Happily Ever Afters

The fairytale wedding of an honest-to-goodness prince and an American actress is merely days away. We have not had such an occurrence since Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco 62 years ago. Princess Diana's younger son, Prince Harry (Henry Charles Albert David Mountbatten-Windsor) will marry Meghan (Rachel Meghan Markle) on Saturday, May 19th. The wedding can be viewed around the world with East Coast viewing beginning at 4:00 in the morning. Royal watchers who prefer their beauty sleep will be sure to set their televisions to record this anticipated event.

Were you invited to the Royal Wedding? Or perhaps, like me, you are still waiting for your invitation to arrive. I have my hot pink fascinator at the ready, just in case. Whether you are attending Meghan and Harry's nuptials on the grounds of Windsor Castle, or perhaps a less-famous event, there is much to learn from royal wedding etiquette and how it applies to us.

Invitation Information ~ Often the first clue about the wedding comes from the invitation. The formality of the invite offers clues and cues to the guests as to what to expect. An invitation with a monarch's crest, tres formal. An e-vite over the internet, less so. The envelope provides immediate direction as to who is invited. If it is addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Smith, then only the adults are invited. If it is addressed to The Smith Family, then the entire family may attend. It is not for the guest to decide if they feel like including others or bringing a plus-one. Harry and Meghan's invitation indicated that there would be a religious ceremony followed by a reception on the grounds of the castle. The lower right corner will also provide information about what to wear.

Apt Attire ~ The royal wedding invitation dress code is specified as "dress uniform, morning coat or lounge suit" for men and "day dress with hat" for women. For men, the parameters are clear. For women, there is much more to consider. Conservative attire guidelines rule the day for religious ceremonies. Shoulders and knees should be covered. Scarves and shawls are both practical and help to ward off drafts should the temperatures dip. For the dresses and trouser suits, festive, spring colors are recommended. If you can wear it to the office, chances are it is too drab to be worn to a royal wedding. As with all weddings, white should be avoided. As with day weddings, solid black should also be avoided as it can be perceived as mourning. For dresses and skirts, in addition to hitting the knee, fuller skirts can be taxing if there are persistent breezes. Flats and wedges will allow you to stroll without sinking into the turf. Lastly, the British are known for their love of hats and fascinators. Besides adding to the celebratory feel, hats with brims provide shade and sun protection. Fascinators may not have a practical edge, but often prove to be conversational pieces. No matter the choice in headwear, it should not block the view of those behind you during the ceremony.

The Giving of Gifts ~ Unlike bridal showers, events centered on showering the couple with gifts to establish their household, registry information is never included in the wedding invitation. But what do you give a couple that has everything? Well, in Harry and Meghan's case, nothing. For a prince and his bride, your best bet is to consider a donation in their honor to one of their favorite charities. For almost every other couple not quite at the posh lifestyle of a prince, you can review the registry. You should understand that invitations are not invoices. According to etiquette, you are not required to give a gift. Instead, you should be so honored to be included in this couple's big day that you are moved to give a token of your affection and well wishes for their lives together. What you give, and how much you spend, is dependent on your relationship with the couple and your personal budget. What the hosts have spent per plate for the reception is, quite frankly, none of your business. If there is something from the registry you would like to give, click to buy and you are done. If nothing from the registry is of interest or in your price range, you may opt for something off the registry yet within the parameters of their taste. Should you skip the registry and instead choose to give a monetary gift, a check is a better choice as it can be tracked.

Logical Logistics ~ Bringing a wrapped wedding gift to a royal affair would be both difficult and a security issue. Unless culturally inappropriate, gifts should be given in advance of the wedding. In addition to removing one item from your to-do list, doing so eliminates the chance a gift will be lost, broken or stolen at the reception. There is a vicious misnomer stating guests have a year to give a gift. This belief is simply incorrect. Wedding gifts, like birthday gifts, are to be given in the timeframe of the event. It is not up to you to decide if the marriage will "endure." Would you wait a year to give a birthday gift to make sure the person lived? Savvy guests send gifts upon receipt of the invitation and then need only to look forward to enjoying the event.

Ceremony ~ When invited to attend the actual exchanging of vows, do attend. This is the essence of the actual wedding. As noted before, religious ceremonies, whether you are a true believer in organized religion or not, require the respectful choice of conservative clothing. The royal wedding is called for "12 noon." This is when the processionals are set to start. As a guest, you should arrive well in advance. Be sure to plan your travel time well. Allow for traffic, parking issues and time to finish your coffee. There should be no need to bring your iced coffee into a religious service. Whether stated or not, please put away your mobile devices after you have double checked they are completely, airplane-mode off.

Celebration ~ Now that you are dressed in your wedding finery, brush up on your better behaviors as well. Be sure to thank the couple and their families in the receiving line. You are only to touch the Queen if she extends her hand to you first. This is not the time to have an extended conversation... quick congratulations and move along. Be sure to mingle. Take the time to speak with guests you do not yet know and ask how they are acquainted with the couple. During the party is when your social skills come into play. As you partake, you may cut loose on the dancefloor, but you should manage to keep your wits about you. Open bar is not a challenge to see how much you can drink and while boorish behavior is tolerated at the bachelor party (known in British parlance as a Stag party) it is not appropriate now. As for how long to stay, know once the wedding cake has been cut and served the reception is winding down.

Social Media ~ For royal weddings, to have one's mobile device visible at the wedding is considered quite gauche. It should be carefully tucked away. For less than royal weddings, the appropriate time to take pictures is during the processional and recessional. Leave the marriage vow and first kiss picture taking to the professionals. And for all weddings, unless you have been charged with the task, allow the couple to post their pics to social media first.

My hot pink fascinator, my Royal Collection china teacup and my Royal Wedding tea are all at the ready for Saturday morning. Whether you are attending a royal wedding event, a college pal's nuptials or a relative's marriage, I wish all this season's couples best wishes as they begin to build their lives together.