July 29, 2011

{30 Years Ago Today}

Thirty years ago today on July 29, 1981, a grand morning wedding in central London changed our world. The marriage of Lady Diana Frances Spencer and His Royal Highness Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, set off dazzling fireworks in all directions! It sparked:
~a royal soap-opera that was covered in the global media with fierce detail (sorta’ accurate but mostly not);
~the making of a princess superstar and a run on tiaras;
~a world-wide resurgence in the bridal industry and the creation of everyday “celebrity” weddings;
~a revolution in family life in the British monarchy as well as its dynastic protocol;
~it resurrected the constant use of the words "fairy tale" and upped the ante on “the princess myth.”

To note this pivotal wedding anniversary, today begins a series of posts—excerpts from my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride—that feature bits of its prologue and share my remembrances of that day: the wedding, the bride and its lasting effect on the world.~

The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride:
Princess Diana, the Princess Myth & a Royal Legacy for All Women 

Front Row to a Royal Wedding

O ceremony, show me but thy worth.
- William Shakespeare, Henry V

When it’s over, I want to say:
all my life I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
-Mary Oliver

In English tradition, wedding vows are a morning affair, and if we were to catch the first glimpse of the beautiful bride, we needed to be “front and center” very early. My friends and I were a little old for a slumber party, but as we gathered in our pajamas around 4 a.m. in front of my television in Atlanta, Georgia, the anticipation and giddiness was “ageless.”  It was July 29, 1981, and like millions of people around the world, we prepared to watch the royal wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles of England.

I had followed the news of the courtship, the surprise of the sapphire engagement ring, and the mystery around the gown for several months. And now, I was delighted to settle in with friends for a long morning of gala festivities with commentary from London by Jane Pauley of NBC, Barbara Walters of ABC, and guest host David Frost on CBS. Switching back and forth (pre-remote days) so not to miss a bit of pageantry!

We even had snacks to match the occasion: scones and fig jam, and Earl Grey tea with lemon—not only to feed our early morning hunger, but perhaps it was also to feed some inherent dreams of being a princess. ~

[The next part of the Prologue of The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride will be posted in a few days! To see all excerpts from the Prologue, click on "Prologue" in Labels list below.]

July 17, 2011

{The Goddess Bride} Part Five/Final: "Opening Hearts"

[excerpt from the upcoming book - The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: Princess Diana, the Princess Myth & a Royal Legacy for All Women]

I share wedding lore relating to goddess legends and queenly costume history with readers in my book, The Bride’s Ritual Guide: Look Inside to Find Yourself. Feeling “regal” is not only part of their natural inheritance, I tell brides, but feeling like a goddess everyday is their legacy as well! Here’s one excerpt:

My friend Adele Azar-Rucquoi, who wore no wedding gown nor crown but a white silky blouse and flowing pants with a wide-brim straw hat, was a joyful first-time bride at fifty-nine and the essence of the regalness of spirit. Walking down the aisle toward her beloved, she shares this remembrance in her book for women, Money as Sacrament: “One by one I made eye contact with my friends, grinning until my face hurt. Never have I seen them from so regal a place!”

Perhaps it’s not what you wear on your wedding day but how you wear it. So wear it well, you beautiful Goddess Bride! Allow yourself to feel your regal femininity down to your toes, taking pleasure in your unique feminine ways of being compassionate, kind, and strong. And remember a goddess always keeps her heart open and available to love, even after life returns to normal.

Kathy Jones, author of The Ancient British Godddess, includes this reference in her story of the Celtic goddess Brigit who was also known as Bride: “Bride is symbolically a horse goddess and her consort, the young god, is depicted as her groom, lavishly attending her.”  Is that a confirmation that being a bride comes with your goddess birthright of being lovingly attended? Isn’t that what we all want in relationships—to be deeply appreciated and attended to in the most loving way? This is what we can take away from the ancient times of goddess worship, when people had a reverence for all of life, lovingly in service to each other. What would it take for us to return to that focus of women and men attending to the other in the name of devoted spiritual partnership?

