Behind the Scenes at the Royal Wedding
I’ve been a wedding planner for over 25 years and have planned over 1000 weddings - so when I was asked by Global News and ET Canada to be one of the ‘experts’ and part of their reporting team that would be based at the media village at Canada Gate (opposite Buckingham Palace) on the day of the Royal Wedding – well decisions, decisions…?
I travelled to London from Lichfield Trent Valley station (the day prior) and on the platform there were a group of ladies who were going to ‘camp out’ the night before the wedding so they could get a vantage point by Clarence House. They had a local TV crew reporting about them on their trip and provided ‘entertainment’ on the journey down.
I arrived at the May Fair Hotel, and was met by the ‘team’. We were given our media passes and were escorted past the Ritz Hotel to the security gate of the media campus.
I was amazed to see how many television networks were set up from all over the world. There were hundreds of satellite dishes dotted everywhere, miles of cables, parked trucks and various marquee tents. It was a hive buzzing with activity.
It was massive news when Prince Charles and Diana were to be married, but this time round it was utterly monolithic. Press attendance alone demonstrated just how globally important this wedding was to be. Back in 1981, 550 accredited journalists and broadcasters descended to cover the royal nuptials but on this occasion the number was closer to 7,500.
‘We’ the experts were based in the trailer until required in the ‘hub’ – which was a construction built scaffold tower with individual ‘pods’ where each television network had their own view of Buckingham Palace and the Mall.
Next door to us at Global was the Australian network and Dame Edna Everidge was reporting back with Royal Correspondent James Whittaker.
The day started with hair and makeup at 6am and strong hot coffee with breakfast was served. We took a brisk walk through the park to the media village and already people were getting their places in front of the big screens… It was 6am (5 hours to go).
The anchors for the day were Cheryl Hickey of ET Canada and Dawna Friesen of Global National, and they were already filming voice overs and clips to add into the production. They both looked stunning in their outfits and were pleased to see us all ready to go. The Producer, camera men, sound guys and assistants were all set and we were on a countdown.
It takes a lot of people behind the scenes to make a TV production, and this one was no exception. Everything was going live, there could be no mistakes, and a plan B for everything had to be thought of. There was a plan – and we all had our role to play.
The ‘team’ for the day was Debbie Travis (interior designer) and Bronwyn Cosgrave (fashion reporter) who had both flown over from Toronto. Phil Dampier was the English Royal Historian and Alex Bomberg was speaking on security issues and I was to add ‘all things wedding’. I wore a pale pink ‘Condici’ dress and jacket with black beading on the lapels. My hat was perfect and added the finishing touch.
The day was split into sections where everyone had a ‘turn’ at commentating, and in between we had to leave the ‘pod’ as there was no room with all the equipment along the walkways. Hair and makeup was on hand ready for every ‘take’ and it was now 9am and the guests were starting to arrive at the Abbey.
On one return journey I passed Eve Pollard and Jane Seymour on the stairs and whilst having a coffee at the trailer the infamous Barbara Walters walked past with her entourage.
Looking at our schedule at what we had to do – it struck me as to how much The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Catherine, had to do as well (in the same amount of time). I know what hard work it takes to pull a wedding together, and I also know what it takes to make a TV show, but to bring it all together in front of millions of people who are watching every second, every movement, every word (in HD on a 48” screen), must be incredibly stressful, I cant imagine what her Mother and Father felt watching their daughter walking into this public arena.
Knowing that the world was waiting to see what style of dress Catherine had chosen was the BIG question… So when I saw Elizabeth Emanuel walking by Canada Gate I tried to imagine what she felt on the day of Diana’s wedding.
I was back ‘on set’ and I could see on the TV monitors some of the guests arriving at the Abbey. Posh and Becks, Elton John and David Furnish, Ben Fogle, just to name a few.
I was disappointed not to see more flowers, guests wearing corsages, buttonholes / boutonnieres, wrist and purse sprays, but the variety of hats and fascinators made up for it. With every arrival there was a new dress, shoes, and the fashion commentators were having a field day!
Then William arrived with his brother (and Best Man) Harry. Looking every part the dashing Prince he is an honorary Colonel and sported the uniform of The Irish Guards. He looked calm and composed and even had time to speak to his uncle Earl Spencer and share a joke with friends.
I heard the crowd cheer as the Queen and Prince Philip left the Palace, and I thought the Queen looked stunning in her Angela Kelly primrose yellow wedding attire and customary pearls wearing the precious ribbon brooch. She smiled radiantly and I’m sure felt very proud of her Grandson. A fanfare sounded at the entrance of the Queen (the State Trumpeters of the Household Calvary) where she was met by the Dean of Westminster –Dr John Hall.
Whatever reports have been made, the royal wedding was certainly expensive, but, on the plus side, massive revenues were already pumping into the British economy; research predicts that Brits will shell out a collective £163 million on wedding souvenirs, while West End theatres expect a extra £8.4 million in ticket sales as royal sightseers flock to see their favourite shows and all this is before income from overseas tourism has been factored into the equation. On an average day, London is visited by approximately half a million tourists but that number was sure to more than double at the royal wedding. What’s more, the British government hopes a longer term tourism bonanza will generate fifty thousand new jobs and around £2 billion for the British economy at large.
