Thursday, January 06, 2011

Whose royal wedding is it anyways?

With each royal wedding update, Prince William and Kate (Catherine) Middleton are making it clear that they will organize their wedding their way. Case in point, it was recently announced that Catherine would not be travelling to Westminster Abbey in the traditional Glass Coach, but in a car. While arriving by car is not unheard of, even in royal weddings - Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys Jones' 1999 wedding is a good example - it goes against fairytale expectations.

Prince William and Catherine's wedding is in a different league from Prince Edward and Sophie's. For one, Edward and William are in different positions - William is second-in-line and Edward is seventh. Given Edward's position, few would have expected a lavish royal wedding. Instead of a procession through London to roaring crowds, Edward and Sophie were married in St George's Chapel Windsor. Unlike Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, who arrived at their respective weddings by coach, Prince Edward walked to his ceremony from Windsor Castle with his brothers as his supporters.

No one expects William to walk to Westminster Abbey. Like his grandfather Prince Philip he will be arriving at the Abbey by Royal car. Few if any are unlikely to care how William arrives, as long as he does. It is the bride who is the center point of a wedding. To some, William and Catherine represents a fairytale couple they can live through vicariously. For Catherine to arrive in anything less than a coach somehow diminishes the magic.

But William and Catherine are not a fairytale couple and they might define magic differently. Catherine reportedly chose to arrive at the ceremony by car and depart the Abbey by carriage with the 'splendor of a princess' to illustrate the change in her status. As if we could forget. Much like Sarah Ferguson at her 1986 wedding, when she arrived at the Abbey she wore a headdress of flowers instead of tiara. It was only after the register had been signed that she exchanged the flowers for a diamond tiara. It was a symbolic move. In her own words: "I had stepped up as the country girl; I would walk back as a princess."

The couple are also making an effort to avoid lavishness, though it comes with the territory. No one organizes royal weddings (and funerals) better than the royal family and pageantry is expensive. It is understandable that they would want to avoid the 1981 display Charles and Diana had. But any attempt for William and Catherine to avoid pageantry unrealistic. This is a Royal Wedding and you can only scale back so far. If they truly want to do so they should marry in a registry office like Charles and Camilla. Now wouldn't that be disappointing?

Whether they like it or not William and Catherine straddle the line between wanting the day to be personal versus giving people the pageantry they expect. As new wedding details come to light, disappointment is inevitable, understandable, and ultimately futile.

After all, it's their day, not ours.

© Marilyn Braun 2010

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