Cultural norms / Relationships / Turkey

English weddings, Turkish weddings: a cultural comparison (part 2)

After dealing with the sometimes unnervingly large differences between ceremony, dress and gift-giving in part 1 of this post on the cultural differences between English and Turkish weddings, here is part 2:

Invitations: in the UK, it is customary to send wedding invitations months (sometimes even more than twelve months) in advance. This, I think, is due to the combination of the British love for order, which demands intense amounts of forward planning, and the infernal machinations of the British “wedding industry”, which mean that venues and other “wedding service providers” (cringe) get booked up years in advance. Of course, there are couples who fight back and send their invitations just a couple of months ahead and don’t get freaked out by the wedding pressure, but the general trend seems to be to invite people well in advance so you know they can all make it. Regardless of when you send your invitations, people will tell you whether or not they can make it, you will know how many people are coming to your wedding, and people who have not been invited will not show up.

Here in Turkey, things couldn’t be more different. I have been nagging E to write his half of the invitations for months, to no avail (well, three quarters of the invitations, actually, as he has a much bigger family than me and they’re ALL coming). It’s only in the last couple of weeks that he appears to have felt any sense of urgency whatsoever. Last week (W minus 16 days), we were having a family crafting session at home, making wedding favours with the in-laws, when E decided that it might be time to start writing some invitations. The response from his niece? It’s too early. TOO. EARLY. That’s correct, people. Sixteen days before our wedding is TOO EARLY to send people invitations. The concomitant difficulty of this approach to invitations is that WE STILL DON’T KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE COMING TO OUR WEDDING. What’s more, even though we have now begun inviting people and getting replies, it’s perfectly acceptable to show up to a wedding in Turkey without having received an invitation OR having let the couple know you’re coming.

Now, my pre-wedding planning self would have gone into convulsions at the uncertainty (and sometimes, even now, I wake up in a hot sweat about table plans). But I long ago gave up trying to impose British order on our Turkish-British wedding celebration, so these days I simply shrug and continue glueing.

Winner: it really depends on what your nerves can handle, but I’d have to say English weddings


Food: in the UK, you’re generally invited to the whole wedding-reception caboodle or just to the reception: in either case, you’re almost always given food of some sort at some point. This may not be true at some weddings, I’m sure, but I have never been to a wedding without food. In Turkey, it’s completely normal to go to someone’s wedding, congratulate the couple, dance for a while, then go home. For me, this is a pretty strange contrast with typical Turkish hospitality. I think it stems from a) my first point in Part 1 about lack of ceremony, and b) my point above about invitations, and the resulting fact that not knowing how many people will show up makes planning catering rather difficult. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong about not providing food – it makes a lot of sense here, in fact – but it just feels like a bit of a shame.

Winner: I love food, so it’s simply got to be English weddings


Drink: when we were looking for a wedding venue, I was repeatedly stunned by how many lovely venues didn’t allow alcohol to be served. Of course, again, in the Turkish context this makes a lot of sense. Not everyone drinks here. A comparison of countries by alcohol consumption rates, courtesy of the OECD, tells us that while, on average Britons consume 10 litres of pure alcohol per person per year, Turks consume just 1 litre per person per year. Thus, it is perfectly normal for weddings to be dry here. I’m not a big drinker so this is not a problem for me at all… except when it comes to the prospect of my own wedding.

The prospect of not even a single glass of champagne for the toast, when fifty of my closest friends and family have flown thousands of miles just to be there, quickly ensured that “alcohol license” was added to our list of venue requirements. Of course, balancing the drinkers and the non-drinkers in our catering arrangements, and not offending anyone in the process, is an entire story in itself, but I’ll save that one for another day.

Winner: definitely English weddings on this one




2 thoughts on “English weddings, Turkish weddings: a cultural comparison (part 2)

  1. Pingback: English weddings, Turkish weddings: a cultural comparison (part 1) | Love in Istanbul

  2. American weddings are a lot like English weddings when it comes to food, drink, and invitations – although we usually send “save the dates” a year in advance and then the invitation 3-6 months before the wedding.

    I went dress shopping this weekend (the wedding is in January) and every store told me it is too early to be dress shopping. It will only take “1 month” to make a dress that would typically take 8 months in the states. I’m a little nervous that my dress will unravel at the wedding. We’ll see!

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