Free Resources for Students and Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in China - by Paul Sparks

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Paul Sparks, Online Business English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Grade 1 English Conversation Lessons at Xiangtan Normal University...





Lesson Objectives
The objectives of this lesson are to make students aware of the wedding customs in the  UK and to generate discussion about births, deaths and marriages in both China and the UK. To increase the students participation in lessons and to help give more confidence in speaking to the class in English.


Lesson Activities
Students will act out an English wedding and also a Chinese wedding ceremony. Open discussion about births, deaths and marriages.


Weddings in the UK

(NOTE: Woman = "Bride", Man = "Groom")

"Something Old, something New, something Borrowed and something Blue" - Traditional, well known rhyme, which list some things the Bride must wear when she gets married.

The A to Z of Weddings...(for more details on each see further down this page)

A is for ALBUM - Your wedding day is unique and pictures of this special day are unique too, because as the memory fades they will be a constant, vivid reminder of your happiest moments. So ensure you have perfect photographs by employing a professional.

B is for BRIDE AND BRIDESMAIDS - Once the wedding date is set the bride will have a full diary right until the big day. One of your first tasks is to choose your bridesmaids. The bridesmaids job is to help the bride on the wedding day. Another pleasurable task is choosing your wedding dress, whether it is going to be made, bought or loaned and assist your bridesmaids in choosing their outfits. Together with the groom you will decide on your guest list, send invitations, book the wedding cars, reception, photographer and flowers, so the sooner the planning starts the easier it will be. A bridesmaid is usually a sister of the bride or groom or a close friend of the bride. 

C is for CHURCH - Once you have decided to marry in a church and set the date, it is important you see the church minister as soon as possible. Once you have booked the church the minister will offer you advice on the form of service, choice of hymns and wedding music.

D is for DATE - Whether it is booking the church or reception venue, selecting your photographer or choosing your flowers, remember to book early to avoid disappointment.

E is for ENTERTAINMENT - If you have decided to have an evening reception, as well as booking a suitable venue, you have to think about the type of entertainment you require whether you want a live group or band or a disco. Today most people have discos, but before booking a certain DJ ensure he can meet all your requirements. For instance, can he play all ranges of music from waltzes for the older guests to the latest sounds around?

F is for FLOWERS - The wedding bouquet and wedding flowers are an important part of your wedding and must be chosen with great care. The wedding bouquet must complement your dress, while the bridesmaids' bouquets must suit their dresses. There is a choice between fresh or silk flowers for bouquets, garland and corsages, The florist will advise you on your choice and you may well prefer the beautiful fragrance and natural beauty of fresh flowers. It is also a good idea, if possible, to take a piece of cloth from your wedding dress and bridesmaids' dresses to the florist.

G is for GROOM AND BEST MAN - The groom and best man must also look after their wedding attire. (Best man is the best friend of the Groom) If it is going to be morning suits they will have the choice of whether to hire or buy their suits. If it is going to be ordinary suits then again they can buy or hire dark suits, but if hiring, it is important to reserve your suits early. The groom chooses the best man and ushers, pays for the ring, fees and gifts for the bridesmaids and ushers, flowers, transport and traditionally the honeymoon.

H is for HONEYMOON - Put yourself in the hands of a reputable travel company whether you are honeymooning in this country or abroad. It is also important to go to a travel agency early to ensure you get the dates and destination you want.

I is for INVITATIONS - For anything other than a very small wedding, printed or engraved invitations are the most convenient. Most stationers have samples so it is a good idea to look through a few books and get comparative quotations before making your final choice. It is a good idea to post invitations at least six weeks ahead to give people a chance to plan ahead and note down your replies for the catering numbers.

J is for JEWELLERY - It is a good idea to start looking for your wedding rings three months ahead in case they need altering. Very often the groom will buy the bridesmaids an item of jewellery, such as a cross and chain or bracelet, as his wedding gift.

