Prince William proposed to his longterm girlfriend, Kate Middleton, while on a trip to Kenya and the engagement was formally announced on 16 November 2010. William presented Kate with the sapphire and diamond ring that had once belonged to his mother.
William, eldest son of Charles, Prince of Wales, and his first wife, Lady Diana Spencer, met Kate in 2001 when attending the University of St. Andrews. Catherine Elizabeth Middleton is the eldest daughter of Michael Middleton, a businessman, and Carole Goldsmith, a former flight attendant. The Middletons now run a successful family business called Party Pieces, a company which sells party supplies and decorations by mail order.
The wedding took place on 29 April 2011 at Westminster Abbey, a venue which has become popular for royal weddings since the marriage of William’s grandmother, Elizabeth II, was held there. Approximately 1,900 guests were invited to the ceremony at the abbey, with 600 being invited to the luncheon reception and 300 to the evening reception at Buckingham Palace. While a number of foreign dignitaries and Commonwealth leaders were invited to the ceremony as is traditional, the couple chose to have a guest list consisting of mainly family and friends.
While William looked resplendent in his Irish Guards mounted officer’s uniform, the attention was firmly on the bride’s dress as usual. After weeks of speculation that Kate’s wedding dress would be designed by Sarah Burton, creative director of fashion brand Alexander McQueen, it was not confirmed until Kate stepped out of her bridal car. The gown was made of ivory satin with a bodice overlaid with floral motifs appliquéd on to tulle by the Royal School of Needlework.
The main body of the dress was made in ivory and white satin with a long, full skirt designed to resemble an opening flower. The back was decorated with a series of buttons, flowing into soft pleats which formed a semi-bustle, and finishing in a short train measuring just under three metres in length.
The bouquet was a simple combination of home-grown British flowers, including Lily-of-the-Valley, Sweet William, Myrtle and Hyacinth, and it was considerably smaller than most royal bouquets but all the more personal for Kate who chose the flowers herself. The bouquet was later returned to the abbey to be placed on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a tradition started by the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes Lyon.
After the ceremony, a wedding breakfast, hosted by HM The Queen, was held at Buckingham Palace for 650 guests, mainly consisting of thousands of hot and cold canapés prepared by a team of chefs led by Royal Chef Mark Flanagan. The canapés will be served with champagne in several of the state rooms, including the white drawing room, music room, blue drawing room, state dining room and the nearby picture gallery where the wedding cake will be displayed.
The newlyweds mingled with their guests until the traditional balcony appearance and later posed for the official wedding photographs before leaving the palace to rest for the evening reception.
The wedding cake, designed by Fiona Cairns, was eight-tiered and consisted of seventeen traditional fruit cakes decorated with cream and white icing, and decorated with seventeen varieties of sugar paste flowers selected for their meaning in the ‘language of flowers’. Ivy leaves, symbolising marriage, ran along the base, and the bottom three tiers were decorated with piped lace work and daisies, meaning innocence, Sweet William, meaning grant me one smile, and lavender. The individual tiers were filled with cascading orange and apple blossom, honeysuckle, acorns with oak leaves, meaning strength and endurance, and bridal rose, which symbolises happiness, and myrtle.
The fourth tier echoed the architectural details in the picture gallery at Buckingham Palace where the cake would be on display, the rooms decorative garlands were reproduced with roses, acorns, ivy leaves, apple blossom and bridal rose, leading up to the fifth tier which had lattice work and piped leaf detail. The sixth tier was covered in Lily of the valley, representing sweetness and humility, with an artistic interpretation of the couple’s cipher – their initials intertwined below a coronet.
The four flowers of the home nations, English rose, Scottish thistle, Welsh daffodil and Irish shamrock, were featured on the penultimate tier and the top cake, around six inches in diameter, was covered with lace details with a garland of lily of the valley and heather on top.
Additionally, William requested a chocolate biscuit groom’s cake from McVitie’s from a royal family recipe. The cake, a childhood favourite of William’s, was made from crushed Rich Tea biscuits covered in dark chocolate, and was three tiers. The cake was decorated in a modern style with milk and white chocolate feathers and white chocolate water lilies.
Kate’s maid of honour was her sister, Pippa Middleton, and she wore an off-white column dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen and was designed to complement elements of the bride’s dress. The ivory satin-based crepe dress had a cowl neckline, with the same organza-button detail and lace trim as the bride’s dress. Pippa’s hair was styled simply with a side part and a hairpiece made of ivy and lily of the valley to match Catherine’s bouquet.
As lovely as the dress was, it was Pippa’s pert derriere which received most of the attention as she headed up the Abbey steps holding her sister’s train and it led to accusations of the younger Middleton trying to steal the bride’s thunder. However, Pippa said afterwards the dress was never meant to stand out the way it did and she was so focused on her sister, she didn’t realise the attention her slinky silhouette was receiving. Regardless, demand for the dress was high and it was quickly copied.
Of course, Pippa had her hands full looking after the four bridesmaids: Lady Louise Windsor, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Wessex; Margarita Armstrong-Jones, daughter of Viscount and Viscountess Linley; Grace van Cutsem, daughter of the couple’s friend, Hugh van Cutsem; and, Eliza Lopes, granddaughter of the Duchess of Cornwall.
The bridesmaids wore ballerina-style dresses designed by Nicki Macfarlane which were handmade with the same fabrics and button detail as the bride’s dress. The full skirts were box-plaited and trimmed with English Cluny lace, while the satin Mary Jane shoes were decorated with Swarovski crystal buckles. The bridesmaids wore ivy and lily-of-the-valley hair wreaths influenced by the headdress worn by Kate’s mother, Carole Middleton, at her own wedding. The little girls also carried posies of the same flowers in Kate’s bouquet.
The two page boys were: William Lowther-Pinkerton, the son of William’s private secretary, Major Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton; and Tom Pettifer, the son of Princes William and Harry’s former nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke.
The Regency style outfits were designed by Kashket and Partners with an insignia from the Irish Guards since Prince William is their colonel. The red tunics had gold piping and Irish shamrocks on the collars, with a gold and crimson sash around the waist which is a tradition in the Irish Guards when in the presence of a member of the Royal Family.