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If you're travelling to the UK to marvel at a marriage, you might be in for a surprise. Here's our guide as to what to expect
Words by Mr Dan Davies

With all the fuss over the upcoming royal wedding, there's a chance that some of you might think all British marriage ceremonies involve state coaches, liveried footmen and invitations whose dress code for men state: "Uniform, morning coat or lounge suit." Be warned: this is not always the case. Yes, the British love a wedding - despite the annual number of UK marriages falling by a third since 1981, the year in which Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer walked down the aisle in front of an estimated global television audience of 750 million - but the UK ceremony comes in many, and not always such alluring, forms.

Whether it's the pomp and pageantry of a royal marriage, the acres of tabloid coverage devoted to the excesses of celebrity weddings, or the customs and costumes of nuptials within the travelling community, as highlighted in the recent hit UK documentary series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, you'll need to know what might lie in store if you're travelling to Britain for a wedding this year.

What you will see: London brought to a standstill by hordes of flag-waving well-wishers (many of whom will have camped overnight to secure the best spot); people smiling at each other (and not just because they've been given a day off work); ornate horse-drawn carriages; an eclectic guest list made up of international royalty, heads of state, the British aristocracy, sundry religious leaders, Mr Elton John, the Beckhams and, of course, numerous members of Boujis, a nightclub favoured by the Princes William and Harry

What you won't see: the best man's speech
What you will see: 17-year-old brides and sheepish bridegrooms (á la the subject of a popular UK documentary series on traveller weddings); dresses outlandish enough to make Lady Gaga think twice (may well include battery-operated lights and robotic butterflies); pink stretch Hummers or fairy princess carriages pulled by ponies; spray-on tans in varying shades of mahogany; extremely anxious-looking venue staff

What you won't see: the men and women sitting together at the reception
What you will see: rosy-cheeked men with flyaway hair; immaculately groomed blondes in hats and pearls; signet rings bearing family crests; Savile Row morning suits or kilts (often worn by men with non-Scottish accents); the bride arriving in a vintage Bentley (owned by her father); the reception taking place in a stately home (also owned by the bride's father); seating plans featuring a large number of double and triple-barrelled names; bad dancing; extravagant eyebrows

What you won't see: a pink stretch Hummer
What you will see: tattoos and shaved heads (and not just on the men); shiny suits and fat tie knots (loosened over the course of the day until the ties are worn around the head); deep-fried reception food; red wine teeth; the bride on the dance floor clutching a pint of lager and a packet of cigarettes; over-exuberant renditions of the Hokey Cokey; a family disagreement; the bride in tears; the police called

What you won't see: vegetables on the menu
What you will see: lurid headlines following the stag do; the groom dressed like something from Dangerous Liaisons; monogrammed thrones for the newlyweds; numerous costume changes; the happy couple posing for photos for a weekly magazine (hey, it paid for the party); a faded boy band providing the entertainment; more lurid headlines the following day

What you won't see:any change from £500,000
What you will see: a ban on guests bringing mobile phones or cameras; the paparazzi on stepladders; a no-fly zone enforced above the church and reception venue; the bride arriving in a limo with blacked-out windows; guests in expensive sunglasses; adopted children as bridesmaids and pageboys; albino peacocks; tattoos instead of rings; a wedding cake big enough to require a chainsaw

What you won't see: much, unless you've got an invite
What you will see: the groom getting kidnapped before the ceremony; either bride or groom being jilted at the altar; the groom failing to tell the bride that he's already married; a spurned pregnant lover piping up when the vicar says "speak now or forever hold your peace"; the bride being caught on camera canoodling with her father-in-law who she has been having an on-off affair with; the bride jumping off the roof of the church

What you won't see: everything going off without a hitch
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