If you’re an American, here’s your essential guide to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s big day. The couple may be keeping many details under wraps for now, but if it’s out there and it’s official, we’ll post it here to keep you in the know.
Called the most sought-after invitation of the year, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on Friday boasts a guest list of 1,900 for the ceremony. And something tells us that you’re not one of them. So, let’s start.
We’re just hours away, when Prince William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor, second in line to the British throne, elder son of heir to the throne, Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, will marry Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, daughter of Michael and Carole Middleton.
Will and Kate announced their engagement to the world in a press conference on Nov. 16 at St. James’ Palace, but he actually popped the question—and proffered his mother’s old 18-carat sapphire and 14 diamond engagement ring—the month before while the couple was vacationing in Kenya.
It’s going to be a big day for both Kate and William, but husband and wife aren’t the only titles they’ll inherit on Friday. Queen Elizabeth is expected to announce which titles of nobility and peerage, if any, the duo will be receiving. They’re expected to be given at least two: an English title and a Scottish title as well.
Around 3:15 a.m. ET (8:15 a.m. in London), guests, the monarchy’s inner-circle equivalent of D-Listers, will start to arrive via Westminster Abbey’s side entrance known as the Great North Door. But around 4:50 a.m. ET (9:50 a.m. in London), the VIPs begin to roll in – prime ministers, diplomats and one or two of the 40 members of royalty from around the world.
By about 5:10 ET (10:10 a.m. in London), Princes William and Harry and other family members, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Prince Philip, Prince Andrew, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Prince Edward begin to arrive at Westminster.
Westminster Abbey is over 700 years old and holds 2,200 people. It’s been the site of coronations since William I’s in 1066. Many royal weddings have taken place here, including current queen, Elizabeth II’s to Prince Philip in 1947. The Abbey is considered a more modest, but fittingly grand, alternative to the larger St Paul’s Cathedral.
It’s likely Kate will leave from one of the London palaces or possibly an exclusive London hotel, while Prince William will start off from Clarence House, Prince William’s official residence, though these details are yet to be confirmed by the Prince’s office.
Shortly before 6 a.m. ET, bridesmaids and pages will arrive at Westminster. Pageboys and bridesmaids are an English tradition. Bridesmaids in the UK are little girls, similar to the role of flower girls in the U.S. The four girls and two boys in the royal wedding party range in age from 3 to 10 and include the son of William’s former nanny.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will marry the couple. The Dean of Westminster will conduct the service. The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, will give the address. He is a family friend of the Windsors and spoke at Diana, Princess of Wales’s memorial in 2007.
William has chosen his younger brother, Prince Harry, third in line to the throne, as best man. Kate’s sister Philippa, often known as Pippa, will be her maid of honor.
Then, a big moment: The bride and father of the bride will arrive at Westminster. The bride-to-be will travel to Westminster Abbey by car, rather than horse-drawn carriage as Diana, Princess of Wales, did on her wedding day 30 years ago.
The moment Kate steps out of the car, details about her dress, shoes and accessories will be released and distributed. One rumor gaining traction in the lead up to the wedding is that Kate herself has designed the gown with help from a label.
Whatever the case, the gown is expected to pay homage to Diana’s own wedding dress. It will also, per tradition, include a train, as Kate donned a prop piece when she rehearsed her 300-foot walk down the aisle.
As for William, his outfit—which no one seems to have given too much of a toss about—will also remain something of a secret up until the big day. He’s due to wear an as-yet unrevealed military uniform during the service, but expect medals and sashes as far as the eye can see on both him and
The ceremony that follows will include the familiar wedding sights – a ring, some vows, a preacher (albeit the dean of Westminster and the archbishop of Canterbury). It’ll also include those not-so-common wedding traditions: The service will be blasted out on audio speakers in certain locations; a prince played a huge role in selecting the music.
By 7:15 a.m. ET (12:15 a.m. in London), the couple will be legit, and Westminster Abbey bells will ring. The newlyweds then will travel via carriage a ways for a day filled with an official lunch, dinner and Buckingham Palace balcony waves. The route also takes in some of London’s most historic places: Parliament Square, Whitehall, Horse Guards Parade and The Mall.
Queen Elizabeth, William’s grandmother, will host a reception at Buckingham Palace for the couple’s friends and family. It’s traditional for the couple to make a public appearance on the balcony at Buckingham Palace before joining the reception. The whole world will be hoping for a romantic kiss from the newlyweds.
But what about the cake or cakes? The couple plan to serve two cakes at their reception: a traditional dried and candied fruit-laden cake, which will be covered with a thick layer of marzipan (it’s a British tradition), and a cake reminiscent of one Will used to eat during his childhood, made primarily of chocolate digestives, a British biscuit cookie favorite.
The McVitie’s Cake Company will be making the groom’s cake for the reception, as well as a few hundred extra slices for the breakfast buffet. All told, they sweet concoction will use about 1,700 Rich Tea biscuits.
As for the fruit cake, Kate had significant input as to its design, and it will feature a heavy British floral theme, with 16 different symbolic (frosting-based) blooms and foliage to mark the occasion. Its layers will include raisins, walnuts, cherries, lemon, grated orange and French brandy and will be made by cakemaker extraordinaire Fiona Cairns.
The couple have asked that members of the public who would like to give them a gift instead donate to charity. They have set up a dedicated website where donations can be made. Charities from Canada, the UK and Australia will benefit and include Oily Cart, New Zealand Government Christchurch Earthquake Appeal and Earthwatch.
Clarence House hasn’t yet disclosed where the couple will honeymoon. Once back, they will live on Anglesey, Wales, where Prince William works as a Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot.
On their first official trip, the couple will go to Canada in June and visit Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and the National Capital Region.
As you watch from an ocean away, just think of this: More than 600,000 spectators on top of the 500,000 average daily visitors to London are expected to line the streets on Friday, and it’ll take an estimated 28 days to clean those streets. [via CNN, Daily Mail (UK), NY Times and E-Online (UK)]