Wedding Traditions Explained: The Wedding Breakfast

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Most weddings in the UK include a wedding breakfast. Reception venues often include it as part of their packages. The wedding breakfast is a 3 course sit-down meal usually served somewhere between 2pm and 5pm, depending on the time of the wedding ceremony.

Why is it called a breakfast?

One of the most popular explanations is that it is the first meal the bride and groom have shared together. It is the first meal of their married life, and therefore their wedding breakfast.

There is another less known explanation. In pre-Reformation times, wedding ceremonies were part of a Eucharistic Mass. This means that the bride and groom would have been fasting before the wedding day. After the ceremony, the priest would bless the food and drink to pass around the wedding party – including the bride and groom who would literally break their fast.

Nowadays 2pm weddings are common, but this hasn’t always been the case. Weddings used to be held in the morning, with the bride and groom fasting before the ceremony. This meant that the first meal eaten on the wedding day was after the ceremony at breakfast time.

Room of geausts seated for the wedding breakfast at Tankersley Manor Hotel Barnlsey

Do you need a wedding breakfast?

The wedding breakfast hasn’t always been the three course meal we know today. It has evolved from fruit and bread, to cold salads and sandwiches up to our modern day take. It was once highly unfashionable to have a formal meal and couples of the aristocracy opted for a more modern afternoon tea.

Some couples are now moving away from the idea of a wedding breakfast completely. They are marrying later in the afternoon, and choosing a buffet style meal in the evening. If you’re having a relaxed, low key wedding staying away from a sit down meal can keep in with your theme, as well as being a huge saving.

Although a traditional wedding breakfast isn’t necessary, it is commonplace to feed your wedding guests on the day. Whether that’s a sit down meal, afternoon tea or a hot dog stand, some sort of food is usually expected. If you decide not to provide food, warn your guests in advance so they can make their own arrangements.

Afternoon tea wedding breakfast option at Holiday Inn Barnlsey

On our next Wedding Traditions Explained post, we’re looking at The First Dance.