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you know I could of used some of this info last year ;) >>
If a non-resident foriegner wants to get married in the UK, you must "prove" that you understand English sufficiently well to understand that you are in fact getting involved in a marrige ceremony and that the outcome is that you will be married.
It starts off with basic carefully pronounced "What Is Your Name" type stuff. But, in my case at least, the official couldn't keep up with this unnatural way of talking. The actual vows (during this pre-marriage check) rapped out in some weird accent seemed incomprehensible!
To make sure everything goes smoothly, remember: A leg-nudge and a glare from your partner means YES, distainful rolling of the eyes means NO. All the questions will be answered successfully.
Then you will get a copy of the vows to practice with. This is as well because, whatever you do, do NOT use the nudge/eyes-rolling system during the actual ceremony. If you do, your in-laws are going to think of you as Wimp/Wimpess of the World.
Our wedding (in 1977) was bilingual and ecumenical. My husband (German, Catholic) was not asked to prove he could speak English though, although we did have a chat with the my (CofE) vicar. To this day, I have no idea how much he understood. We (me and the vicar) sang a couple of hymns for him to see which ones he would like to have sung at the Wedding and he got one confused with one he thought he knew.
I did a lot of research (Church, Embassy, etc) to try and find an official translation into German of the Wedding Ceremony, but no one was willing to help and in the end I did it myself. My mother typed it up - she speaks no German, and only had an old Underwood with the English keys - but the programme in the end included the complete translation into German.
The vicar invited his Catholic colleague, Tony his name was, to say a prayer - which he did in German. Both vicar and priest came along to the reception for a quick drink and the whole thing was totally amicable.
The Germans found it odd that the bride and groom had to be under separate rooves the night before the wedding.
We hit a good happy medium between tradition and not overdoing things, I think. It wasn't stiff and uncomfortable, but all the important things were included.
"You shouldn't do something you'll regret having done in 20 years' time" was my motto. My cousin had got married some 10 years before in a very mini dress, which for 1967 was fine, but the pictures must have embarrassed her to death in later decades. I had an Edwardian style dress and flowers in my hair, but I regret not having had a hat to go with it. We couldn't find one in exactly the right white.
Here in Germany, people spend utter fortunes on dresses. I went over to England 1 week before the wedding (I was lucky to be given holiday from work really at all) and bought my dress off the peg on a spree with my sister.
My mother organised venues, programmes, invitations, food. Again I don't know how much work it was, but no one could have done it better, and she made it look easy.
German wedding etiquette isn't mentioned in the entry. My omission! Although I have described it elsewhere on H2G2 before somewhere.