K is for KISS - When the minister or registrar utters those famous words, 'kiss the bride', you know your wedding day worries were unfounded it's gone like a dream!

L is for LOVE - Your wedding day is the start of a lifetime of love and sharing together, so ensure everything is well planned and organised in advance so you won't miss a minute of this unique day.

M is for MORTGAGE - Most newlyweds wish to start off married life in their own home and plans for house buying must start as soon as possible. House particulars are available from estate agents and once you have viewed a property you wish to buy, the next stage is to arrange a mortgage.

N is for - NEWSPAPER ANNOUNCEMENTS - If you wish, news of your engagement and forthcoming marriage can be placed in your local newspapers. Most wedding photographers will also ensure that a wedding day photograph will appear in your local newspapers.

0 is for OUTFITS - As well as choosing your beautiful wedding dress you must also decide what other outfits you will require. For instance, if you are having an evening reception are you going to wear your wedding dress so guests who are attending only the reception can see it? Or are you having a separate outfit?

P is for PRESENTS - One ideal way of coping with wedding presents is to compile a wedding list which you can give to all your guests to give them ideas of what you really need. Include the complete price range of gifts so no-one feels obliged to 'spend a fortune'. Keep a master list for yourself so you know which items are being bought for you.

Q is for QUEST FOR THE BEST - Obviously, you want everything to be perfect for your wedding day, so it is always a good idea to allow yourself to shop around and compare services and prices.

R is for RECEPTION - When organising your reception you must decide whether or not you require an evening reception, and if you are going to have the same venue throughout the day.

S is for SPEECHES - Speeches are an important part of a wedding, but they should be brief, sincere and humorous if possible. The bride's father or an old family friend proposes a toast to the bride and groom's health. The bridegroom replies and should thank those who have given the wedding.

T is for TRANSPORT - Wedding cars should be booked as early as possible. As most people have their own cars, sometimes the only cars required are for the attendants, immediate family and you and your father. Don't forget to check your travel arrangements one week before the wedding.

U is for USHERS - Formal church weddings require a minimum of three ushers. They hand out service sheets to guests on arrival and show them to their seats. The bride's family is on the left-hand side of the altar, the bridegroom's on the right. The ushers are chosen by the groom and his best man and are usually brothers, close relatives or friends.

V is for VIDEO - Having a professional video made of your wedding day is the ideal way of keeping cherished memories alive.

W is for WEDDING CAKE - Your wedding cake should be moist, rich and beautiful and it should photograph well X is for the kiss that started it.

Y is for why WORRY? - If you have followed our guide everything will be well organised and go without a hitch.

Z ... zzz - Is for sleeping peacefully knowing you will have a splendid day.

Weddings - The Legal Requirements

If you wish to marry in England and Wales you may do so either by civil or religious ceremony. A civil ceremony can take place at a register office or other premises approved by the local authority for marriages (e.g. hotel, stately home etc.) A religious ceremony can take place at a Church or Chapel of the Church of England or Church of Wales or any other place of worship which has been formally registered by the Registrar General for marriages. 

Forbidden Marriages
You must not be related to each other in a way that is forbidden by Law. The minimum legal age for getting married is 16 years old. In England and Wales the written consent of the parents or Guardians is required for persons who have not reached 18 years old and have not been previously married. If either of the persons is below 18 a birth certificate must be produced. It is preferred that all persons produce such evidence. 

Both partners must be acting by their own consent. 

Second and subsequent marriages
There is no limit to the number of marriages you can enter into providing you are free to do so. That is you are widowed or have been divorced and granted a decree absolute. Evidence will be required to be produced i.e. original death certificate or divorce absolute certificate with the original court seal. (photocopies are not acceptable) 

Wedding Procedures

Civil Ceremony
If you wish to marry by civil ceremony, that is at a register office or other approved building for civil marriage, you should first contact the Superintendent Registrar of the district where you wish to marry. You may marry at any register office or approved premises of your choice in England and Wales. However, for a marriage in an approved premises, you will need to make arrangements at the venue in question. In addition you will need to give a formal notice of your marriage to the Superintendent Registrar of the district(s) where you live. 

