While topics such as the celebrity guest list (Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, Kate Middleton and, er, Donna Air), the likely appearance of young Prince George and Princess Charlotte as page boy and bridesmaid and Pippa’s insistence that her guests bring two sets of clothes—one for the church and one for the night-time bacchanalia—have been commanding headline writers’ attention in recent days, front and center of all speculation, of course, is the question of who will be designing Pippa’s dress.
There was only ever really about the same chance that Pippa would go with Alexander McQueen as there would be of a drunken uncle getting a snog on the dancefloor. Kate’s dress and the famous bridesmaid dress in which Pippa stole the show at Westminster Abbey six years ago were both made by the revered British house.
The hot favorite now is the youthful British designer Giles Deacon, known for his fashiony, witty takes on established classics.
As one fashion writer told The Daily Beast, there is no better way to say “I’m not Kate.”
Deacon was spotted meeting Pippa and her mum Carole before Christmas, and this week wedding dress fitters were seen carrying what is assumed to be the all-important frock in a protective garment cover into the £17-million mansion in Chelsea, West London, that Pippa and James share.
Another juicy snippet to emerge this week was that guests have been asked to take a second outfit for the evening party.
Cue an outpouring of grumbling on social media, where style and society watchers—none of whom, one imagines, have actually received a golden ticket—seized the opportunity to criticise Pippa for being excessively high-maintenance and demanding; a Bridezilla in other words.
Given that Pippa’s wedding is taking place at a charming church in the English countryside, followed by a reception in a marquee in the garden of her parents’ home, it may perhaps at first blush seem that mandating costume changes is a little over the top.
In fact, however, there has long been an informal habit among many female guests at big upper class weddings to change into different—and far more risqué—clothes for the evening celebrations. Pippa is really doing little more than formally giving permission to her friends to do what they would probably do anyway.
As one party organizer used to dealing with the Pippas of this world told The Daily Beast, “It is increasingly common to suggest to guests that they might want to wear different clothes in the evening. It’s quite demanding, but it only truly becomes Bridezilla when they specify the colour they want the guests in.
“It’s actually quite a good way of letting your guests know that you are planning to do some seriously wild partying in the evening, and what might be appropriate for church won’t necessarily work at midnight on the dancefloor,” says the event planner.
“Given that she is, you know, Pippa Middleton, if this is the most extreme request she is making of her guests, I don’t think it’s particularly outrageous.
“It’s not as if guests will be forced to change in their cars or in the Portaloos, as some media have speculated, as most of them will have been allocated to nearby big houses owned by friends of the family. Also the change of clothes might actually provide a convenient break in proceedings for wedding photos to be taken.”
Other details that have filtered out concerning the wedding certainly point to a lavish but also self-consciously traditional and very English ceremony.
It is widely rumoured that Prince George and Princess Charlotte will be among the page boys and bridesmaids (not Kate) and along with Deacon as the designer, celebrity milliner Stephen Jones is rumored to be the designer of Pippa’s bespoke veil.
There are believed to be around 350 invited guests and it has been estimated the final bill will roll in at around £250,000—a substantial sum, even given the vast wealth of the two families involved.
Matthews is one of the most successful money men of his generation. He has amassed a personal fortune of hundreds of millions of pounds through his company, Eden Capital Management, which is named after his parents’ celebrated Eden Rock hotel on St Barth’s (no, the family is not short of funds).
He paid £17 million for his stucco-fronted Chelsea home, which he recently extended to create his and hers dressing rooms.
But whereas Pippa’s family is almost obsessively well-behaved, Matthews has a very louche younger brother named Spencer, a reality TV star thanks to his part in the British TV show Made in Chelsea which chronicles the (heavily scripted and conflict-drenched) lives of London’s jeunesse dorée.
In a memoir, Spencer claimed to have slept with 1,000 women, and he has admitted to an addiction to steroids. He is dating a model, Vogue Williams, who has reportedly not been invited to the big bash. Another brother, Michael, died tragically just hours after becoming the youngest Briton to scale Everest. His body has never been found.
The intricacies of the wedding have been the subject of a hailstorm of speculation, not least because Pippa herself was once a professional party-thrower, working for London-based events company Table Talk, and famously published a famously terrible book on the subject, entitled Celebrate.
The ability to throw a good party clearly runs in the Middleton blood; her parents have made millions from their party supplies company Party Pieces, and Pippa was editor of the site’s Party Times blog.
While the focus in the book and on the website is largely on affordable, kid and family parties, and keeping things low key, manageable, and informal, Pippa’s wedding is going to be anything but.
“She was very professional, and her own wedding will run like clockwork, of that I am certain,” says one peer who knew her in her event-planning days. “There will also be some amazing surprises—for any party planner, your own wedding is the one that you are always saving up all your best ideas for.”
Pippa has had plenty of practice, throwing some impressive bashes for friends and family in recent years. Back in 2012, for her New Year’s Eve party, attended by William and Kate, Pippa hired a Laplander kata—a tepee-style shelter made of animal hides—for ₤3,000, and pitched it in her parents’ back garden in Berkshire. Around 100 guests ushered in 2012 in what was described as a “canvas palace.”
Her biggest triumph in recent years, however, was organizing William and Kate’s disco-themed royal wedding after-party, which featured clever subversions of tradition whilst still adhering to it, such as Haribo candies handed round on silver trays.
She also organized a low-key event for her sister’s 30th, which featured Duran Duran karaoke (nothing so brash as an appearance by the band themselves).
Insiders expect an ironic midnight snack at Pippa’s party. Delicious luxury bacon sandwiches—perhaps served in lightly toasted brioche buns—are something of a Pippa trademark. Pippa organized and personally handed round bacon sandwiches at another wedding party which she organized for a friend, Camilla Hook, and early-morning “bacon butties” were a feature of the royal wedding after-party too.
However, at heart, Pippa is a traditionalist, and the formula ultimately will be variations on the classic theme, buckets of champagne, a delicious dinner, and terrible music you just can’t help but dance to.
Evidence of Pippa’s traditionalism can be found in the fact that she has reportedly declined to issue invites to the partners of friends who are not engaged or married (referred to as “no ring no bring” in society circles).
This is the given reason for the non-inviting of Vogue Williams, but a special exception has been made for Meghan Markle.
Why? Because not to invite the current front runner in Prince Harry’s decades-long, ongoing brideshow would be an unnecessary forced error and gigantic political faux pas on Pippa’s part if they do indeed tie the knot.
Now that really would be a wedding to get excited about.