a party that a man has with his male friends just before he gets married, often the night before CultureweddingsA wedding is the occasion when people get married. Marriage is the state of being married, though the word can also mean the wedding ceremony.Before getting married a couple usually get engaged. It is traditional for the man to propose (= ask his girlfriend to marry him) and, if she accepts, to give his new fiancée an engagement ring, which she wears on the third finger of her left hand. Today many couples decide together to get married. In England, Wales and Scotland, and in some states of the US, it is legal for couples of the same sex to marry.The couple then set a date and decide who will perform the marriage ceremony and where it will be held. In the US judges and religious leaders can perform weddings. Religious weddings are often held in a church or chapel, but the ceremony can take place anywhere and couples often choose somewhere that is special to them. In Britain many couples still prefer to be married in church, even if they are not religious. Others choose a civil ceremony conducted by a registrar at a registry office, or, since 1994 when the law was changed, at one of the many hotels and historic buildings which are licensed for weddings.Traditionally, the family of the bride (= the woman who is to be married) paid for the wedding, but today the couple usually pay part of the cost. Many people choose a traditional wedding with a hundred or more guests. Before the wedding, the couple send out printed invitations and guests buy a gift for them, usually something for their home. In the US couples register at a store by leaving there a list of presents they would like. Guests go to the store to look at the list and buy a present. In Britain couples send a wedding list to guests or, as in America, open a bride's book in a large store.Before a wedding can take place in a church it must be announced there on three occasions. This is called the reading of the banns. Some religious groups refuse to allow a couple to marry in church if either of them has been divorced, but they may agree to bless the marriage after a civil ceremony.Before the wedding the bride and bridegroom or groom (= her future husband) often go to separate parties given for them by friends. At the groom's stag party guests drink alcohol and joke about how the groom is going to lose his freedom. For the bride there is a hen party, called in the US a bachelorette party. Sometimes these parties take the form of a weekend trip to a foreign city.At the wedding the groom's closest male friend acts as the best man and stands next to him during the ceremony. Other friends act as ushers and show guests where to sit. The bride's closest woman friend is chief bridesmaid (AmE maid of honour), or matron of honour if she is married, and other friends are bridesmaids. Children are bridesmaids if they are girls or pages if they are boys.Many women choose to have a white wedding, and wear a long white wedding dress, with a veil (= a piece of thin white material) covering the face. The bride's wedding clothes should include 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue', to bring luck. The bridesmaids wear matching dresses specially made for the occasion and, like the bride, carry bouquets of flowers. The bridegroom, the best man and other men may wear morning dress (= a long-tailed jacket, dark trousers and a top hat) or, in the US, a tuxedo (= a black suit with a white shirt). Women guests dress smartly and often wear hats. Men often hire their clothes for a wedding but women often use a wedding as an opportunity to buy something new.The bride traditionally arrives at the church a few minutes late and enters with her father who will give her away to her husband. The bride and groom exchange vows (= promise to stay together and support each other). The groom places a wedding ring on the third finger of the bride's left hand, and sometimes the bride gives him a ring too. The couple are then declared man and wife. They sign the register (= the official record of marriages) and as they leave the church guests throw rice or confetti (= small pieces of coloured paper in lucky shapes, such as horseshoes and bells) over them.The ‘happy couple’ and their guests then go to the wedding reception at the bride's home, a hotel or the place where the ceremony took place if it was not a church or registry office. There are often speeches by the best man, the bride's father and the bridegroom. The bride and groom together cut a wedding cake, which usually has several tiers (= layers), each covered with white icing (AmE frosting), with figures of a bride and groom on the top one. Before the newly-weds leave for their honeymoon (= a holiday to celebrate their marriage) the bride throws her bouquet in the air: there is a belief that the woman who catches it will soon be married herself. The car the couple leave in has usually been decorated by their friends with the words ‘just married’ and with old tin cans or shoes tied to the back.