Church of England or Church of Wales
If you wish to be married in the Church of England or Church of Wales - and generally you will be able to so so only if you or your partner live in the parish - you should first speak to the Vicar. If he is able to marry you he will arrange for the Banns to be called on three Sundays before the day of the ceremony or for a common licence to be issued. The marriage will also be registered by the Vicar and there is generally no need to involve the local Superintendent Registrar. 

Other places of religious worship
If you wish to marry by religious ceremony other than the Church of England or Church of Wales you should first arrange to see the Minister or other person in charge of marriages at the building. However, the Church or religious building in question must be in the registration district where you or your partner live. It will also be necessary to give formal notice of your marriage to the Superintendent Registrar of the district(s) where you live. A registrar may also need to be booked. 

The legal formalities
Unless you are marrying in the Church of England or Church of Wales by Banns or Common Licence You and / or your partner must attend personally at the register office for the district(s) where you live and give notice of your marriage to the Superintendent Registrar. 

Notice of marriage can be given in one of two ways: 
Superintendent Registrar's certificate without licence 
This is the most common form of notice and a form giving the couples names and addresses, ages and location of the ceremony will have to be completed together with a declaration that there is no legal objection to the marriage. 

Residency requirements
If both partners reside in the same registration district. Each partner must have lived in that district for at least seven days prior to giving notice to the Superintendent Registrar of that district. Either party may give notice. 

If the couple reside in different districts to each other, then each person must give notice in his/her district or either party must give notice in both districts. However notice cannot be given until both persons have lived in their respective districts for at least seven days. 

After the Superintendent Registrar has established that he can take notice of marriage, it is entered into a marriage notice book and a statutory form is displayed on a public notice board for 21 clear days. (This is the equivalent period that banns are published in the Church of England) The reason for this is to allow anyone who has any objection to the marriage to register his objection. 

A certificate of marriage is then issued (Not a Marriage Certificate which is issued after the wedding) and held at register office until the day of marriage. If notice of marriage is given in two districts, then one should be collected by the couple as it will have to be produced before the ceremony can go ahead. 

The marriage has to take place after 21 days and within one year of Notice of marriage having been given. If the marriage is postponed beyond the one year fresh notice will have to be given. (e.g. if notice is given on 1 July the marriage may take place on or after the 23 July) 

Superintendent Registrar's certificate and licence 'Special Licence'
This requires that one of you has lived in the registration district for at least 15 days prior to giving notice at the register office. Your partner need only be resident of or be physically in England and Wales on the day notice is given. This is a more expensive option but it then allows a marriage to take place after only one clear day of giving notice ( excluding a Sunday, Christmas Day or Good Friday). Be ready to provide certain documents to show the Superintendent Registrar these may include a passport or some other form of identification. If either of you are divorced you will need to show a decree absolute of your divorce. (e.g. you can give notice on a Monday and be married on the Wednesday) 

How far in advance to book
A notice of marriage is valid for one year. You may therefore not give notice of marriage to the Superintendent Registrar more than a year before the date of the Wedding. The sooner you arrange to book the marriage the more likely it is that you will get the date and time of your choice. The Superintendent Registrar will be able to give you more precise information in this respect. 

Documents needed
When you visit the Superintendent Registrar or Vicar to make the formal arrangements you will need to produce certain documents, for example if you have been married before a decree absolute of divorce bearing the court's original stamp, or if your previous spouse has died a certificate of death. 

It would also be useful if your birth certificate or passport (or some identity document) could be produced. Photocopies are unlikely to be accepted. Other documents may also be needed depending on the circumstances, for example, the consent of parents to a marriage where one of the partners is under the age of 18 years old. If you are not able to provide any of the above documents the Superintendent Registrar will explain what other documents may be acceptable. 

