“But Will and Kate Did It!” Good Try, That Won’t Fly Here.

by admin on May 2, 2011

In the aftermath of the royal wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton, it has become quite evident that a British monarchy wedding defies many Etiquette Hell prohibitions such as:

* A hierarchy of guests. This was evident in numerous ways. Notable guests were escorted through one set of doors into Westminister Abbey whereas the common folk were directed through the north doors.

Although over 1,000 guests were invited and attended the wedding, the afternoon reception, hosted by Queen Elizabeth, was limited to 650 of those guests who were served champagne and canapes. It would blow our Ehell circuits if someone actually had the audacity to invite people to an 11 a.m. wedding and not extend an invitation to refreshments of some sort.

The list of 650 guests was further winnowed down to 300 for the evening private, black tie reception hosted by Prince Charles. The B grade guests invited to the after wedding reception but not the private affair later that evening were primarily Middleton guests who were invited to a separate event at the Goring Hotel in Belgravia, where Miss Middleton spent her final night as a single woman. Mr and Mrs Middleton welcomed guests to the Goring before returning to Buckingham Palace for the evening reception. I suppose the Middletons really had no choice on how to respond to a royal flush of their guests so they did the best they could under the circumstances.

* Sending a 22 page etiquette “guide” to guests detailing expectations on dress, table settings, how to engage the royals, etc. I’m pretty certain this is the first time in royal wedding history that this has been done. Don’t anyone get the bright idea they can do the same as the royals because we’ll still refer to you as the anal retentive bridezilla insulting your guests.

* Maid of honor wearing white. Interestingly, the etiquette guide sent to guests advised them to not wear white lest they upstage the bride but that apparently does not apply to sisters/maid of honor, or royal in-laws. Camilla’s champagne colored outfit nearly matched her own 2005 wedding ensemble and Sophie, Countess of Wessex’s champagne dress also fell into the realm of “too freaking close to a bridal color”. Pippa Middleton’s stunning white dress has been referred to, by fashionistas, as Kate’s “second choice wedding dress”.

* The wedding invitation indicating to male guests what their acceptable attire will be. I found Diana and Charles’ wedding invitation and it says the same thing as William and Kate’s in the lower left corner: Dress: Uniform, morning dress or lounge suit (what we in the US call a “business suit”).

*  The wedding wish list asking guests to donate to one or more of over 2 dozen charities the Prince and Catherine favor in lieu of a wedding gift.

Several people have asked me privately how to reconcile a royal wedding that has so many actions we would consider to be major faux pas.  Shouldn’t royalty know better?  Or are they above etiquette?

The answer is that there is a difference between European/Old World etiquette and New World etiquette or what Miss Manners’ refers to as “Star Spangled Manners”.   Old World/ European etiquette is predicted on a very old system of class distinctions where etiquette was one tool by which one’s breeding was measured whereas American etiquette is predicated upon the belief of an egalitarian equality and a refusal to dignify anything resembling class distinctions.  Miss Manners calls it “the basic American commitment to the Etiquette of Equality” or what I see as the “etiquette rule of law”, i.e. the same rules, the same dignity, the same respect for everyone regardless of station.   American etiquette tries to minimize the differences between the weak and powerful.

English etiquette maven Frances Trollope published the book, “Domestic manners of the Americans”, in 1832 in which she famously declared that a working class with a sense of being anyone’s equal was a worse evil than slavery.    When the royals have a “do as a I say, not as I do” mentality to manipulating etiquette to suit their need to divide guests into hierarchies, primarily based on who was royal and who was in trade, it’s no wonder there are resentful anti-royalists seeking to abolish the monarchy.

The English upper class disdain for the “trades” is deeply and historically entrenched in cultural etiquette which may explain the sending of an insulting “guide” as if one’s guests were etiquette idiots or the ease at which a large percentage of  non-royal  wedding guests were not invited to a reception which would have entailed blue bloods rubbing shoulders with commoners.  The social isolation of the Middleton guests several miles away from the main event and sans their hosts or the guests of honor is deeply repugnant to the American mindset of equal etiquette for all.  At least Will and Kate’s wedding was an improvement from 30 years ago.  When Charles and Diana married, there were 3500 guests in attendance followed by a family only reception for 120.

I’ve said many times that this is an American Etiquette web site.   We uphold the values of dignity, respect, and an etiquette rule of law for everyone, regardless of power, money, age, sex, religion, breeding, or one’s  “connections”.  No one is above etiquette and all are expected to behave in a way that offers civility to everyone.  Brides who think they can exalt themselves for a season to treat others disdainfully or discourteously are miserably mistaken.   We will still roast you for thinking too highly of yourself at the expense of others.

{ 119 comments… read them below or add one }

Nellop May 3, 2011 at 5:16 am

The wedding ceremony was a state affair – and therefore the most important and influential people were invited and it was televised for all of us to watch.
The receptions are private, thus etiquette was not breached by only inviting a smaller amount.

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Sarah May 3, 2011 at 5:29 am

I’m just a normal person/”commoner” and if I were going to a royal wedding I would be really grateful for an etiquette guide!

As others have stated, Camilla’s outfit was neither white nor cream and Middleton guest were invited to the reception. While it is poor etiquette for a guest to wear white, I don’t consider it rude for a bride to select white for her attendants if she wishes – as has been said, this seems to be a bit of a tradition in royal weddings and was around a very long time ago.

