Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wedding Fever

It’s hard to miss the sights and sounds of the forthcoming royal wedding. Images of palaces and spires, the strains of a wedding processional, and I’m back in front of a television set watching first Prince Charles’s wedding to Lady Diana Spencer and then, not so many years later, her funeral. Now that Prince William is about to wed Kate Middleton, the girl who will walk into Westminster Abbey a commoner and come out the world's first YouTube princess, I will occupy my spot in front of that little box again.

St. James’s Palace launched an official hub for the wedding with additional updates via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Flickr. By Friday afternoon, Kate Middleton will have become the most photographed woman on the planet.

Great Britain hasn’t seen a royal bash this big since since Charles married Diana 30 years ago, when there were 750 million viewers. Triple that number are expected to tune in to view their son William’s nuptials on Friday.

An army of royal planners are working to create the romantic spectacle that the world has come to expect on such an occasion. Westminster Abbey will be decorated with an avenue of growing trees lining the aisle and leading to the altar, in line with the bride’s wish that the decorations be sustainably sourced.

London is certainly rolling out the red carpet in preparation for this wedding of the century, and footing the hefty bill that goes with it. But it’s not only in England that interest is high – Nielsen reports that online media coverage of the wedding is considerably higher in America than in Britain. In fact, the vows will be uttered as people are rising in the US, giving the opportunity for wall-to-wall coverage throughout the day. Many Americans say that’s no problem – they won’t get up to toast the couple – they’ll stay up. Royal wedding viewing parties are planned across the country. I overheard a woman in my local grocery store saying that she was going to get up early and go to the Ritz Carlton at 4am for a viewing party followed by breakfast.

The Order of Service for the wedding has been made public, as have details about the decorations, the rings, the cake and the vows. The only remaining mystery, it seems, is the question of the bride’s wedding dress. When the groom’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, married in a time of post-war austerity, many across England sent in their coupons so that she could have a better wedding dress. Kate Middleton’s gown is said to have cost $50,000, but nobody knows what it looks like or who has designed it. The royal family will not release any details until Middleton arrives at Westminster Abbey on April 29th - but that has not stopped the endless guessing. A tent has been set up in front of the Goring Hotel (where the bride is staying) to where she will get into the carriage, to ensure that no one sees the dress until she arrives at the abbey.

William and Kate have chosen music that reflects the mood and setting of the occasion, encompassing works by Elgar, Britten, Vaughan Williams and Hubert Parry, including the stirring hymn "Jerusalem". After the ceremony the bells of Westminster Abbey will ring out in celebration for 3 hours across a crowd of more than a million people.

Hopefully the sun will shine on the bride and groom and all those who will be thronging the mall in hopes of catching a glimpse of the couple, though forecasters have indicated a strong chance of storms and high winds, possibly even the odd lightning strike. The royal couple risk getting wet as they plan to ride in an open carriage so that the crowds can see them in their wedding outfits. However, officials at St. James's Palace remain positive, saying that people are used to rain in Britain and probably would not be put off coming to line the route or crowding around Buckingham Palace. The newlyweds will appear on the palace balcony at 1:25pm for their much-anticipated kiss – rain or shine. And Tesco will print the kiss on a mug within an hour after that.

Odds-makers on the streets of London – who will bet on anything - are taking odds on crazy ideas, such as whether Kate will jilt William at the altar, or on safer bets such as Prince Philip falling asleep during the service, which I'll probably do as well. I'm not used to being up at the crack of dawn.


  1. That's a lot of pressure on a toddling marriage. I would shrivel up entirely under that kind of scrutiny. Blessings on the young pair and may they have the system of support to weather the absurdity of the circus. I know that sounds a bit cynical but I got married in my grandparents' garden with fifty people in attendance and that was about as much fanfare as I would wish for.

  2. Greetings Raining Acorns,
    There seems to be a perception that the quaintness that is the British Isles, is rejoicing in the whole extravaganza.
    However, get past the hype, the media circus and you will see a different reality. It has been suggested that a large majority of the British public see this as a rather garish show, in an austere time when so many British folks, like so many in the world, are suffering.
    It might be considered to be a bit of light relief, a 'feel-good factor' in such trying times. However, although I wish them well, personally I find the whole ostentatious show, rather vulgar and a kick in the teeth to those who are wondering if they will have a job or a roof over their heads.
    With respect and kind wishes, your way, Gary.