Women approach their wedding in different ways: as a chance to dress like a princess and have a coronation; or as a huge lavish party or a sexy brouhaha or her moment in the starlet spotlight; or an intimate and life-changing experience and a time to make deeper heart-connections; or an introspective journey into the mysteries of unconditional love and a mystical and joyful spiritual transformation; or a bit of it all. But wedding rituals offer an opportunity for a woman and her bridegroom to partake in sacred and transforming mysteries of the spirit—a “royal journey”—inherited from our lineage of known and unknown sources of inspiration and guidance. At their core, these ancient rituals can guide brides and grooms gracefully and powerfully into the openings and deep connection of a spiritual partnership, readying the heart for things to come, opening the heart in the moment.

After her bright and beautiful wedding, some of Princess Diana’s life played out the manipulative, vengeful and dark side of feminine nature as she looked for balance between her two worlds. Yet she opened people’s hearts with her attentive modern way of mothering,  compassionate work with the underprivileged, and her willingness (need?) to literally reach out and touch and fully embrace others—and be touched in return. Then ironically her early death blasted open hearts even more, opening the way for a new manifestation of loving relationships and expanding the world’s heart energy. The “goddess bride” was then heralded as the “true English rose,” the “people’s princess,” the “Queen of Hearts” … and the real story of divine purpose, the nature of forgiveness, and softening hearts began to emerge. ~

[Bridal Photograph: Julie Mikos]
[Other excerpts from "The Goddess Bride" chapter of The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride upcoming book can be found by clicking on "The Goddess Bride" in the Labels list below.]

July 10, 2011

{Tiaras & the Real Princesses}

"Tiaras," according to the sumptuous book by Geoffrey Munn, "have always inspired a great fascination and the most beautiful and influential women have been painted, photographed and admired whilst wearing them."

Historically, tiaras have been worn by royalty as crown jewels, by high society for those famed costume balls, and by brides as regal headpieces—whether made of real gemstones set in gold and platinum, or paste or rhinestones in pot metal. "Even in the twenty-first century they are still worn and continue to inspire special poise and elegance," the author and famous curator continues in Tiaras: A History of Splendour.

Kate's heirloom Windsor tiara

During this year of royal weddings of all sorts, we saw tiaras to match! Of course there was "Kate the Great" (aka Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) who wore a rather modest—as diadems go—heirloom tiara with historical significance for her grand, yet intimate wedding to Prince William of Great Britain. It suited her refined, feminine gown and her personal style of simple elegance.

Princess Charlene &
Prince Albert II
Then there was former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock who became a princess this summer when she married Prince Albert II in fabled, glamorous Monaco wearing an unusual "tiara" that wasn't. The Prince had commissioned famous jewelers around the world to submit a possible tiara design as a gift for his lovely bride-to-be to wear on their wedding day. The dazzling winner was by Lorenz Bäumer of Paris: an asymmetrical spray—"evoking a spray thrown off a crashing wave," as Associated Press writer Jenny Barchfield described—"in white gold and nearly 60 karats worth of diamonds" meant to symbolize the bride's love for the sea and also to honor her new Mediterranean home and its people.

Charlene's unusual diamond "tiara"

Yet it was worn at the nape of the neck, nestled in the bride's sleek blonde up-do. Beautiful with her embroidered tulle veil and off-the-shoulder silk duchesse, hand-beaded couture gown and fifteen-foot train, but was it a "tiara"? Breaking with royal protocol, did the more personal style make her less princess-ey?

The same weekend, a "princess" of the fashion world married amidst lots of Vogue-style publicity. Iconic supermodel Kate Moss wed near her English home in the Cotswolds and the royalty of fashion turned out. In a diaphanous, beaded slip-of-a-thing floor-length designer gown, Kate was more free-spirited with her vintage style veil worn over her long loose, curly hair. No tiara, but her look actually was reminiscent of the original tiaras and crowns!