The donations instead of gifts thing is a bit off, but I’m sure I once saw, on a documentary, a big storage room in the palace where fancy gifts that nobody was using were kept and it was a terrible waste. If I wanted for nothing and would likely receive thousands of dollars, maybe over a million, in wedding gifts I would probably risk people criticising my etiquette if it meant the money spent on gifts I wouldn’t need could be redirected toward those who are in need. It’s not as though they had a wishing well!

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SunRay May 3, 2011 at 5:59 am

Thank you for saying this. Someone needed to.

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Rmmuir May 3, 2011 at 6:08 am

About the charitable donations, I think that the royal family are patrons of several charities. I imagine that they would be the ones they’d chosen, in fact would it not be a bit cheeky to say give to charity and then not specify then ones you’d promised to be a patron of?

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The Elf May 3, 2011 at 6:33 am

I’m so, so very glad to be an American following American etiquette. I couldn’t imagine trying to distinguish between the “class” levels of various guests. It isn’t surprising though, given that class is firmly entrenched in English mentality. That’s they they have a Queen. We really can’t criticize. Their subjects can, however. If I were footing the bill like they are, I would be. There is your biggest violation – expecting someone else to pay for it.

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wallaby May 3, 2011 at 7:39 am

I agree with many of Allie’s comments… there was actually 1900 people at the wedding, not 1000. My understanding is as follows: the Queen hosted a lunchtime reception for 650 guests who attended which was a mix of VIP guests and representatives from both families (this is per the official wedding website). Prince Charles hosted the evening reception, for close family and friends of the couple, which the Queen did not attend in keeping with the informality of the event. The Middleton’s hosted a separate lunchtime reception at the Goring Hotel for their family/friends. Happy to be corrected on any of this.

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DEG May 3, 2011 at 7:53 am

I think that judging a royal British wedding by the standards of American etiquette is not terribly useful and rather, silly, and I would think that a run-of-the-mill American bride attempting to pull a Duchess of Cambridge would be downright ridiculous. It’s comparing apple and oranges! Obviously, the etiquette standards applicable to any royal family or to an upper-crust society wedding are going to be different than those applicable to Mary Smith of Canton, Ohio, who is torn between Lenox and Mikasa china for her Macy’s registry. I enjoyed the pageantry and splendor of the royal wedding, but it never once occured to me that the same standards would apply to an average middle-class wedding. When we were planning our wedding, our concerns included finding a handicap-accessible location for my 92-year-old Grandmother, not whether to invite the Sultan of Brunei or the King of Tonga. I hope that “But Will and Kate did it” would never be an excuse given by any bride regarding her wedding faux-pas!

On an related note, I thought that Pippa Middleton looked magnificent, but there was no confusion about who was the bride getting married that day. Both sisters looked wonderful and beautiful, but there was no mistaking the bride.

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marion May 3, 2011 at 7:56 am

Couple of points here:

1) There were (roughly) 1,900 guests at the wedding, which I’d argue is closer to 2,000 than 1,000. (Sorry if that sounds like a nitpick, but I noticed a few posts saying things such as “why only cut out ~400 people from the reception?” and thought I’d clarify.)

2) Camilla’s dress did not look *anything* like a traditional wedding dress — it was partially blue, for heaven’s sake. As for Pippa’s dress, she blended in with the bride and the younger bridesmaids, which I think was the point (as opposed to bridesmaids in American weddings, who are supposed to stand out and who typically outnumber young flower girls, the American equivalent of child bridesmaids).

3) Agree with the points that others have made about the charity registry — people want to send gifts to the new couple (even people who weren’t invited), and redirecting that effort to charities during a global recession struck me as a clever and thoughtful thing to do.

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Xtina May 3, 2011 at 9:05 am

I imagine that this would be the nature of a wedding of public figures that is made into a public event–it’s difficult to serve both the family and personal friends alongside the nameless masses–this event, although strict and seemingly rude in places, is understandable when looked at from that aspect, and all things considered, I think they included the public as much as they could, which was pretty hospitable after all. Imagine the security involved, and one can understand the separation of people into specific groups and parties.

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Hemi Halliwell May 3, 2011 at 9:17 am

I just want to clarify my statement from yesterday concerning the “princesses” and “ladies” and their choice of clothing/hats- I did not mean that they were any less princess or lady-like because of their clothing/hat choices. I meant that I found it amazing that the guests would get a 22 page guide on etiquette because the royal family thought that any guests not born into royalty would not know how to dress yet, some of the “royals” had questionable choices that did scream”look at me not the bride”. Even the British reporters and commentators thought the princesses and ladies choices were not that great- isn’t their comments considered opinons as well?
No matter what though, the great thing is we can all agree to disagree!! When it comes right down to it, I think all that matters is the bride and groom got married and best wishes to them.

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aje May 3, 2011 at 9:40 am

I do agree with the concept that William and Catherine probably didn’t want a big wedding, but I think they owed it to their country. After all, the royal family doesn’t really control many aspects of parliment, nor do they really have any power. I’ve always rather thought they’re a bit like English celebrities… and the fact that the country supports them to continue to have this roll means they should give something back. It doesn’t seem fair, but considering the fact that they’ve been together 8 years, the ceremony was basically just for show anyway.

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Wink-n-Smile May 3, 2011 at 9:44 am

They’re English, not American, so the rules are different.

Separating out the guests, particularly the bride’s family, however, rankles, whether it’s proper etiquette, protocol, or just house rules. It still rankles.

