In a few short days, on May 19th, billions of people around the globe will watch as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tie the knot. Weddings in the British Royal Family always attract global attention and are a symbol of royal decadence and lavishness. They are also heavily steeped in tradition and protocol. In this week’s blog we will look into some intriguing facts about British Royal Weddings.
The question of how many guests to expect is an interesting one. It is tricky to quantify exactly and official numbers are scaled down as the day proceeds. Initially there are 2,640 who have been invited to observe the official arrival of the happy couple inside the gates of Windsor Castle. Then 600 guests are invited inside St. George’s Chapel inside the castle where the wedding ceremony will be taking place. Later on, a very specially selected group of approximately 200 guests (the closest friends and relatives) are invited for the Reception Dinner hosted by Prince Charles himself at Frogmore House. I wonder if they’ll play any Disco Polo?
What to Wear?
Guests are given special instructions with respect to what they may and may not wear. Many of these things would seem pretty obvious on top of the fact that you would want to wear the most intensely formal, formal-wear you could find.
- Lounge suits or single-breasted suits with tails
- Those in the military are encouraged to wear their military uniform
- Top Hats for men are optional but can be worn outside only and must be carried indoors
- Tuxedos are traditionally associated with ‘evening wear’ and are frowned upon if the event is before 6pm.
And gents…no hands in your pockets!
- Morning dresses (as opposed to evening gowns)
- No black dresses. It is a wedding, not a funeral.
- No white/cream dresses….unless you are the bride, of course.
- No bare shoulders or spaghetti straps.
- It is tradition to wear hats and they sometimes become very lavish and ‘haute couture’.
Who will catch the Bouquet?
The bouquet is a very ornately prepared collection of flowers that, since 1840, must contain a few sprigs of myrtle hand-picked from Queen Victoria’s 170 year old garden in Osborn. Queen Victoria began the tradition in 1840 when she wed Prince Albert.
In many cultures there is a tradition of tossing the wedding bouquet to single ladies among the guests to see who will catch it and therefore be the next to marry. This, however is NOT practised among modern day British royalty. The bouquet is taken to be placed on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Windsor Castle to commemorate those who have died in battle.
We all know of the traditional custom of asking the bride’s parents for permission to marry. This is largely symbolic and serves no actual functional purpose aside from being customary and perhaps a bit polite. Harry apparently did follow this traditional path but this was not the only (nor the most important) permission he needed to get. Members of the Royal Family wishing to get married need to ask for permission of the current monarch in order to be able to carry out their wedding vows.
The Official Instrument of Consent was signed in March but photos of the signed document were released to the public just last Sunday. The wording is very stately and proclaims “Now know ye that we have consented and do by these presents signify our consent to the contracting of matrimony between our most dearly beloved grandson Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales KCVO and Rachel Meghan Markle.” Her Majesty was extremely unlikely to deny consent to the marriage but Harry and Meghan can now breathe a sigh of relief with that bureaucracy behind them.
Well as you can see a Royal Wedding seems to involve a lot more pomp and circumstance but nevertheless it will be a splendid and joyous event capturing the attention of people the world over.
Pomp and circumstance – ornate celebration and fuss
‘tie the knot’ – (an idiom) to get married
Frowned upon- looked down upon, disapproved of
Lavish – elaborate and luxurious