Notice of marriage must be given in person to the Superintendent Registrar by one or both of the partners. No one else can do so on their behalf. Where an advance booking for marriage has been made it is essential that a formal notice is given to the Superintendent Registrar once it is within three months of the marriage. 

The earliest recorded diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 by her fiance, Archduke Maximilian of Hapsburg. Although until the 19th Century only royalty and the very rich could afford diamonds, little did Maximilian know that he would set a trend for so many centuries. 

Wedding Traditions

The bride stands on the left and the groom on the right, so that the groom's sword-hand always remains free. This dates back the days when a groom kidnapped his bride-to-be and might, in the middle of the ceremony, be called upon to fend off intruders.

The bride's family is on the left-hand side of the altar, the bridegroom's on the right.

The right of women to propose to men on the February 29 each leap year, goes back hundreds of years, when the day had no recognition in English law. It was considered that the day also had no legal status – thus it was reasonable to assume that tradition had no status, so women took advantage of this and proposed to the man they wanted to marry. Women who want to take advantage of this ancient tradition can put it to the test on February 29 next year, in the new millennium. 

Confetti symbolises fertility. Paper confetti and rose petals are a modern substitute for rice and corn, the symbol of a full harvest and therefore abundance.

Something old stands for a link with the past, ensuring that friends will be faithful, and can cover a myriad of things from jewellery to a veil. Something new looks to the future, success in a new life; and must be either something newly made or never worn before. Something borrowed is where the family can contribute and refers to a link with the present, indicating that the bride takes with her the love of her family. The idea is to borrow something small and perhaps precious – a prayer book, a veil, a piece of jewellery, a hair decoration – but it should be returned after the wedding. And something blue? Blue is the colour of fidelity and can be worn to be seen, as in a blue trim, sash or flower in the bride's bouquet, or hidden from view, a sexy garter for instance. 

The wedding cake has symbolised fertility since Roman times and the custom of the bride cutting the first slice was supposed to ensure a fruitful marriage. On the wedding cake there should be a few silver horseshoes – silver stands for luck – and horseshoes for protection against the devil. 

White is always considered the traditional colour of wedding dresses, the sign of purity, but this is a fairly recent idea dating back to the late 18th Century. Long hair hanging down her back was an earlier sign of the bride's virginity. 

As the 19th Century began, the fashion was for white and gold as women aspired to resemble the classical Greek statue. In the mid 1920s fashion took on a very different look. The great designer Coco Channel kept her boyish look for day but her bridal gowns were feminine and simple. The feminine woman returned in the 1930s, personified by Greta Garbo. Wedding dresses for this period were of simple well-cut design, worn with a small coronet on the back of a short hairstyle to create the effect of height and gracefulness.

It's considered bad luck for a bride to try on her complete wedding outfit before the wedding day. And don't be surprised if you find a hair sewn into a handmade dress – to do this is supposed to bring good luck to the seamstress... 

The bridegroom does not have too many superstitions attached to him, but he must not drop his hat or the ring. Should the bride have to help him put the ring on her finger he can expect her to be boss in future. On no account must he go back for anything after the wedding journey has begun, any money he pays out during the day should be in odd sums, and he must ensure that no telegrams are handed to him on the way to the church. 

Ubest man was known as the groomsman. The groomsman was originally present to ensure the capture of the bride. His only qualification was that he should be unmarried, but today many grooms choose married best men.

Modern Weddings

Wedding Lists
Brides and grooms-to-be can register with a department store and compile a list of presents they'd like chosen from the stock in the shop. Then all the guests have to do is go along or telephone, say how much they want to spend and pick the gift from the list that suits their budget. As each gift is bought, it's ticked off the list so no one else can buy it. Most wedding services will wrap and deliver for you.

The Best man.... how to plan the ultimate stag night
The origin of the custom of holding such a night is unknown, but what is known is that it's likely to be the last big party the intended will have before his days as a single man are up. Traditionally the Stag night has taken place on the eve of the wedding. But this is not the case now, as there needs to be time to recover!!