However, the bride and groom probably had very little say in any of this, other than choosing the bride’s gown, and possibly the boquet. State weddings are organized by lackeys, not the primaries.

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Kirsten May 3, 2011 at 9:54 am

This is a petty, nasty post. Judging a British Royal wedding by the same standards as any American wedding is ridiculous. This event wasn’t just a family wedding, it was a State event, and as such had to conform to lots of protocols an ordinary family wedding wouldn’t involve. Many of the guests were only there because of the State nature of the wedding, equally others were there as friends and family. Some of the foreign royals were there in both capacities – family of the groom and representative of their country.

As for criticising the bridesmaids for wearing white – 1) it’s up to the bride what colours her bridesmaids wear so who are you to criticise and b) what other colour would you suggest would have been appropriate for an event of that size, in a grey stone venue, decorated by greenery, where it’s not just the female guests wearing colour but many of the men were wearing brightly coloured uniforms? The white dresses looked to be the best possible colour choice, as far as I can see.

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Hemi Halliwell May 3, 2011 at 9:55 am

Anion- I’m not sure exactly what you meant by:
Westminster Abbey has been the location of coronations, royal weddings, and royal christenings for a thousand years. Should the ability of the “audience” to see the “show” really override the personal and historical meaning of the location? A wedding is not a cabaret.
The guests should not be considered an “audience” and the ceremony should not be considered a “show”. If it was such a personal event, why the 1,000 plus guests, some that Prince William and Catherine undoubtly did not know, and 60 cameras to broadcast it around the world? If you invite someone to celebrate your marriage, they should be able to see the ceremony, no matter what the location, historical or otherwise.

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Shayna May 3, 2011 at 11:20 am

Why on earth is anyone comparing American etiquette to Royal protocol? Forgive me for saying, but since the United States is a republic, I fail to see why anyone is criticizing this. The Royal Family has nothing to do with the United States. In this case, protocol will trump etiquette. And, I have to point out that each of these “parties” were hosted by different people, and each of the hosts can invite whomever they wish. They were not hosted by the bride and groom.

Also, it is Royal protocol the world over that if a commoner marries into the family, they are expected and required to place the Royal Family over their own. All commoners who have married into a Royal Family know this. Princess Catherine knew this, which is why Christmas 2010 was spent with her family (Prince William spent Christmas with them as well), as it is the last one she will ever be able to spend with them. Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark (who is Australian) knew this when she married Prince Frederik. Prince Daniel knew it when he married Princess Victoria of Sweden. I guess my point is that they all knew it, and it was a decision they made for the people they love.

My apologies. I think I still have a bitter taste in my mouth after listening to the women on the View and their comments against my Queen and my Royal Family. I am quite proud to be a Monarchy, and very proud of Canada’s ties to Britain and the Commonwealth.

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SHOEGAL May 3, 2011 at 11:35 am

I noticed that Will & Kate’s nuptials violated a lot of American Etiquette – and I’m ok with most of it given the special circumstances surrounding this event.

I think it was perfectly fine for Pippa to wear white – and she looked gorgeous too – I agree that if she had worn another color she would have actually stood out. She was surrounded by little maids all wearing white!

I think if I were invited to the wedding I’d be rather ok with receiving an etiquette guide – I’d be interested to know how I’m supposed to behave – I wouldn’t have had a clue.

I was fine with Camilla’s dress – it wasn’t white – rather an odd dull shade – and she really could not upstage the bride – I didn’t see Sophie’s attire but I’m sure she was no compeition either. I don’t think it would have been a hardship though if they had worn a darker color – and I would have thought they would try to be more sensitive to that.

If I were the bride – I’d wonder how I’m supposed to rub elbows with hundreds & hundreds of people I didn’t know – kind of an overwhelming reception atmosphere. However, why exclude 350 or so people from having champagne and a snack?? I actually understand wanting a nice private smaller family & friend oriented reception later in the evening. Were the Middletons and their guests invited to the Buckingham Palace reception??? or were some of the guest invited there and some to the Goring Hotel or all of them just to the Hotel?? I’m not clear on that. If only the Hotel – I find that seperation appalling and rude – I’m not sure I’d want to be a part of such an obvious class distinction. I’m American and I if I were to have an opportunity to meet Royalty, I would be respectful of the queen and royalty and the proper way to associate with them but I would certainly not take kindly to being treated like a second class citizen.

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Harley Granny May 3, 2011 at 11:51 am

I find it quite comical that if someone breaks American standard’s of etiquette a major uproar goes up yet the same bunch want to dictate what the Royals do.
The Royals have been doing what Royals do for hundreds of years. And they’ve been doing it quite well. I’m quite sure those of the Royal family are aware of what is acceptable and what is not.

I, like a couple of others, would have loved to have been given the guidelines. Even down to the definitions of what formal means. You’d be surprised at how many people have different definitions of it. I would much rather know what’s expected of me than to make a major FauxPaux with 5 million cameras on me. You can tell by this site’s popularity what happens then! And that’s just if someone double dips!!!
I also think that the comment about gifts necessary and fine.
That subject is like the elephant in the rooms. Of course people give gifts and of course the couple expects them. Why ignore the subject?

It was a beautiful wedding and I’m glad I got to see it and it doesn’t affect my life one way or the other.

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Cordelia May 3, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I think a lot of the class-based assumptions are going way too far in this article. It’s assumed that the Middletons weren’t invited to the evening reception because they are commoners. Could it be that the Middletons weren’t invited so that they could be spared having to sit through a reception where they would hardly know anyone except the guests of honor?

