Traditions: Wedding Food Across the Pond

Who hews more to tradition? Them or us?

By , Contributor

In spite of (or maybe because of) our revolutionary history, we Americans can't seem to get enough of the British royal family, as we can see by the intense interest in the upcoming marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. There's something about all that ceremony and all those years of tradition that really draws us in, and what's more traditional and ceremonial than a wedding?

charles-diana-royal-wedding.jpgWhile we may not have a titled aristocracy here in the States, we have our own version of royalty in the movie stars and other celebrated movers and shakers whose lives we follow with avid interest. The most recent "royal" wedding in the US that caught our national attention was perhaps the marriage last summer of Chelsea Clinton to Marc Mezvinsky.

While the Clinton wedding wasn't exactly an affair of state in the same way a royal wedding is, the marriage of the daughter of a former President and a sitting Secretary of State is probably as close as we get to a royal wedding on this side of the pond.

When it comes to tradition, the royals have the colonists beat by a country mile, which isn't surprising; after all, they've had such a head start. American wedding practices, given the multicultural nature of our society, are dictated as much by local custom and ethnicity as they are by broader longstanding traditions. While William and Kate will likely have many of the details of their wedding dictated by both tradition and protocol (and perhaps by the wishes of the Queen), Clinton and Mezvinsky were free to design the wedding they wanted, and nowhere was this more evident than in their choice of food.

traditional-english-wedding-fruitcake.jpegWhen William and Kate marry this week, their wedding cake will be a traditional one. In Great Britain, this apparently means fruitcake. If the word "fruitcake" doesn't exactly ring your wedding bells, you're probably thinking of those dense bricks of candied vegetative growth that get passed around at Christmas, and I'm guessing that the royal wedding cake won't bear much of a resemblance (at least I hope not). There will also be a groom's cake, at William's request, based on a childhood favorite.

But when Chelsea Clinton got married last year, she chose a gluten-free wedding cake and a mainly vegan menu (apparently there was grass-fed beef on the menu as well, but it wasn't the star of the show), prompting some lively debate among foodies over the question of whether or not a bride and groom ought to impose their own dietary preferences on their guests (I say that as long as the food is good, why not?). Clinton's choices apparently prompted some brides to personalize their own wedding menus to fall more in line with their own tastes.

The royals, who will be celebrating William and Kate's marriage with an early hors d'oeuvres reception and an evening dinner, are far more likely to give their guests what the guests expect (and we'll have more on that later in the week).

The bottom line when it comes to tradition? Independent-thinking Americans, even "royal" ones, seem more likely to set some trends and follow their own inclinations when it comes to planning a high profile wedding. How trendsetting William and Kate's wedding menu choices will be remains to be seen, but as long as the guests have a good time, that's really all that matters.

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Lisa McKay is the executive editor at The Morton Report.

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