There are many different interpretations of the "Stag Night" ranging from a drink up the pub one evening to a week away abroad with the lads, although a typical Stag Night would probably consist of a daytime activity (such as go-karting or clay pigeon shooting) followed by a pub crawl or nightclub. The best man would nowadays organise the whole event taking special care to ensure that some sort of embarrassment befalls the groom (A photographic record of this is a must for future blackmail.). 

Ideas For Stag Night Activities 
Go Kart Racing (indoor or outdoor) 
Quad bike racing 
Clay Pigeon Shooting 
Laser Quest 
Overnight Ferry Trip 
Butlins Weekend 

The Wedding Reception
The Bride and Groom will have left the church first so they should arrive at the reception venue first, closely followed by the parents. A Receiving Line should quickly be formed to receive the guests and at the head of the line should be the parents of the Bride as they are technically the hosts. Next should come the Groom’s parents followed by the Bride and Groom, and various attendants which is an optional choice. If the reception is a smaller less formal affair, the Bride and Groom may welcome the guests on their own.

The Wedding Cake
The cake is normally cut by the Bride and Groom after the speeches and toasts and photographs will be taken at the same time. Many of the guests will probably want to take a photograph so there should be some clear space around the table holding the cake. The Bride and Groom having made the initial cut, the caterers will cut the cake into small pieces and distribute it to the guests. Where the cake is in several tiers, the top tier will be kept intact to be used for the first child’s Christening. To make the cut, the Bride holds the knife and the Groom places his hand on hers. If the icing is hard Royal icing it can be given a start earlier on by using a sharp knife heated in boiling water to break the surface which will avoid any messy damage.

The departure of the Bride and Groom
An enterprising Best Man and the Bride’s and Groom’s friends will probably have comprehensively decorated the car in which they are to leave the reception with the traditional tin cans and crazy foam. It could be wise to have a second car secreted not too far away to continue the journey in but do not disappoint your guests by not leaving initially in the decorated car. The Best Man will announce the departure of the Bride and Groom who will at some stage of the proceedings have changed into their going-away outfits. Everyone can then join in the fun as they depart, throwing rice and confetti.

The Honeymoon
This is the traditional holiday which the married couple take after the wedding.

Wedding Customs and Superstitions

The Wedding Cake
No matter how great a cook the bride is, she must not make her own cake or she doom herself to working hard all her life. Neither must she sample a bit of it prior to serving it on her wedding day. The first slice must be cut by the bride or the couple be childless. Nowadays it has become tradition for the husband to assist in the operation by laying his hand over hers while she is cutting. This "cutting by committee" approach is said to signify that the couple announces it will share all possessions. 

The Wedding Dress
The color of the gown is deemed crucial in terms of what sort of luck it will attract to the marriage. White, silver, blue, pink, and gold are now considered the luckiest shades. Blue has always been popular because it signifies constancy, and often bridal favors are deliberately shaded this color to take advantage of its lucky properties. Nothing black should be worn by the bride, else she risks becoming a young widow. Green is also an unfortunate colour because of its associations with fairies, and its wearing is also said to foretell a change into clothes of mourning. Green has been deemed so unlucky that in Lowland Scotland neither bride nor guests would consider wearing it to a wedding. Brown is avoided because of an old belief that says those who wear it "will never live in town," a statement taken to mean their husbands will never rise in business or otherwise acquire riches that would enable the family to move up to finer surroundings. Purple is out because it is seen as a mourning color.

Married in white, You have chosen a right.
Married in blue, Your lover is true.
Married in pink, Your fortunes will sink.
Married in green, You will not long be seen.
Married in red, You'll wish you were dead.
Married in yellow, Ashamed of the fellow.
Married in brown, You'll live out of town.
Married in grey, You'll live far away.
Married in black, You'll wish you were back

The Wedding Ring
In Western society, the wedding ring is a deeply significant item, with its never-ending circlet of gold symbolizing a love without end. It is placed on the third finger of the left hand because ancient Greek physicians were convinced a vein ran from that finger straight to the heart. To lose or break the wedding ring is to foreshadow the end of the marriage through the loss of the husband. He will die, be unfaithful, or some unforeseen disaster will befall him.