Also, it’s assumed William’s maternal relatives were seated on the bride’s side as a snub. Could it be they were just trying to seat as many people as close as possible, and the groom’s rather extensive family made it awkward to seat them all on one side?

And picking on the color of Pippa’s dress is unnecessary. What matters is the intent – which in this case was *not* to detract from the bride. There are plenty of things to get worked up about in this world apart from someone in the bridal party wearing a bride-approved white dress.

This is egalitarian, indeed. Apparently, not even being royalty makes you immune to interesting assumptions.

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A British Girl May 3, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I fail to see how the Middleton’s were treated as ‘second class guests’. The bridesmaid was a Middleton. The reading was given by a Middleton. The father escorted Kate down the aisle. The Middletons rode in royal carriages, and stood on the balcony. In fact, they were given pride of place beside the Queen at all times.

The wedding was seen as a State occasion. Therefore, most invites were political. That means ambassadors, politicians etc HAVE to be invited, whether they are known to, or friends of, the family or not. The wedding, being a state occasion, also had to follow ROYAL protocol – these are rules that have been laid down for a couple of thousand years, at least.

The people in the Abbey were NOT divided into upper class and trade. They were divided into bride and groom. Groom – heads of state. Bride – childhood friends. It’s not the bride’s fault she didn’t grow up with Dukes and Duchesses, nor the groom’s fault that he did. Every wedding in Britian, for hundreds of years, has divided the guests into ‘bride’s guests on one side, and groom on the other’. In fact, I’ve only just now realised you don’t do that in America.

The reception was a family affair – which meant those invited to the wedding as a political gesture would not have been at welcome at the ‘friends and families’ do. Most of the guests ‘flushed’ from the evening reception would have been the political, upper-class set, NOT the Middleton’s friends. The idea that the ‘trade’ guests would have been thrown out of the evening reception is not only utterly wrong, but insulting.

Etiquette guides are ALWAYS sent to anyone involved in a Royal occasion, whether it is a wedding, an award ceremony, or just afternoon tea with the Queen. Many people find it useful to have a guide as to what to wear, or how to address their monarch. It helps lifts people’s nervousness and awkwardness, and makes them relaxed, knowing they have not committed a massive faux pas.

They chose to honour charities rather than sit back and wait for the gifts to pour in – I find that a sweet gesture. Gifts are always given on these occasions, from Heads of State to local road sweepers. I think it’s touching they decided to use these gifts to save lives, rather than rack up 100 toast racks.

I hope you allow this post to be published so that the record can be set straight. Isn’t one of your own etiquette rules that other’s countries etiquette not be mocked or derided?

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irish May 3, 2011 at 2:58 pm

@ kelly – the Syrian royal family were uninvited when details about the slaughter of some of their citizens came to light. The US president and family are not invited to royal weddings except those of the ruling monarch or first in line to the throne (as Prince Charles’ wedding was). There’s a logic behind it that at least prevents guest lists from growing beyond all control.

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Jillybean May 3, 2011 at 3:17 pm

To the charge of the etiquette guide being for the “commoners” I’d have to say I disagree. They had dignitaries and guests from many cultures and countries. I’m certain many of them would not know what local custom/protocol would call for, let alone specific royal custom/protocol.

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Bint May 3, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Hemi – as pointed out above, there were screens to relay the ceremony throughout the Abbey so everyone inside did indeed see the show. Not being able to see the ceremony perfectly is a common problem in 1,000 year old churches that are full. People don’t get tend to get upset about it here. You can hear the service. You might see, you might not. Not a big deal. Not a faux pas.

It’s already been pointed out that the bride’s family was not slighted regarding the reception, although several posters seem to have missed this. Ignore the media on this, it’s not accurate.

Nitpicking about the etiquette of a different country’s royal wedding – I don’t see the point. Of course it’s different. And since we’re not privy to the etiquette behind a major state occasion with huge security demands, I don’t think any of us is in a position to say any of it was wrong. Perhaps we could just wish them well and let those of us who had loads of fun on the day just enjoy it?

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Jessyy May 3, 2011 at 4:42 pm

@ kelly May

The Syrian royal family was NOT invited by the British royals. The ambassador was. There is a massive difference. The reason he was invited was because it is protocol to invite all foreign dignitaries to royal weddings (i.e. all the ambassadors from all embassies). His invite was then revoked.
Blair and Brown had no reason TO be invited either; they are no longer acting Prime Ministers, or leaders of political parties. They share no ties with the Middleton’s or the royals.

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salsera May 3, 2011 at 4:59 pm

I found it strange that Pippa Middleton was in white, but then, so were the Princess of Wales’ bridesmaids.

In Britain and Ireland, one usually calls the maid of honour the bridesmaid. (We use matron of honour if the bridesmaid is married).

Flower girls are usually so called, also.

I think calling Pippa Middleton the bridesmaid is a specifically royal thing, not European, as is dressing the bridesmaid in white.

As for the hierarchy, no-one has yet pointed out that the people in the front seats of the aisle who had the best view were those who worked for the charities the couple were involved in.
The chairs were turned sideways so that no one had to turn their neck.

Usually, I would consider that an etiquette violation, but given that the wedding proper was on the high altar and not visible for most of the congregation, I think it’s acceptable.

The screens were not to block the view, but to relay it via TV.

You have to fill a huge church using different doors, or it’s a security nightmare. People were arranged in blocks, but they had to be there early to get good seats. You either get a good seat or make an entrance; you can’t do both.

