Here I have the exclusive, never-before released details of what is being touted as the "Wedding of the 21st Century." There have been disagreements over the wedding plans between Buckingham Palace courtiers and Prince William's own team of secretaries and aides at St. James's Palace. However, this is the latest, correct wedding information from my contacts at the palace at the moment - unless Prince William changes his mind again.
Naturally, there's a lot of intense speculation on 'The Dress', and who will design it. Early in the decision process, Catherine ruled out her favorite designer Issa. I'd say it's unlikely that Bruce Oldfield has been chosen, even though he's the bookies' favorite. Much of the focus on him is due to his connection with Diana - Oldfield had designed evening gowns for the princess early in her marriage. However, as Catherine already has the 'Diana ring,' she has other ideas regarding her wedding dress.
There's indication that Catherine has gone for a young, 'little-known', British designer. When the name is officially announced, it will come as a surprise to many, and catapult the designer to worldwide fame. For clues on the identity, I suggest looking at those who have made dresses for Catherine, her sister Pippa, and her mother Carole.
To ensure the tightest security, and to prevent leaks over the actual design, Catherine's dress is already being made inside the palace. After all, who can blame her? Like all brides, she wants to keep the gown under wraps until the big day. The world will get their first full view of the spectacular dress when the bride alights from the carriage at the West Door of Westminster Abbey.
A little known fact is that Diana's wedding dress was actually hand-sewn and finished on the tiny island of Guernsey, where designer Elizabeth Emmanuel's family had a holiday home. The dress was then flown by helicopter to the palace.
Now for the wedding itself, it has been reported that Catherine will be leaving from Buckingham Palace on her way to Westminster Abbey. Well, I can tell you this - if Catherine leaves from Buckingham Palace, she will be the first royal bride since Princess Anne in 1973, and the first non-royal born bride to do so. It's not going to happen. However, Catherine will have to be coming from a royal residence. She certainly won't be leaving from her parents' home in Bucklebury or her London apartment.
Prior to her wedding, Diana went to stay at Clarence House, which was the home of the Queen Mother. It is now the official London residence of Prince Charles, Camilla, William and Harry. So this time around, Clarence House is not an option as Catherine will not be leaving from the same royal residence as her groom. I have been told that she will be leaving from St. James Palace on her way to the Abbey.
The timing will be as follows: William and Harry's procession will be escorted to the Abbey by the Welsh Guards. Once they arrive, the Queen's coach, escorted by the Household Cavalry, will depart from Buckingham Palace. Once the Queen arrives at the Abbey, Catherine will leave in the glass carriage, accompanied by her father Michael Middleton, and escorted by the police.
The rehearsals for the three carriage processions are taking place in the middle of the night. If any of you should be around Buckingham Palace around 3am on certain days, you'll see the Life Guards (cavalry) being put through their paces.
The Dress Code
This will be a morning wedding, and the ceremony will begin around 11:00am. So the dress code will be morning dress or lounge suit (business suit) for the men, and smart day dress for the ladies consisting of a suit or a dress with a hat, not a tiara. As the guest list will include foreign royals, heads of government and other officials, watch for some guests to wear their military uniforms and even their national dress.
Prince William will be wearing his Royal Air Force uniform (Catherine reportedly finds his uniform "sexy"), and his chief supporter will be Prince Harry, who will also be in military uniform.
Royal princes can have two supporters on their wedding day, and Prince Charles had both his brothers, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, as his supporters. However, William can opt to have only one. If he does choose a second supporter, tradition has it that it will be someone from within the royal family so it's more likely that it will be his cousin Peter Philips, rather than his close friend Thomas van Straubenzee, as was suggested in the British press. There has never been any doubt that Catherine's sister Pippa will be her chief bridesmaid (they don't use the term "Maid of Honor").
I think there's a good chance that one of pageboys will be William's godson, 12-year old Prince Constantine Alexios, the son of Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece and his American heiress wife, Marie-Chantal Miller. Even though the Greek royal family is deposed, they are still very close to their British royal relatives, and there will be a large Greek presence at the wedding, especially since most of King Constantine's family live in London.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, is set to officiate the wedding ceremony, despite heavy speculation that Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, will get the nod. However, Chartres, as well as other church figures such as the Dean of Westminster Abbey and the moderator of the Church of Scotland will also play a role in the wedding service. All of them will proceed up the aisle with the Archbishop of Canterbury last, followed by the bride with her father. So effectively, it will be the Archbishop of Canterbury who will lead the bride up the aisle.
Anglican weddings dictate that the groom faces the altar and does not watch the bride proceed up the aisle. He will only see his bride once she is standing beside him. However, Prince Andrew couldn't resist sneaking a peek (and grinning broadly) at Sarah Ferguson as she walked towards him at their wedding.
After the ceremony, as with custom, Catherine will drop a deep curtsy to the Queen before leaving the Abbey with William in the horse-drawn, State Landau carriage. While Catherine is allergic to horses, she has watched Prince William play polo on numerous occasions, as well as attend events such as the Cheltenham races and the Badminton Horse Trials, so it would appear that her allergy is manageable.
There will be several wedding "breakfasts", even though it'll be the afternoon by the time they eat. The main one for family and close friends of the couple will be hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. There is no question of it being held in a hotel, as some have suggested. Heads of State and foreign leaders will be hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, and the Mayor of London will host a breakfast for the next level of government officials.
That evening, there will be a reception at the Ritz, organized by Lady Elizabeth Anson, the Queen's cousin. Lady Anson's company, Party Planners, does all the royal wedding receptions and other major royal events such as the Queen's birthday parties.
William and Catherine will live in North Wales after their marriage so William can continue his work as a RAF Search and Rescue pilot. There are published reports that the couple might move into Princess Diana's old Kensington Palace apartments as their London base. Not only is this not true, but it's not possible. Diana's former living quarters at Kensington Palace have long been gutted and converted into offices.
Palace insiders inform me that along with other "princess-in-training" lessons, Catherine has been learning Welsh for quite some time. This will further endear her to many as she will one day become the Princess of Wales. During her first official tour of Wales shortly after her wedding, Diana was given the key to the city in Cardiff and she charmed the audience by managing a few Welsh sentences in her speech.
I'll have more of the latest details on the wedding as it develops, so watch this space!