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....]

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