Those who had to be at the ceremony for protocol reasons but weren’t close friends of the couple did not have the best seats, true.

However, they gave the seats near the front to those who were friends and relations, not necessarily royalty.

The booklet about etiquette, if you look at it from the perspective of a person who’s tense about how to act, could be helpful. Judging from the egregious breaches of taste on the part of the Windsors, however, it was sent to the wrong side of the family.

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karma May 3, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Hmmm…I really don’t think we can presume to pick apart the traditions and etiquette of the royalty of another country. That seems mighty presumptuous to apply our guidelines to them. It’s like comparing apples to guavas.

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Anion May 3, 2011 at 6:08 pm

You’re right, Hemi, guests shouldn’t be/aren’t considered an “audience” and a wedding isn’t a “show.” That was my point. Claiming that it’s rude to have some guests seated where they couldn’t see the wedding happening reduces both to such, especially when it’s not true.

And if your aim is not to announce that Princesses and ladies are not/do not deserve to be called Princesses and ladies because of their clothing, don’t put “Princesses” and “ladies” into quotation marks (actually, many of the ladies at that wedding were Ladies, as well). Quotation marks used in that fashion convey falsehood; that the people referred to as such are not actually “Princesses” or “ladies,” but are being called so ironically. That is the meaning I took from your comment.

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Ells May 3, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I totally agree with Bint’s posts.

I would also like to add that the use of the phrase ‘commoner’ in this situation is being used to describe a person who has no title, NOT to describe someone as being ‘common’ in a derogatory fashion, as some seem to think. That is an important distinction to understand. No one is calling the Middletons ‘common’, but the very fact that they aren’t Lords, Earls, Viscounts, Dukes, etc. makes them commoners. This isn’t a criticism or insult.

I don’t think it really makes sense to compare a British Royal Wedding to what one might expect in the US. The two countries have very different etiquette and certain parts of this post come across slightly offensive. Many things mentioned in this article might be faux pas in the States, but certainly aren’t here in Britain.

Regarding the etiquette guide: this was a Royal Wedding! Where etiquette is highly important given that it was watched by millions of people in over 150 countries and attended from people of different countries and classes. When you have such a highly publicised event it seems prudent to ensure that all guests knew the correct etiquette.

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Lady Antipode May 4, 2011 at 1:48 am

I totally agree with Xtina, Bint and Ells. This is a British royal wedding, which is an entirely different affair to any other wedding (including other countries’ royal weddings – they have their own traditions). Not only that, it was the wedding of the (2nd) heir to the throne. It’s not a matter of old world/new world etiquette – a lot of matters mentioned by Admin would also be faux pas in a British wedding.

However, this was a state occasion, not a personal one, and the particpants knew that full well. And at a state occasion, certain people must be invited to witness the marriage of the future king and the mother of his heirs, certain others must be invited to a reception for diplomatic reasons, and no doubt the bride and groom wished to celebrate with their own friends and family, which they would hardly be able to do whilst they were ‘on show’ to the world and to the world’s representatives at the reception.

As to the Middleton family being sidelined, please don’t believe all you read in a tabloid. Perhaps the people at the less formal party were quite relieved not to have to be on their best, most formal behaviour after a whole day and more of it, and thoroughly enjoyed their evening!

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Kat May 4, 2011 at 2:31 am

Do you have a link for the 22-page etiquette guide? Oh how I would love to see it!

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HCG May 4, 2011 at 8:39 am

I don’t disagree with a lot of Admin’s post – except for the part about attendants in white. The Queen’s wedding in the 1940s was all-white, and so was Diana Spencer’s (though she had only children following her). And I myself, 20-some years ago, was a bridesmaid in an all-white wedding in the United States, during the wintertime. It was lovely and, yes, everyone knew who the bride was! One could argue that Philippa Middleton’s dress was too sexy for the venue, but that didn’t bother this viewer.

(The only hitch in the wedding I participated in was that the bride was more slender than any of her attendants, and moreover the bridesmaids’ dresses had velvet tops and big taffetta skirts with butt-bows. There were @10 of us and we ended up looking, collectively, like Moby Dick. However, the bride, who was wearing a lovely tight-fitting lace dress in the Grace Kelly “family,” is one of the sweetest women I will ever know, so I’m sure she didn’t do it on purpose.)

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Kirsten May 4, 2011 at 9:22 am

The majority of this post reads as if the intention is to say look how much better the USA is where everyone’s equal, and look how horrible Britain is where the Royals think they’re better than everyone and the stupid people let them.

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sefaeria May 4, 2011 at 9:32 am

I feel badly for William and Kate. The royal family lives under a microscope and has to perform whenever ceremony is involved because of tradition. The royal couple probably never had a choice about most aspects of their wedding. And they would have been lambasted if they had a small private ceremony with a few close family members. There is a degree of entitlement by the media that dates back to when Queen Elizabeth the Second was young.
When Queen Elizabeth was being courted by Prince Philip, their relationship and everything they did was posted in the newspaper. The only private moment that was theirs was how he asked her to marry him. No one else was there to wittness the event and they would never say how it happened. The wedding was all over the newspapers and it has been like that for every royal wedding since.
I do think it was a rude snub to the brides family not being invited to the reception. One would hope that care would be taken so guests would be treated equally since they would be in the public and medias eye. I wonder what kind of wedding Kate and William would have chosen if they’d had a chance.

