Both the USA and Canada, with historically immigrant populations, have wedding traditions that have evolved from the gradual fusion of other nation’s customs. Canadian wedding customs have roots in both English and French traditions, and USA traditions are derived from a diverse range of other (mainly European) countries and cultures.
Both North American and Canadian wedding seating plans involve a top table style seating plan that is common throughout Europe. Weddings in America are often lavish affairs and wedding halls are commonly extravagantly decorated with drapes and large floral arrangements, with the wedding cake taking pride of place in the centre of the head table. However, as would be expected from such a culturally diverse country, I have read that many couples in America opt for a ‘sweetheart table‘ for the bride and groom. This is a table, sometimes elevated on a dias or stage, for the bride and groom alone. This gives the bride and groom privacy and time to talk together on their wedding day and also alleviates many of the planning nightmares if your family includes members who may not wish to sit with each other at a more traditional top table.
Toasts and Speeches
At a Canadian reception, it is customary to have the couple toasted by four important guests – the best man, the maid or matron of honour, the father of the bride and the brother of the groom. Optionally, the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents and any other guests can follow these toasts with one of their own. The Master of Ceremonies introduces each toast.
Many European traditions are recognizable in the traditional American wedding, for example a receiving line and tossing the bouquet. In the upper Midwestern states of America, however, the best man auctions the bride’s garter instead of tossing it. The best man carries a hat around the guest’s tables and the guests place money in it. After a specified time has elapsed, the best man gives the garter to the last guest to put money in the hat.
A very useful Canadian tradition for those who have more friends and family than seats at their wedding reception is that of the ‘Trousseau tea‘. This event takes place before the wedding day and is attended by the acquaintances who were not able to be invited to the actual wedding due to space restrictions. Hosted by the mother of the bride, this means that no one feels left out. This tradition originates in France and also often involves a display of the bride’s wedding gifts. Sadly less popular with modern weddings, I wonder if this great tradition will make a come back in the current austere economic climate?
The Sock Dance
In line with the whimsical and fun-loving aspects of a Canadian wedding reception, the ‘sock dance‘ is a tradition that must baffle any newcomers! Siblings of the groom suddenly appear on the dance floor in ludicrously colourful and ugly socks – the more ludicrous and colourful the better – and do a nonsensical dance to the music. This usually occurs later on in the wedding reception evening, and symbolises the groom’s older unmarried siblings still having ‘cold feet’, which is why the younger brother is marrying first. I suspect however, in modern weddings it is simply a great excuse to let your hair down, don daft socks and boogie the night away with your best groovy moves!
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Article written by Liz