We throw confetti or rice to wish the happy couple a fruitful marriage. The well-wishers' showering of the pair with colored bits of paper or dried grain acts out the community's desire to see the newlyweds showered with blessings from above, with those blessings interpreted as a houseful of children.

The Wedding Bouquet (Flowers)
These days the bride throws her bouquet to all the unmarried females present, the person who catches the bouquet is said to be the next bride. Customarily, the bride turns her back on the assembled maidens and flings her bouquet over her shoulder without looking, thus leaving fate a free hand.

Carrying the Bride over the Threshold (Doorway)
There is an old custom of having the groom carry his bride over the threshold. Nowadays, that threshold has come to mean the doorway into their hotel room, but those who are going to an actual house should play it safe and treat both the main door and the door to the bedroom as important thresholds.

Not seeing the Bride
Modern custom dictates that bride and groom not see each other before the ceremony. Generally, the pair must part ways no later than before midnight the evening prior to the big day. On the wedding day itself, the groom should even avoid entering his bride's home. This stricture against seeing one another is carried so far that grooms are cautioned not to look at their brides until they both stand at the altar. He must not even turn to watch her as she makes her way up the aisle, but should stand with his back to the assembly.

The Wedding Day
Monday for health, Tuesday for wealth, Wednesday's the best of all. Thursday brings crosses, and Friday losses,
but Saturday - no luck at all.

The Wedding Vows

The wedding service vows can be altered by the couple  if they wish to write their own. a more traditional wedding will use the following vows:

Who Gives this Woman to be married to this man?

("I do" or "Her mother and I do" or "We do")

Dearly Beloved, We are Gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the Face of this company, to join together this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God, and therefore, is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discreetly and advisedly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate, these two persons present come now to be joined. If any man or any woman can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him or her speak, or else hereafter forever hold his or her peace.

________________________, (Groom), Wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?

If so, please answer I will.

________________________, (Bride), wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband, to live together after God's Ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honour, and keep him in sickness and in Health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?

If so, please answer I will.
_____________(Groom) please repeat after me: I ________________(groom) take thee _________________(bride) to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.
_____________(Bride) please repeat after me: I __________________(bride) take thee _________________(groom) to be my wedded husband to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.
Do you have your rings? Please take the ring you are going to give your wife, and place it on her proper finger, and repeat after me:
With This ring, I thee wed.
Please take the ring you are going to give your husband, and place it on his proper finger, and repeat after me: With This ring, I thee wed.
Bless, oh Lord, the rings, that each who gives it, and each who wears it, may abide in thy peace, and continue in thy favour. Those whom God hath joined together, let no man or woman put asunder. For as much as ________________ and _________________ have consented together in holy wedlock, have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto, have given and pledged their troth, each to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving a right, and by joining hands; I pronounce that they are, Husband and Wife. You May Kiss Your Bride.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I now introduce to you as Husband and Wife, ________________ 

Weddings - News Articles


Most British Weddings No Longer Religious Ceremonies 
LONDON, Jan. 11th, 2001 - The majority of British weddings now take place without a religious ceremony, according to figures released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics. The office said 62 percent of marriages in 1999 were conducted by local authority registrars in civil ceremonies, rather than by church ministers, a marked rise from a decade earlier when most weddings still took place in church. Since the recent change in the law which allows wedding services to take place in hotels, stately homes, and even restaurants, nearly a quarter of all civil marriages are now not even held in a register office. The statistics also showed a drop in the total number of weddings in 1999 to 263,515 from 267,303 in the previous year. The slight decline may have been because couples were delaying getting married until the millennium year. 


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