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MollySue May 4, 2011 at 9:42 am

1- On the colour of the bridesmaids dresses. Certainly since the Edwardian era royal bridesmaids have worn white, or colours very similar to the bride. In any event, the bride wearing white is only really as old as the Victorian era in any event. Blue is the traditional colour of purity (which is why the Virgin Mary is always kitted out in an a blue cloak) and I believe white was actually a mourning colour for many royal houses.

2 – Visibility – Some of the other posters have provided excellent information on the tradition of entering through the north door in Britain and Anglican churches in Ireland. Nobody in the nave and aisles could see anything without screens as the rood screen completely separates the choir from the nave. There are also some stipulations in modest dress for high weddings in Westminister – covered heads for women (ideally it should properly cover the crown, so the glorious fascinators were a faux pas) and covered shoulders (including you too Chelsy Davy!)

Unfortunately in Ireland, there is a push towards “being able to see everything” even in very old churches which are ill suited, especially in RC churches. Sometimes the vandalism is dressed up as modern liturgical needs. One thing I admire Great Britain having more sense.

3 – invitations to past Prime Ministers and world leaders. Although it was a royal wedding, it is a different prospect from a State wedding. In a state event, in the case of the direct heir to the throne, political leaders would have needed to be invited. William is a future heir presumptive, but Charles is the actual heir. John Major is the only former Prime Minister who was invited due to his special capacity as an advisor to the young prince on the death of their mother. The current leaders of main political parties were invited as a courtesy.

4 – The Queen is known to be a stickler for protocol, which is not the same thing as etiquette.

5 – I thought it was a rum do as well that only a portion of the guests were invited to the canape reception. This website is a good influence on me – however I’d give them a pass on the evening event in that particular instance. It could be considered almost an insult to the country if wedding gifts were not offered to the happy couple. Many of these can be very unique and converting them to cash for their respective charities could be extremely difficult and sensitive. However, whenever a donation instead of a gift (or flowers in the case of a funeral) is stipulated, I have a feeling that no matter how well-intentioned they start off with many people just “forget”.

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kelly May 4, 2011 at 10:47 am

aje,
They owed it to us to have a huge wedding, invite dubious people, and expect us to pay for most of it to the tune of billons? Seriously? And most British people do not support them, they do have a parliamentry role -no law can be passed without their say so, and no-one can be a member of parliament without swearing allegience to them.
Ella,
I agree that the etiquette and manners are different in the US (dress code is not always dependent on the time, and dinner jackets or tuxedos are considered a naff to wear at weddings, besides which white tie is considered the most formal of formal wear, and white is traditional for bridesmaids especially children), but a lot of this wedding was an exercise in crassness.

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Bint May 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm

“I do think it was a rude snub to the bride’s family not being invited to the reception”

Please see above postings. They *were* invited.

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Bibbety May 4, 2011 at 4:40 pm

The Middletons WEREN’t left out of the evening reception nor were Kate and Wills’ friends. They had a little party at the Goring hotel in between the noon time reception and the evening reception.

Traditionally the royals just a have a wedding breakfast after a royal wedding (more of a lunch). The evening reception was something that Kate and Will wanted to be more like a modern wedding and to be less formal.
In every royal wedding since Victoria the bridesmaids have worn white or ivory.

It wasn’t an American wedding! It was both British and Royal which adds layers of complexity. That combined with security concerns means things are going to be different from an American wedding.

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Fi May 4, 2011 at 7:56 pm

There’s a couple of points I’d like to raise.

First, the bridesmaid wearing white is an old tradition in Europe – it’s quite common at royal weddings although pretty rare at less posh dos these days, but usually the bridesmaids are children (Catherine broke with royal tradition by having her sister as maid of honour, and William did the same by naming Harry as his best man rather than his supporter).

Camilla Cornwall and Sophie Wessex were both perfectly appropriately attired – Camilla’s coat was pale bluey/silver on top and pink at the bottom, and Sophie’s outfit was beige. These are perfectly acceptable colours at UK weddings, particularly for close family members, to wear. Camilla was only a couple of shades paler than Carole Middleton’s outfit, and it’s a shade she wears a lot. The Queen actually got a lot more attention in her canary yellow – but then, she’s the Queen, she wears what she likes and she is noted for very rarely wearing subdued colours in public, because she’s there to be seen, even at her grandson’s wedding.

The receptions were… admittedly strange to people who didn’t know what was going on. First of all, the vast majority of the guests were going off to receptions at embassies/Downing Street/etc immediately after the wedding and had never expected to be invited to the palace. Second, there was the whole extended royal families who *had* to be invited to the palace and the understandable and laudable desire of the bride and groom to invite the various charity representatives and colleagues to a party afterwards (for example, David and Victoria Beckham were invited because William has worked closely with David B, particularly on England’s failed World Cup bid for 2018). William and Catherine got to decide on a significant proportion of their guest list – a huge contrast with Charles and Diana who were each allowed to invite a tiny handful of carefully vetted friends.

Then the evening party was ostensibly hosted by Charles. However, there was a horrible setup of protocol going on there. Basically Charles had to host it as a family do, but the Queen would not attend because her presence would mean levels of formality that precluded relaxation among friends. That was a party for family and friends – the younger generation. William’s work colleagues on his S&R crew were probably there, for example. The older Middletons probably left early, as Charles and Camilla almost certainly did, to allow the next generation to party on, specifically without being bound by protocol. The junior Middletons were definitely at the party, but it would have been awkward having one set of parents partying without the others being there (because their presence would have hampered the party, although I bet Camilla would have loved to have got on the dance floor!).

