There are some things that Britons are categorically good at: Scripted period dramas, producing triangular sandwiches that can be easily consumed on the go, and good manners.
I was raised to take pride in the British penchant for minding one’s Ps and Qs—thanks to my British mother ruthlessly instilling proper manners in me when I was growing up in America. But when I reached my mid-twenties, after I had moved to Britain, I was shocked to observe in Brits something that I consider an affront to all that is polite and decent: inviting people to your wedding, but not paying for their meals and drinks.
This strange tradition takes a few forms, but usually a selection of guests is invited only to the “drinks and dancing” portion of the evening. Meaning they are not invited the wedding ceremony nor the reception (and the dinner and drinks that entails), and are expected to arrive at the pub or wedding venue and pay for their own drinks at the bar. In this setup, the tier-one friends arrive at the wedding at about 3pm, while the lesser folk rock up at 9pm.
In other cases, one is invited to the whole event—ceremony, reception, and all—but only given a thimble of prosecco and a salmon and crème fraîche tartlet. And if you think this would eliminate the expectation of a wedding present, think again.
Just look at the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, who have announced that they have invited 1,200-some “commoners”—staff and volunteers from various charities around Britain—to sit on the grounds of Windsor Castle on the day of their May 19 wedding. But they should pack their own picnics, these “guests” have been told.
As Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore wrote, “Harry and Meghan’s 600 actual guests will get the works, but the people chosen because they serve the most vulnerable in their communities will be left milling about for hours and are now Googling Windsor for the nearest supermarkets.”
I get it—weddings are expensive (even, perhaps, for the Royal Family with their £400 million-plus net worth). Also, British people possess absolutely no chill when it comes to booze, so an open bar could feasibly turn into the down payment on a house. But also: Can’t you just put some table wine down with a simple pasta bake? It’s not about the quality of the catering, but the spirit of the thing.
Meghan and Harry, honestly, just get those commoners some packaged tuna cucumber and prawn mayo sandwiches! They’ll have no trouble eating them while simultaneously waving their Union Jacks.