The wedding of the decade is being orchestrated down to the last detail. Barbie Latza Nadeau and Jacqueline Williams on the guest list, the dress code, the food—and Kate's top-secret gown. Plus, royal wedding fever at London Fashion Week.
Invitations for the April 29 royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton have been sent. In case yours got lost in the mail or you were inadvertently left off the list, this is what you'll be missing.
Gallery: Kate Middleton Lookbook
Prince William and Kate have promised not to make their nuptials the formal, picturebook affair as many remember the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. They are planning a "people's wedding," replete with an eclectic guest list of 1,900 that snubs certain family embarrassments and many heads of state, focusing instead on much-loved family, friends, charity workers, and celebrities of all stripes. The guest list is not made public so we can only speculate. The hottest invitation, however, is reportedly for the evening party, a 300-person dinner to which William and Kate are each allowed 100 guests and Charles and Camilla their own list of 100.
Sarah Ferguson, who was outed in a tabloid sensation last year for selling access to her former husband Prince Andrew, has been snubbed for obvious reasons, but many were surprised to learn that America's first couple Barack and Michelle Obama were also not on the list. We do know that British icons David and Victoria Beckham will help contribute the necessary glam to the gala affair.
Aside from family and friends, who make up more than half the guest list, some 40 foreign royals have been invited, including the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the sultan of Brunei, the emperor of Japan, and kings of Malaysia, Tonga, and Thailand. Troubled monarchs like the kings of Jordan and Bahrain are invited as well, but time will tell if they are still in power by the time the wedding takes place.
The guest list also includes more than 200 members of the government and parliament, along with 80 representatives from charities with which Prince William is associated, including Diana's beloved homeless charity Centrepoint. Reps from the wildlife conservation group Tusk Trust and the Royal Marsden Hospital cancer center are also expected to attend. And then there are invitees who have affected Prince William in one way or another, including members of the homeless community and soldiers injured in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This elite roster of invitees received oversize six-by-eight-inch invitations set on heavy white paper, gilded and stamped with the crown in burnished gold and embossed with black ink. They weren't sent by Middleton's family, but by the senior official of the royal household, a position held by Lord Peel, who has acted as the Lord Chamberlain since 2006, responsible for the arrangements of everything from state visits to royal weddings and funerals. Male guests with a military record have been asked to don their armed-forces dress uniform, while women are expected to wear elegant afternoon dresses with or without a coat, or an elegant matching ensemble with a hat.
The wedding will begin promptly at 11 a.m. to the hallowed bells of Westminster Abbey. The queen, the duke of Edinburgh, the prince of Wales, the duchess of Cornwall, and Prince Harry, Will's best man and brother, will be seated in the front pews on the bridegroom's side. Michael and Carole Middleton, brother James Middleton, and Pippa Middleton, Kate's sister and maid of honor, will sit behind the bride.
After the formal ceremony, 600 chosen guests will attend a lunchtime buffet—an extravaganza to dwarf the sit-down breakfast for 120 hosted by the queen for Charles and Diana in 1981. Buckingham Palace chef Darren McGrady told People magazine, "Guests will be invited back to Buckingham Palace for a wedding breakfast of Champagne, canapés, and heavy hors d'oeuvres, such as smoked salmon, paté, and mini sausage rolls." This list will also likely include petit fours, mini éclairs, trifle, and chocolate and lemon mousse. A multitiered centerpiece wedding cake will be beautifully decorated, perhaps with William's coat of arms, the top adorned with flowers. Later Friday evening, William and Kate will give a nod to tradition when Prince Charles hosts the formal sit-down dinner for 300 to be followed by a dance. The next day, April 30, they leave on their secret honeymoon, accompanied by a small entourage and, no doubt, a swarm of salivating paparazzi.
Some 40 foreign royals have been invited, including the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the sultan of Brunei, the emperor of Japan, and kings of Malaysia, Tonga, and Thailand.
For those who can't make the wedding, there are plenty of options for taking part in the frenzy. Keeping with a 30-year tradition, an array of memorabilia—from the tackiest of tea towels to traditional gold-embossed plates—have already flooded the market. And experiential opportunities abound. Tour companies are booking wedding packages like the " British Royal Wedding Escape," which, for around $2,000 a person, includes a mock procession and private tour of Windsor Castle. Such first-person activities spiral all the way down to the $25 " Royal Wedding Walk" through Will and Kate's favorite London haunts—the British version of Hollywood's tours of stars' neighborhoods. All told, the top estimates for how much money the spectacle will pump into the local economy through tourism and merchandise sales exceed $800 million. London pubs have been given permission to extend their hours on this "day of national celebration."
Royal relic collectors will wait for the official embossed bone-china plates, but for the rest, nearly every grocery store chain in the U.K.—and many gift shops in America—are already selling two-handled loving cups. Knockoff engagement rings and duplicates of Kate's famous hats have been flying off the shelves for months, but the one item that can't be copied—yet—is Kate's wedding dress. Rooms at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House are booked for her dress fittings, and the designer's name is one of the best-kept secrets in London. Whether she gives a nod to her bridegroom's belated mother or chooses something sexy and modern to suit her sleek figure, her gown will be the trend-setter of the year.
Barbie Latza Nadeau, author of the Beast Book Angel Face, about Amanda Knox, has reported from Italy for Newsweek since 1997 and for The Daily Beast since 2009. She is a frequent contributor to CNN Traveller, Departures, Discovery and Grazia. She appears regularly on CNN, BBC and NPR.
Jacqueline Williams is a freelance researcher and producer of television documentaries. She worked for Tina Brown on The Diana Chronicles, and has made programs for Atlantic Productions in London and Television Network International in Cologne. She works and lives in London.