  3. For those in need of a little dose of restorative common sense and perspective, try: "Buns, Bunting and Retro-Imperialism"

    After all - the fate of the Empire and the Second World War hang in the balance.
    - Josie

  4. Thank you, Carol-Ann for this delightful post. My alarm is set for 2:00 AM PDST so that I may not miss one second of this splendid occasion.
    Your essay sets the stage just right for me.

    God bless William and Catherine and may they live happily forever after.

  5. If I do this correctly, you will get to the link Josie has posted by clicking here. I also think the New Yorker cover for May 2, 2011, provides a useful perspective, which you may be able to find by clicking here. I think, on the whole, I'm a bit with Gary on this one.

  6. Well, I turned on the TV at 6 am EDST when I got up. Who knew that was the exact moment the bride was walking down the aisle! So I left it on while the kids got ready for school - but that was about enough for me. I can't understand what what they broadcast for 2 hours beforehand.

    WHile it does appear to be excessive, as long as Britain has the royal family, they will have to do these things in such a manner. This is just the most public of displays of royal excessiveness.

    I do hope they have a happy a marriage as one can have under those circumstances.

    PS - What is with the wacky hats? I do appreciate the Queen's ever sensible and ladylike hats, but some of those women looked like alien spacecraft had landed on their heads!

  7. The wonderful David Nice, over at his blog, "I'll think of something later," has offered a delightful musical take on the Royal Wedding which can be found here. Just to give a taste, here is how he starts: "Yes, he does look like many of the old Bufton-Tuftons in today's Westminster Abbey congregation, without Elgar's sensitive eyes to offset the walrus moustache, but Charles Hubert Hastings Parry could do a good bit of pomp and circumstance." The links and video of "I was glad" are terrific. And I commend to you--and commend David Nice--for linking to a piece by Peter Tatchell, reminding us that not everyone who should have has the right to marry. Worth bringing to mind today.

  8. Hi Carol-Ann .. my goodness how did you find out all this info .. mind you I haven't looked around or read anything .. I'm staggered - at the info you've picked up .. great content ..

    Regretfully I cried my way all the way through .. well not all the time .. but quite a lot of emotional tears fell out!

    I thoroughly enjoyed it and I love the history .. attached to all the pomp, pageantry and circumstance that occurs .. it was a good fun day ..

    Cheers - but this is wonderful content with the links etc .. Well done .. Hilary

  9. This is a postscript:

    Carol_Ann, your video of the Westminster Abbey Bell Ringers became even more interesting when, during the coverage of the wedding, BBC showed pictures of the bells pealing in the belfry. Upon seeing/hearing the bells on TV, I could imagine the Bell Ringers hard at work below.

    Just another example of how the excellent research of the writers at Raining Acorns enriches my life!

    Thank you all.

  10. As a Brit who watched the ceremony (not the before hand hype)I thought it was simple, uncomplicated wedding service with a minimum of 'pomp and circumstance' to the whole thing. It was tasteful and elegant from beginning to end and not in the least 'OTT' as some previous commentators implied. I've seen enough of the REALLY OTT ceremonial occasions, to be able to tell the difference. May long life and happiness be theirs!

  11. The nay-sayers - and I was merely indifferent, vowing I wouldn't be watching, until I swooned to 'I was glad' and had to admit the girl brushed up well in that dress - seem to have shrivelled a bit in the event. Hardened republicans had to admit it was done as good theatre - and no-one could fault the BBC filming, with that spectacular shot from high up in the dome of St Paul's. I got bored by the service and the Bishop of London's insincerity, but I couldn't fault the pair as a rather sweet couple of young lovers who wanted to get married.

  12. Sorry, what was I thinking - still back at the last wedding. 'from high in Westminster Abbey' is what I meant (and it certainly doesn't have a dome).

  13. Just a postscript for the music buff at Raining Acorns:

    The London Chamber Orchestra doesn't exist. It must have been a Scratch outfit (none the worse for that) specially formed for the occasion. It happens.

    I enjoyed the whole thing; it gave me an opportunity to feel suitably engrossed as well as snootily superior.

  14. The London Chamber Orchestra certainly did exist: I still have a couple of their CDs (Britten Lachrymae, an astonshingly good Vivaldi Four Seasons) fron the days when Christopher Warren-Green was trying to animate the concert scene with standing and banners. No idea whether this is the same resuscitated or not.

  15. For any one who (inexplicably) thinks the London Chamber Orchestra doesn't exist!! Here is proof.


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