The evening party was pretty unprecedented in royal circles at that level, but it was lovely in that they actually got to have a proper party without everything being tied up in protocol. And it was even more lovely that their families connived to allow them to do so even though they effectively deprived themselves of that pleasure.

(Oh, and the party moved back to the Middletons’ hotel after 3am – which made me laugh a lot because I’ve been to wedding parties like that too.)

The real etiquette faux pas was not committed by the bride and groom. It was committed by either the government or whoever made the decision in the royal household and it was the decision to not invite either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown. The excuse given was that it wasn’t a state occasion (yet there were lots of statesmen there) and that neither have the Garter (unlike their predecessors – John Major and the absent Margaret Thatcher). For an institution that is supposed to be apolitical, it looked really bad because Blair and Brown are the same political party (Labour) and Thatcher and Major are Conservatives, the same as the current Prime Minister. It did seem feeble that they couldn’t spare four seats in the Abbey for that pair and their wives.

Oh, and the uninviting of the Syrian ambassador was done by the Foreign Secretary. Who had invited him in the first place.

Basically, royal weddings, even when they’re not technically “State” occasions (although they were pushing that claim considering William is the heir of the heir to the throne) are governed by so many different protocols that it’s impossible to judge. Except when someone is well and truly snubbed.

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Fi May 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm

One more note “but Will and Kate did it” absolutely would not be an excuse (unless you’d liked some of the music or readings they’d picked for the service)! Or, of course, unless you were the heir to the heir of an ongoing monarchy whose wedding was going to be a bizarre mishmash of state, political and weird family intrigue.

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anonymous May 4, 2011 at 8:53 pm

An attendant in white is only a faux pas if the outfit was not approved (or was specifically rejected) by the couple. An attendant in white who is wearing white because the couple chose that color, or because it was approved, is absolutely not a faux pas.

A guest who wears white without approval is committing a faux pas, but c’mon, Camilla’s color was totally Mother in Law Beige. My own grandmother wore a similar color (but without the blue tones). If, however, the couple makes it clear that it’s OK for a guest or guests to wear white, then it immediately becomes not a faux pas.

And remember that not every bride wears white. It may be typical, but it is not even all that traditional (160 years is not a terribly long time) and is definitely not an etiquette given.

If you want to get super traditional, the attendants used to dress like the couple to confuse evil spirits, so if the bride wore white, then then attendants would do likewise…so in many ways Pippa’s dress was *more* traditional!

I gave our wedding guests freedom to wear white – because I didn’t (although even if I had, I wouldn’t have cared).

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Elizabeth Bunting May 4, 2011 at 10:48 pm

I remember that when Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, as they were then, went on their honeymoon. They went to an estate belonging to a friend in the country. Prince Philip found reporters in the trees looking into the windows of the house. He shook the branches and made them jump out. He said in his characteristic manner “I hope they break their bleepety bleeping necks!” Tee Hee

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Camilla May 5, 2011 at 5:50 am

As a European, I find the comment that this wedding was according to “European” rules very funny. As I am sure everybody knows, Europe consists of many different countries, which all have their own etiquette and wedding traditions. England is just one country and the rules and etiquette there and for their court are not the same as in other countries or other courts.

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Chris May 5, 2011 at 6:43 am

I would love to read this “etiquette guide” that’s been discussed. No luck on finding it online though. Anyone have any leads?

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Izzley May 5, 2011 at 11:37 am

I agree with the several commenters who surmised that William and Catherine probably had little sway in the proceedings–which are no doubt steeped in many traditions and protocol. Also, I am not surprised that etiquette guides were sent out. Without being privvy to the planning process, I can only offer my second hand annecdotal experience.

Several years ago I was in a school program in London. One of the lecturers in the program was an esteemed historical researcher, who had once had the honor of being invited to a springtime garden tea party by the Queen, in recognition of his accomplishments. He told us that the invitation had supplemental materials that specified exactly how one should behave at this sort of event. As in, a scripted guide detailing how exactly to act when meeting the queen, where/how to sit, how to dress, etc. Which of course he followed to the letter (well, mostly, but that is another story) because “when the Queen asks you to tea, you don’t say no.”

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Victoria May 5, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I would make one more point on Pippa’s dress, that many of you seem to have missed. Here (UK) it is usual for the bride to choose and pay for her bridesmaids’ dresses so of course Pippa’s dress was approved by the bride (indeed, made by the same designer of the same material with matching bits of lace blah, if you care about the details).

I do think the paying for the dresses bit makes a major difference between English and US weddings. I have seen US weddings with about a bazillion bridesmaids, which is definitely not common here. Think of how much it would cost if the bride had to buy all those dresses! (And think how much it costs a poor bridesmaid to be in a wedding in a world where she has to buy her own outfit! I can only hope that she gets to choose it herself, so she can pick something she can wear again, but from what I have heard that often doesn’t seem to be the case…)

I would also like to agree with those who mention that white is the traditional bridesmaid colour here. (Indeed, if you have small bridesmaids – which is traditional – it is nigh on impossible to buy them dresses that *aren’t* white).

*Disclaimer* – British weddings are becoming American-ified (like most culture now, I suppose), so the bride-buys-the-bridesmaid-dresses rule no longer holds as fast as it once did (before people come in saying “I made my bridesmaids buy their own dresses”). I think it will be a shame if it goes, though, as it makes being a bridesmaid for a friend (or if your daughter is) not a huge financial hassle.