Watching the monitors, seeing all the flags flying, the policemen lining the route, and the sea of red, white and blue was a sight to behold. Then the cameras turned and focused on the Goring Hotel as it was time for Catherine to leave.
And then… suddenly it happened. A vision was in the car, we were all straining to capture a glimpse. Her Father Michael Middleton sat beside her and I looked at the clock, this Bride was not going to be late (well maybe one minute).
The clock (and Big Ben) struck 11 am and history was in the making. The 1900 guests were assembled, all the Royal family were seated, and the music was playing (The London Chamber Orchestra). It was captivating with all the glitz and the glamour, the spectacle of the pomp and ceremony and I felt very proud to be British.
The moment arrived and our beautiful Bride arrived at Westminster Abbey and stepped from the car onto the red carpet and the worlds cameras frantically clicked away. It was at this moment that her sister Pippa walked forward and people took notice – that there were two beautiful girls in this wedding.
Catherine’s gown was (as predicted) designed and styled by the Alexander McQueen studio and executed beautifully by Sarah Burton.
It was a delicate cream colour with subtle lacework on the bodice and skirt (Royal School of needlework) and a train of approximately eight feet long (Diana’s was 25ft). 58 buttons at the back of the dress. I adored her veil, it was sheer, gossamer and edged with lace. She was every little girls dream Princess.
On her head was the Cartier ‘halo’ platinum and diamond tiara, loaned (something borrowed) to her by the Queen. It was understated and added the complete finishing touch.
I wondered whether Catherine would wear her hair ‘up’ as most Royals do for their wedding day, but her hair stylist James Pryce was asked to leave it very simple and close to her normal style.
I admired her beautiful diamond earrings, and when you look closely you will see they have an oak leaf outline and an acorn shaped diamond suspended in the centre. They were made by the society jewellers, Robinson Pelham and were a wedding gift from her parents (something new?)
We didn’t really get to see the shoes, these were also made by the team at Alexander McQueen from ivory duchesse satin and lace.
Her Bridesmaids; Miss Eliza Lopes, Miss Grace van Cutsem, with The Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor and The Honourable Margarita Armstrong-Jones looked resplendent in their ballerina length dresses and Master Tom Pettifer and Master William Lowther-Pinkerton looked very handsome in their matching uniforms.
Didn’t we all just say ‘Aaaahh’ when Wills whispered ‘You look beautiful’ when his Bride arrived at the altar, the scene was set.
I took this opportunity to study who was seated where and spotted Camilla and Charles. I had noticed the large brimmed cream Phillip Treacy hat when she arrived at the Abbey but took a closer look at the champagne and duck egg blue Anna Valentine dress and jacket – perfect choice.
Seated on the next row was Prince Andrew and his daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. For two young stylish girls, who have fashion houses and their behest, what were they thinking? And who said they looked fabulous…? I was dismayed to see them looking so ridiculous. Eugenie wore Vivienne Westwood (far too old for her) and Beatrice wore a coat and dress by Valentino. Philip Treacy designed her hat, but he sometimes gets it wrong – and he did with this creation! Can you believe it now has its own Facebook page (Princess Beatrice’s Ridiculous Royal Wedding Hat) wonder why?
Looking across the aisle was Victoria and David Beckham. I wondered if anyone had mentioned his faux pas with the CBE medal? One certainly doesn’t wear to a wedding, and NEVER on the wrong side… It took my eye, more so than the Christian Louboutin’s Posh was wearing, which it’s almost acrobatic when you are 6 months pregnant balancing on those heels.
The first hymn sung (Guide me O thou great Redeemer) and the Deans welcome and introduction. The Archbishop of Canterbury proceeds with the solemnization of marriage. It was at this point that Alex said he didn’t realize how quick the actual marriage part is… yes – 8 minutes if you time it.
And then the ring is produced – made from welsh gold (and only Catherine was to wear a ring).
I know every word of the marriage service, and can recite word perfect. There was not a falter, not even a hesitation on this day. But this is my favourite part, and when the Archbishop pronounced them ‘man and wife’, the crowds outside roared their approval!
To hear the hymn ‘Love Divine, all loves excelling’ sung by hundreds, (if not thousands of people) outside the media centre was a joy to behold. I was singing my heart out. I had it for my wedding – and it is a firm favourite with most Brides.
I was due to swap places with Debbie Travis at this point and it was as ‘Jerusalem’ was being sung. As a member of the WI (Womens Institute) it is our opening song at the start of a meeting – so the words are very familiar to me. Walking along the gangway I drew side glances from crew and personnel – I didn’t care, I was enjoying every minute of this wedding!
I took a walk outside the campus and was immediately in amongst the crowds watching on the screens. It was 200 people deep – some even had ‘periscopes’ but the sound quality was excellent.
To see people in fancy dress costumes, all the flags, picnics, and friendly smiling faces was a pleasure. I didn’t have long, but to be walking through and taking in the atmosphere was a memory.
The National Anthem was sung by one and all, and then we knew it was time for the Bride and Bridegroom to depart.
All the prayers in the world had kept the sun shining and the rain at bay, and as the happy couple emerged at the Great West Door the sun broke through the clouds and the world clapped and cheered!
How wonderful to be a wedding planner on a day like today!
Written by Jane Dayus-Hinch (host of Wedding SOS and slice.ca royal wedding reporter)
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