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Prince William and the soon-to-be Princess Catherine are approaching their wedding with a mix of the traditional and the non-traditional.
At this point, the impending wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (soon to be Princess Catherine) has been covered in such exhaustive detail that we know what kind of ring she'll be wearing, who will be filling the seats of Westminster Abbey, and even what the guests will be chowing down on before and after the ceremony.
Yet, there are still one or two (or 10) things you might not know about the big event, or royal weddings in general. To make sure you approach this heavily-anticipated worldwide event adequately prepared, we've outlined some facts and figures that will make you the ruler of your own personal royal wedding party.
10. The Location
Westminster Abbey has been the site of royal coronations since the coronation of William I in 1066. The 700 year-old building can hold 2,200 people, but has only hosted 15 weddings during its long history. Some weddings that are recorded as having taken place at Westminster may not always refer to the Abbey itself (St. Stephen's chapel, Whitehall Palace, and Greenwich Palace were the more likely locations). Princess Patricia, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, started the trend of actually getting married in the Abbey in 1919. The current Queen, Elizabeth II, married Prince Philip in the Abbey in 1947.
Kate's flower bouquet will have more than just beautiful flowers - it will have a piece of history. The future princess will be keeping up a tradition that dates back to the 19th century and the wedding of Queen Victoria by including a sprig of myrtle from that tree that still grows in Victoria's personal garden. Myrtle is known as "the herb of love" and is believed to symbolize a long and happy marriage. After the ceremony, the myrtle sprig is planted in the bride's garden by her bridesmaids (the bride never does it herself). An old legend claims that if the myrtle doesn't root, whoever planted it will be an old maid.
8. The Gown
Brides have always worn white, right? Actually, the tradition owes its genesis to Queen Victoria. For her 1840 marriage to Prince Albert, Victoria donned an extravagant white gown (which was in stark contrast to the colorful or even black gowns typically worn by brides prior) and kickstarted a tradition that still holds today.
7. The Bride
A sign of the times? At 29, Kate Middleton will be the oldest royal bride in history. That is to say, the oldest royal bride who wasn't a divorcee. Eleanor of Aquitaine was believed to be 30 when she divorced King of the Franks Louis VII and married future king Henry II in 1152 (her exact birth date is a matter of some mystery), and the Duchess of Cornwall was 57 when he became the Prince of Wales' second wife in 2005. But typically, first-time royal brides tended to be in their teens (except Diana, who was a robust 20 when she married Prince Charles). What's that? Who was the youngest? Errr…..it was Isabella of Valois, who was just six when she married the widowed Richard II in 1396. Yeah, best to move on…
6. Wedding Etiquette
Americans lucky enough to be invited to a royal wedding (and they are a varied group - everyone from John Travolta to Kanye West) actually are not required to bow to the Queen, since they are not royal subjects (thanks to, you know, all that unpleasantness that went on in the late 18th century). However, nodding slightly at the neck (for men) and bending slightly at the knees (the curtsey, for women) is considered a "gracious" thing to do.
The Royal Air Force trumpeters have written a brand new piece of music called "Valiant and Brave" especially for the wedding celebration. It will be included alongside music from the London Chamber Orchestra, the Choir of Westminster Abbey, and the Royal Chapel Choir on a special commemorative CD available May 5th. Prince William serves in the RAF as a Search-and-Rescue pilot.
Being late to the ceremony is simply not an option. According to royal tradition, the Queen must be the last person to enter the cathedral. If you can't beat a horse-drawn carriage to Westminster, best to skip the occasion altogether.
3. Modern Convenience
In a stark break with tradition, Kate will arrive at the Abbey by car, rather than the horse-drawn Glass Coach used by past royal brides. Middleton and her father will arrive in a newly-restored 1997 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI. The car needed some repairs after a mob of students protesting fee hikes hurled bottles and sticks and the vehicle.
2. No Bouquet Tossing
Queen Elizabeth II will host a traditional "wedding breakfast" immediately following the ceremony. "Wedding breakfast" does not imply eggs and bacon - in fact, typical breakfast food is not served - it is merely the British term for reception. Later that night, Prince Charles will host an evening of dinner and dancing for an even more select group than those invited to the ceremony. In between, Kate will leave her bouquet at the grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, as per tradition. So no need to gather the bridesmaids...
1. Royal Chores
In one last break with royal tradition, Prince William and Princess Catherine will not be employing any servants as they build a home in Wales (where the RAF has William stationed for the next couple of years). So, yes, the future King of England will be taking his own trash out to the bins, thank you.