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AS May 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I did not follow the royal wedding too much, and hence missed a few points. But I recently read somewhere that it seems it is a tradition in the royal family to have young children as attendants. William and Catherine broke that tradition to have their brother and sister respectively, who are their best friends to be the BM and MOH. I thought that was quite a nice touch.

The wedding of a public figure is a big thing. They don’t have the leeway to do a lot of things their own way, and the guest list is a political statement too. But as the admin said – lot of things that they did is not polite when a normal couple does it – like sending an etiquette book or advertising where you are registered. The registration was fine for this couple as people probably would want to send them gifts anyways, so they were not exactly soliciting gifts, or expecting people to give them anything.

And ofcourse, there was no mistaking as to who the bride was! :-)

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Kim May 5, 2011 at 4:14 pm

I can not say as to why there were two lunch after wedding receptions, but I did hear that the evening party the Queen did not attend. My understanding is that it was a way for the couple to have a somewhat regular reception…dance, party, maybe even toss a few back and get away from all that royal etiquette rubbish.

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Cat May 5, 2011 at 4:33 pm

It’s England; it’s different. I have never seen an American bride who had to curtsey to her grand mother-in-law (?) after her wedding or a grandson who had to bow to his granny at his wedding. If your mother-in-law is Queen, you curtsey; if granny is Queen and you are a guy, you bow.

You don’t paw a queen or slap her on the back and call her, “Liz, Baby”. I would not go up to Prince Phillip and ask, “Hi, Phil, what’s up?” Americans are very informal people and are becoming more so. Neither form is right or wrong, it is just different.

If it wasn’t different, why would we bother watching or visiting? We are happy we are who and what we are; they are happy with who and what they are. Long live differences!

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kelly May 5, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Chris,
Try asking at libaries, they might have a reference copy or know how you can get hold of one. The “official” book of etiquette in the UK is debretts now.

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wolfgirl May 6, 2011 at 5:13 am

Oh come on, admin, is it really fair to compare a British etiquette book written in the Victorian period to modern “good ol usa” etiquette? Im pretty sure American etiquette from that period would look pretty old fashioned in comparison too!

And as some people have hinted at, the Royal Wediing is NOT a example of general modern british wedding etiquette! Fi explained some of this well, this was not an event hopsted by the bride’s parents and the couple, it was hosted by the QUEEN as monarch and as such has a pretty different set of rules! Admin seems to have no understanding of this concept, and I’m surprised no one has accused the couple of inviting all the foreign digniatries like the King of Tonga and the SUltan of Brunei just as a gift grab attempt!

I don’t necessarily agree with how some if it was done, but then I’m not a monarchist. But you REALLY can’t hold it up as an example of “European /Old World etiquette”, it is NOT, it’s a unique state event which has very little or nothing in common with the average British wedding, commoner or otherwise! It was totally dominated by the royal aspect, and whilst I’d hate it, that’s the choice Kate made when she accepted his proposal, she has, I understand, had rigourous “princess training” on what to expect and both she and her parents would have understood the deal. That’s the price for marrying the Prince, the Middletons don’t get an unrestricted guest list, or get to have their names on the invites! I would imagine the seperate party at the Middleton hotel was for the Middletons personal friends (actaully probably the parent’s friends not the couple’s, as the young people WERE all invited to the evening party as Fi says. No cameras were allowed to allow them to let their hair down, apparently the inside of the palace was done up like a nightclub!). I suspect the Middletons had a big party for all thier frinds and business aquaintances to show off a bit and say “our daughter just married a freaking prince!!”, but these people would not have been appropriate at the main wedding.

I think the couple did pretty well witihn the extremely strict limits they were set, and they tried to make it as personal event as possible, with Wills spending time talking to all the guests personally before the ceremony. Many US bride-and groom-zillas in this formum don’t manage to achieve this basic etiquette requitrement, and for a future king of england to do so is pretty good I think?

So, give them a break, they did ok, and a royal wedding is not really about the couple, it is a state event to promote and ensure the continuation of the monarchy (ie Wills can now get on with producing a legitimate royal sprog!) and should not be used as an excuse for Brit bashing please! Ok this brit will shut up now. Admin I never thought I’d find myself defending the monarchy, see what you have driven me to?! :)

Oh, and in 4 weeks I will walk down the isle in my lovely (I hope!) ivory dress, followed by 5 bridesmades in short ivory prom-style dresses. It is indeed the bride’s choice, and is in fact ancient medieval tradition as the “bride’s maids” were supposed to be maidens and therefore all pure in white, Bride wore brighter colours to show off her wealth and beauty.

Ok Im done!

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Mrs Jones May 6, 2011 at 8:14 am

William is not heir to the the throne, his father is. William is 2nd in the line of succession. Therefore, his wedding was not a state occasion, but Prince Charles’ was.
I personally don’t blame them for not inviting Brown and Blair. Blair and his wife are loathed with a passion by the majority of the British Public and his wife has been very disrespectful to the Queen and to other member of the family.

Abi, William cracked a joke with Mike Middleton about small family wedding, not to his wife.

From the plan I’ve seen and from watching the whole of the wedding on TV, the Middletons were not remotely isolated or sidelined so don’t know why some people are saying that.

What I’m really surprised at is the passion some have about the bridesmaids wearing white/ivory, what’s that about? The rest of the world don’t follow US traditions you know.

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