First things first. A traditional wedding breakfast doesn’t have to be served in the morning.
To most Americans, the word “breakfast” conjures up the pancakes and eggs of our first meal of the day. But the British have a much more fluid concept when it comes to wedding breakfast.
In Great Britain, a wedding breakfast is a meal or reception that can be served mid-morning, mid-day or even in the evening.
At Prince William and Catherine’s 2011 royal wedding, which began at 11 a.m., the couple served a traditional wedding breakfast of canapés following the ceremony. Later, the couple served their guests again at a formal evening reception. (1)
So where did this term come from? There seems to be some dispute over the historical timeline and significance for wedding breakfast. However it appears the first recorded mention of a wedding breakfast in print was in the London Times in 1838. So, it’s fairly safe to assume this tradition has been around a long time. (2)
The term ‘wedding breakfast” was most likely first used in a literal sense to describe the breaking of a food fast. Historically it was common in Catholic and Protestant churches to fast before taking communion and/or before taking sacred marriage vows. Once the ceremony was complete, the newly married couple would break their fast together with family and sometimes guests. (3)
No matter how the term wedding breakfast arose, many British couples still embrace the traditional description. And more American couples are opting for it as well. Maybe it’s a nod to their British ancestry, Maybe it’s a longing for something a bit different. Maybe it’s an excuse to serve their favorite breakfast foods.
That’s the beauty of a traditional wedding breakfast. You can serve anything you like, from a three-course sit-down meal to simple canapes. If you’re going for a real British flair, you might even try adding Yorkshire pudding or a trifle to your menu.
Whatever the reason for the term wedding breakfast, it’s a wonderful tradition bringing together the newly married couple and their guests to enjoy good food and good conversation.
So don’t let semantics keep you from exploring the traditional wedding breakfast option – it’s really yours to create. And if you need a little help with your planning, check out our wedding checklist.