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wedding or marriage?

Morena Diego from Italy asks:

Could you please explain to me the difference between wedding and marriage?

Roger Woodham replies: more questions

wedding / wed

A wedding is a marriage ceremony which is held in church or a registry office and also includes the party or special meal which follows the ceremony. All of this usually happens on your wedding day.

There are a number of other wedding compounds that are associated with wedding day:

  • The newlyweds had told everybody that they wanted no wedding presents as they were emigrating to Australia.
  • The predominant colour at Sophie's wedding was creamy white. Her wedding dress was this colour and the icing on the three-tier wedding cake was this colour too.
  • Is it true that in Britain you wear your wedding ring on the third finger of your left hand?
  • A silver wedding is celebrated after 25 years of marriage and a golden wedding after 50 years.


If you wed someone, you marry them, but wed is not used very much nowadays as a verb as it is rather old-fashioned. It can sound quite effective however, because it is unusual. Sometimes it has a poetic ring to it:

  • We got wed soon after the baby was born.
  • I shall never wed as I like to be independent.

marriage / marry / get married

Marriage describes the relationship between husband and wife or the state of being married:

  • They enjoyed a long and happy marriage.
  • Most marriages these days do not last.
  • The bride's parents did not approve of Victoria's marriage to George.



If you marry someone, that person becomes your husband or wife and we use the verb marry in preference to wed normally.

However, even more usual than marry is get married. This use of get with a past participle is a very common structure in contemporary English and is used across a range of common expressions. It has the same sort of force as reflexive verbs have in other languages. Thus in English we would say: Don't get lost! NOT Don't lose yourselves! Consider the following:

  • I married the man next door / I got married to the man next door.
  • They didn't get dressed until two o'clock in the afternoon.
  • I didn't bother to get washed as I knew I would be working on the farm.
  • Remember, it's a big dark wood. Be careful not to get lost.
  • We had known each other for fifteen years before we got engaged.
  • I never get invited to Sarah's parties.
  • We got married on 10 June, but by the beginning of the autumn both of us knew that the marriage would not last and that sooner or later we would have to get a divorce / get divorced.

Interestingly, although we can say they married and they divorced as an alternative to they got married and they got divorced, we cannot say: they engaged. Here, only they got engaged is possible.



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