May 22, 2011

{The Honey Month} Part Two: "English Weddings"

[excerpt from the upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Exposed the 'Princess Myth' for All Women]

And what about those English “wedding breakfasts”? Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981 was at eleven in the morning and they returned to Buckingham Palace for a small reception scheduled for one o’clock, but still called, following tradition, “wedding breakfast.” The tradition started in the nineteenth century when “twelve noon continued to be the deadline for weddings performed in church without a special licence [sic],” historian Ann Monsarrat tells us, therefore the popularity of morning weddings followed by breakfast. (Plus it allowed the bride and groom “to set out on their fashionable wedding-trip at a reasonable hour.”)

For the more modern royal wedding in the spring of 2011, William and Kate had an early afternoon champagne reception hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace to follow their morning wedding. The reception for 650, including a receiving line where the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge greeted each guest, took place in 19 of the palace’s grand state rooms where 10,000 canap├ęs prepared by the palace staff were served and, again with a bow to modern custom, featured two cakes!
(The wedding cake, or now sometimes called the “bride’s cake,” incorporating romantic botanical touches from the “language of flowers,” was an exquisite white sumptuous creation by designer Fiona Cairns with tiers that seemed to be floating in sugar plum delight! Then there was the childhood favorite of the prince, a chocolate biscuit “groom’s cake.”)

That evening, Prince Charles hosted a smaller dinner and dance for the newlyweds at the palace, another break from tradition, and the next morning, the couple surprised the world with an announcement about their honeymoon. Postponing their trip to a private island in the Seychelles for a couple of weeks so the prince could report to work the following Tuesday was another nod to modern couples and their lifestyles.
In casual clothes the morning after their wedding, the newlyweds were photographed leaving Buckingham Palace and boarding a royal helicopter to go spend a few quiet, private days close by.

The idea of honeymoons overall developed into a special time spent together to “get acquainted,” establish companionship, set up home together, and begin a family (so much for having time to develop a relationship!) Modern honeymoons have become more like a vacation “away” from the couple’s busy lives—an escape, perhaps to a beach resort—a time for play, food and sex (and not necessarily in that order.) The honeymoon is the transition time: When the trappings of the wedding pageant are complete and “real life” is about to begin.

The contemporary royal couple, William and Catherine Mountbatten-Windsor (Mr. and Mrs. Wales), combined many traditions and trends regarding their lifestyle and honeymoon plans. They lived together for several years, so already had an established relationship. They postponed their vacation style honeymoon to settle back in at home first and fulfill career responsibilities. And they had, if not a honey month, then a “honey ten days” at an exotic, private resort in the Indian Ocean.~

[Vintage Photographs courtesy of Atlanta History Center]

[Other excerpts from the "The Honey Month" chapter of the upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, will be posted soon.]

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