Kate Moss with husband & wedding party
The first "tiaras" would have been made from nature—wreaths of entwined flowers and herbs. "In the ancient world," wrote Munn, "the victorious were crowned with the laurel wreaths of Apollo, and the newly wed with myrtle, sacred to Aphrodite. Today, with our humble wreaths of daisy chains, the custom continues." Therefore the dozen or so happy little girls in cream shifts and circlets of fresh flowers in their hair who surrounded Kate Moss as part of her wedding party—as well as Kate Middleton's four flower-girls in pouffy ivory-colored dresses wearing botanical wreaths—were like the original "crowned" fairy princesses...goddesses all!

Kate Middleton's young attendants

Once ancient artisans began replicating nature in precious, malleable gold thousands of years ago, more permanent crowns were created. Then tiaras encrusted with rare gemstones were not far behind—and the appeal of being a princess probably increased!

Crown Princess
Victoria of Sweden
Although Princess Charlene's more subtle "tiara" may have been questionable (and you never want to upstage the bride), but the ones worn to her post-wedding dinner and gala by a striking parade of foreign princesses did not fail to dazzle!

Want to feel like a princess? Grab your tiara! ~

July 6, 2011

{Did You Know?} No.6: “Westminster Abbey & Royal Weddings”

[Did You Know? is a random series of posts highlighting facts and folklore about brides, weddings & courtship. To read other posts, click on Did You Know? in the Labels list below.]

Did you know that there was no royal wedding in Westminster Abbey between 1382 and 1919? English newspaper columnist Charles Moore (in an article for the Telegraph the week before the recent royal wedding) tells us that “in the intervening period, the couples were married more privately—in the Chapel Royal, for example. Since then, there have been nine.” Moore believes that this fact may reveal something “surprising,” like that “royal weddings have become more important than ever before [to the] national life” of Great Britain. And it also appears that royal weddings are even more intriguing to the tuned-in, celebrity-loving world at large.

The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton—now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge—seemed to prove this point as it spotlighted the grand Westminster Abbey once again for a very public (and very large) worldwide viewing. On the morning of the wedding, the vast nearly 800 year-old building (already full of sight-blocking columns) was also packed with almost 2000 guests, numerous television cameras, lighting equipment, cables, speakers, et al. Nonetheless, it seemed the perfect site for what felt like an intimate family wedding ceremony, even though there was an estimated two billion television viewers and another million or so spectators gathered outside watching on large screens along with reporters from all over the globe.

William’s parents’ wedding in 1981 was at the much larger St. Paul’s Cathedral since theirs was a “state” wedding and needed to include more official guests (i.e.: heads of state). William and Kate chose to have a “private,” smaller wedding and thought the Abbey to be more suitable. Although this grand affair may have been considered a “smaller” wedding for the heir to the British throne, it was amazingly personal and intimate. It shows that when love and heart connections are present, intimacy is possible no matter the size of the building or the audience.

Perhaps the massive appeal for both locals and worldwide viewers of royal weddings is in part because of our fascination with the grandeur of pageantry—the ornate costumes and graceful protocol—as well as the rituals of antiquity. We are drawn into their beauty, words and mystery; we’re soothed and transported by their rhythm. It’s mysterious, yet there is something familiar and intimate as well. I find this is the nature of most rituals of passage no matter if played out in a grand cathedral or a small family garden; they can take us into a tender, home-like spot within. And the glorious Westminster Abbey—combined with the love and creativity of William and Kate, their families and friends—made a perfect setting to welcome “home” almost a third of the world’s population on April 29, 2011.~

[To read other Did You Know? posts in this series, click on “Did You Know?” in the Labels list below. Another one coming soon....]

July 1, 2011

{Diana's 50th Birthday}

Diana Spencer Mountbatten-Windsor would have been 50 years old today, July 1st, 2011, if she had lived. There are commemoratives happening in the press worldwide to honor and celebrate this complex, compelling life ... and wonder "What if?"

Here are a  few links to explore & enjoy. (And I'll keep you posted on the release date of my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress {& Other Princess Myths Revealed} that reveals surprising things about Diana's legacy.)

Time magazine:
Happy Birthday, Princess Diana: 50 Rare Images of an Icon
People magazine:
Princess Diana Remembered at 50
High 50 - UK blog:
Diana at 50
Newsweek magazine:
Diana at 50 and Diana on Facebook

[Top photograph: Mario Testino]