.

8. Omens and portents
Although many people profess not to be superstitious, it is still a fundamental belief for many that it is bad luck for the groom to see his bride at any stage prior to her walking up the aisle.

9. Aiding and abetting
American wedding practices dictate that the groom, accompanied by his groomsmen, make use of the side door to enter the church. The bride, accompanied by her father, walks down the aisle to join her groom at the front of the church. With so many families these days that are no longer in tact, it is not uncommon for a bride to be escorted by both her father and her stepfather as she walks down the aisle.

10. Wining and dining
At a formal reception, a bridal table is usually placed as a focal point. The bride and groom, their parents and the balance of the bridal party are seated at this table. Guests' appearance is greeted with a welcome drink, while they await the arrival of the wedding party.

11. 'Tis better to give than to receive
In the past, guests were left to their own devices with regard to the selection of wedding gifts. Modern day American wedding practices entail the bridal couple registering for gifts at one or more stores for gifts within a specific price range. This ensures that wedding guests select those gifts that the couple have selected, which is easier for the guests and more practical for the bridal couple.

12. Manners maketh man and woman
Although a verbal "thank you" may convey gratitude to the giver of an engagement or wedding gift, it is far more preferable that the bridal couple send a personalised thank you note. This should be done timely - within two weeks.

These American wedding practices are followed by a large number of bridal couples, who have specifically elected to have a more traditional wedding. Nowadays, however, many people are opting for more unconventional weddings which flout tradition. Whichever type of wedding a couple decide on, one thing remains clear - American's do still believe in the fairytale ending of "'til death do us part."

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