A British Royal Wedding – Prince William and Catherine Middleton

To continue the ongoing British Royal Wedding series, in this post I will feature the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton that took place on April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey in London, England. I will discuss details about the wedding ceremony and reception while also including a description of the bridal dress and accessories.

Prince William was born on June 21, 1982; he is the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. At present, he is the second in line of succession to the British throne after his father. Although he was given all the privileges and advantages that were granted to him with his Royal birth, his mother made a conscious effort to give both Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry, the experiences of a normal childhood.

Prince William with his parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana

When Prince William was a teenager, several events happened in his young life that would affect him for years to come. In 1996, after many years of an unhappy marriage, his parents divorced and then in 1997 Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car accident in Paris, France. A few years later his father remarried and the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles took place in 2005.

In 2001, Prince William went on to attend the University of St. Andrews located in Scotland where he met Catherine Middleton, known as Kate to her family and friends. Kate was born on January 9, 1982 to Michael and Carole Middleton, she has two younger siblings. Although Kate was defined as a “commoner” by birth, her parents owned a successful and lucrative business positioning the family within the wealthy upper middle class. Prince William and Kate’s friendship soon turned to romance and it has been reported that the couple began dating in 2004.

After the couple graduated from St. Andrews, Prince William started his military career by attending the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. After service in the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, Prince William would train as a helicopter pilot working with the RAF Search and Rescue and he later took on a full time position with the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

Then, while on a holiday in Kenya in October 2010, Prince William proposed to Kate and their engagement was officially announced on November 16, 2010. In a very sentimental gesture, Prince William presented Kate with the large sapphire and diamond engagement ring that had once belonged to his mother, Princess Diana. (For more information regarding the engagement ring, please click on the link to British Royal Engagement and Wedding Rings – Part Two)

Prince William and Catherine Middleton at the time of their engagement

Catherine Middleton wearing the sapphire and diamond engagement ring

So, in befitting Prince William’s Royal status, a grand wedding ceremony and two receptions were planned with a date set for the following year. A list of approximately 1,900 people would be invited to attend the ceremony, about 600 people would be invited to a luncheon reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth (the groom’s grandmother) at Buckingham Palace and about 300 were invited to a more private dinner reception hosted by Prince Charles later that in the evening which would also take place at the Palace. (Special Note: Ultimately the wedding would be viewed by tens of millions of people around the world with seemingly endless television coverage which would rival Prince William’s parents wedding which took place 30 years before in 1981)

After months of preparation, on April 29, 2011 the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton took place in Westminster Abbey in London, England. Westminster Abbey has been the site of British Royal coronations since 1066, the most recent was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. In regards to British Royal weddings, prior to 1918, most took place privately in places such as the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace and St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. When Royal weddings changed to large public events filled with British pomp and circumstance, Westminster Abbey was frequently used for Royal weddings, including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947. Sadly, Westminster Abbey was also the location of Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.

For the wedding of Prince William and Catherine, the inside of Westminster Abbey was decorated with large arrangements of traditional English flowers. The couple had stipulated that the flowers needed to be in season at the time of the wedding and that the flowers and the plants had to be grown in England, preferably on one of the Royal estates. Eight 20 foot high English field maple trees were arranged on either side of the main aisle and, at the special request of the couple, after the wedding the trees would be taken to Prince Charles’ Highgrove Estate in Tetbury in Gloucestershire and planted in the garden as a lasting memorial.  (For more information on the Wedding Flowers of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, please click on the link)

On the morning of the wedding day the guests, including governors and prime ministers of the Commonwealth, foreign diplomats and other invited guests were the first to arrive at the Abbey. Then, Prince William accompanied by Prince Harry (the groom’s best man) left Clarence House proceeding along the route in a Bentley State Limousine. The next to arrive were Carole Middleton accompanied by her son, James, and then members of the British Royal Family, including Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, were traditionally the last members of the Royal Family to arrive at the Abbey.

Prince William arriving at the Abbey with his brother, Prince Harry

Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall
followed by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arriving for the wedding

The bridal party, including Pippa (the bride’s sister), four young bridesmaids and two page boys arrived just before the bride. Catherine traveled to the Abbey accompanied by her father riding in the State Rolls-Royce Phantom VI; they had left the Goring Hotel where the Middleton family had stayed in the days before the wedding.  (Special Note: If the bride had been a Royal instead of a commoner she would have traveled to the Abbey in one of the Royal carriages)

Catherine arriving at the Abbey with her father, Michael Middleton

With the arrival of the bride, the choir was cued to begin the processional song, “I Was Glad”, which was originally written by Sir Hubert Parry for the coronation of King Edward VI in 1902. It would take the bride and her father over three minutes to proceed through the Abbey’s Nave through the Quire and to the Sanctuary to meet Prince William.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has traditionally been the senior officiate presiding over the wedding of English monarchs (and in this case a future monarch) and he was assisted by the Dean of Westminster. The wedding vows were followed by the ring exchange in which Catherine would receive a wedding ring that has been traditionally made from Welsh gold since 1923 for Royal brides; Prince William had chosen not to wear a wedding ring. (For more information about the Welsh gold used to make Royal wedding rings, please click on the link to Royal Engagement and Wedding Rings – Part One)

After a reading from the Epistle to the Romans by James Middleton (the bride’s brother), a sermon was given by the Bishop of London. Then, during a musical interlude, Prince William and Catherine moved into an area adjacent to the Sanctuary to sign the wedding register accompanied by Prince Harry and Pippa to sign the wedding registry in private. Upon returning, the couple paused to bow and curtsy to Queen Elizabeth. Then, with a great fanfare the recessional music started, “Crown Imperial” by William Walton written for the coronation of King George VI and this orchestral march had also been performed at the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana. Prince William and Catherine, now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, began the long walk through the Abbey and were followed by the bridal party and the parents of the groom and bride.

Upon exiting the Abbey, Prince William and Catherine were greeted with cheers from the crowds waiting outside on the streets of London. The couple then traveled in the 1902 State Landau from the Abbey along the Mall passing Horse Guards Arch and Whitehall before ending their procession at Buckingham Palace. After arriving, Prince William and Catherine made the traditional Royal appearance on the balcony and the cheering crowds were rewarded with not one but two kisses!

As previously mentioned, the Queen hosted a luncheon reception at Buckingham Palace.  The wedding cake served was created by Fiona Cairns and it was a beautiful multi-tiered traditional fruit cake covered with white fondant with beautiful piping and scrollwork that incorporated many historical and symbolic decorations. There were the traditional gum paste flowers including the rose for England, the thistle for Scotland, daffodils for Wales and shamrocks for Ireland. As a special touch the Sweet William flowers, symbolizing gallantry, were also used to honor the groom. (For more detailed information about the Wedding Cake of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, please click on the link.  Also for information about other British Royal Wedding Cakes throughout the years, please click on the link)

Later, that evening the Prince of Wales hosted a private elegant dinner reception at Buckingham Palace. After dinner Ellie Goulding performed her rendition of “Your Song” for the couple’s first dance. The evening’s wedding reception continued with more dancing and ended with a spectacular fireworks display.

With Prince William’s work commitment as a search and rescue pilot, the couple celebrated a delayed honeymoon on a private island in the Seychelles. Upon their return to England, the couple would soon leave on their first official tour to Canada and the United States.

For more information about Catherine – An British Royal Bride, Wedding Flowers of Prince William and Catherine Middleton or the Wedding Cake of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, please click on the links.