The royals of the House of Windsor do weddings a little different than most people. Especially compared with weddings of American commoners, royal weddings are a little bit more extravagant.
Here is a side-by-side look at how American weddings stack up against the upcoming one of Prince William and Kate Middleton, which is April 25. (The nuptials will be shown on television starting at 5 a.m. Central time.)
Americans can get married anywhere, as long as they have a valid wedding certificate and an officiant: on the beach, in Vegas, at City Hall, in a park, at a hotel.
Carmen Hocking, Lawrence wedding coordinator and owner of A Beautiful Wedding, says, “I’m seeing a lot more outdoor weddings, with South Park as an increasingly popular venue. But for the most part, people still choose to get married in a church.”
Royals also get married in a church, with the upcoming one to be held at Westminster Abbey, the astoundingly statuesque cathedral that has had daily services for a thousand years. The Abbey was established by the Henry III and has been used for royal coronations, weddings and funerals.
American wedding budgets range from $10,000 on the lower end to more than $40,000. The average runs between $20,000 and $25,000, Hocking says. About 40 percent of the budget is spent on the reception. Traditionally, the bride’s parents foot the bill for the wedding, but some couples share the cost or pay for their own nuptials.
The shindig for the royals is expected to cost somewhere between $20 million and $60 million. The biggest part of the budget will be for security, which is to be the taxpayers’ burden. Prince Charles is to pay for the bulk of the other expenses, with a donation likely from Queen Elizabeth, and a specific expense, such as the wedding dress, paid for by Kate’s parents.
Americans usually have anywhere from one to 10 attendants who stand with the bride and groom, with one each designated as the maid (or matron) of honor and the best man. Then there might be junior bridesmaids, flower girls or ring bearers, who are usually children, but occasionally have been pets, Hocking says.
Donne Kerestic, CEO of 1800 Registry and ABC News expert on royal weddings, says, “Traditionally, U.K. bridal parties are quite different from that of the U.S. In the past, royal grooms have chosen more than one best man, or supporter as it is sometimes called, but Prince William has made it clear that Prince Harry offers all the support he needs.”
Kate will have her sister, Pippa, as her matron of honor. She will also have four bridesmaids and two pageboys who are the children of royalty or close friends.
Americans invite their friends, family and co-workers to their big day. Guest lists generally run between 100 and 250 people, Hocking says.
Of the royal wedding, Kerestic says, “More than half of the guests will be family and friends of the couple, and there is an expected 1,900 guests. Royal invitations are typically sent in cream envelopes addressed only to a wife in the case of couples.”
The guest list also includes heads of state, celebrities, religious leaders and the butcher, baker and pubkeeper of the bride’s hometown. The lunch reception guests, hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, are pared down to 600. And then the intimate dinner reception given by Prince Charles shrinks to a cozy 300 invitees.
Americans use a variety of musical instruments and musicians for the ceremony, including violinists, pianists, organists, harpists or string quartets.
Hocking says, “There may be a soloist that performs in the prelude, or more rarely, during the ceremony.”
The musicians at William and Kate’s wedding will include The Choir of the Westminster Abbey, the Chapel Royal Choir, the London Chamber Orchestra and The Fanfare Team from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force. The eight-member Trumpeters of the Fanfare Team will perform a specially commissioned piece, “Valiant and Brave.”
American receptions are held in country clubs, restaurants, hotels or sometimes at home. The reception generally involves a meal and drinks, with some opting for a cash bar. Besides a wedding cake, some couples choose to have a groom’s cake.
Hocking says, “The groom’s cake is traditionally red velvet, but sometimes chocolate. Some grooms like it to express their personality or hobbies — I’ve even seen one groom’s cake in the shape of a beer cooler. It was very realistic looking!”
The royal wedding reception will be held at home — in Buckingham Palace, home to the Queen. She will host a luncheon, the menu of which has not been disclosed, but is sure to showcase the best of British game and delicacies. The wedding cake will be a multi-tiered brandy flavored fruitcake, decorated with a variety of flowers, which Kate chose specifically to symbolize wedding themes. Prince William has requested another cake made from chocolate and McVities, a British tea cookie.
Traditionally, American brides take their husband’s last name, and that still applies to the majority of couples in the United States. However, a bride retaining her maiden name or taking on a hyphenated last name is not uncommon, and there are even cases of both husband and wife taking on a joined hyphenated last name.
William’s title is His Royal Highness, Prince William of Wales, which would transfer to his bride, making her Princess William of Wales. However, the Queen could gift her with the title Princess Catherine of Wales, even though traditionally this is given only to born princesses. The Queen is also expected to gift William with a title of Duke, which is higher than Prince, thus making the couple a Duke and Duchess.