Royal weddings appeal to the masses in a major way. After all, about 2,500 people gathered at St. Paul's Cathedral to watch Lady Di tie the knot with Prince Charles. Heaps more (some 2 million) watched along the processional route -- but that's nothing compared to the whopping 750 million people who tuned in to see the ceremony on television!
But glam and glitz aside, royal weddings aren't necessarily all they're cracked up to be in the eyes of an enamored public.
If you have a bride-to-be friend who can't help but be jealous of the latest royal couple's designer clothes, fabulous banquets and other wedded luxuries, go ahead and sit her down to discuss some of these less-than-savory subtleties about regal nuptials. It may help her put matters into perspective.
It's one thing to invite a few people who are only casual acquaintances or distant family members of the bride and groom, but it's quite another to have a sea of unfamiliar faces at what is typically a fairly intimate event. Royals who marry don't usually have the luxury of low-key. By pure dint of who they are, VIPs the world over will want to be in attendance, and a great deal of them will make the invite list.
So if you hear hints from a bride you're friends with that she thinks her guest list is pitifully petite (especially when you know it's not!), ask her how she'd feel about a receiving line stretching for miles over the horizon. That is a serious surplus of hand-shaking, bowing, hugging and chitchat -- frequently with people who are practically strangers.
Remember what we said about Princess Diana's big day? Well, sure, the 2,500 people packed in the cathedral were a lot of guests, and the 2 million people who stood out on the sidewalks to watch her pass by in the glass coach was quite a crowd, but how about that last stat? The nearly 1 billion television viewers? Just let that sink in. In 1981, the world population was roughly 4.5 billion. We'll do the math: It comes out to about 1 in 6 out of every single person on the entire planet. And they were all watching her walk down the aisle in what was an incredibly elaborate and crazy-complicated gown. So if your bride is jealous of a royal wedding, remind her how much less pressure she is under than a princess.
After all, if her heel breaks and she stumbles or trips (and imagine how many millions more would have watched Lady Di's wedding footage if that had happened!), she won't have a significant portion of the planet searching for the video and commenting mirthfully on her misstep.
No one wants to think of the "D" word on her big day, but the fact is, not all marriages are a success. And while divorce is a big deal personally, it creates relatively minor waves in the world for most people. As in, millions and millions and millions of people won't endlessly rehash your train-wreck relationship and all the sordid details the media has managed to uncover. After a certain period of time, most busted marriages lose their conversational allure; severed royal nuptials on the other hand make the gossip columns for years after the fact.
This isn't all people will gossip about, of course, which brings us to the next pitfall to being a princess bride ...
Most gossipy folks, fueled by rabid hordes paparazzi, don't wait for something spectacular like a divorce! If regular brides think they've got it bad, look at the scrutiny directed at princesses getting married. Hot topics can include what church she chose, who made the cake, how she arrived at the wedding, what attendees made the guest list, and perhaps the topic debated most fervently: What dress did she wear? Who made it? What color was it? Was it traditional, tasteful or tacky? Regal and elegant or sexy and extravagant? The choice of dress will be remembered, described, discussed and dissected for generations. But no pressure, right?
Royal weddings are, to put it mildly, not cheap. The 2010 wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, for example, cost $2.5 million and half of that came out of public coffers. Many Swedes were less than thrilled by the prospect of funding such a pricey wedding, and became even more so when the economic return from the event fell somewhat below expectations.
Several sources are expected to chip in for the (currently upcoming) wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Middleton's (millionaire) parents and public funds. Taxpayers, for example, provide the British royal family with an annual allowance of approximately $11.6 million, some of which could go toward the wedding. They'll also likely be responsible for helping foot the bill by way of amped-up security measures on the big day. It's not always easy for a princess bride to stay popular when subjects see her spending money left and right, while at the same time they're pulling through tough economic times.
In this day and age, when many people are free to marry whomever they please, it might come as a surprise that royals aren't always encouraged or even allowed to marry their chosen mates due to color or creed.
In Britain, for example, successors to the throne must be members of the Church of England. Furthermore, if they marry a Catholic, it's hasta la vista to their chance at ruling. A princess can be next in line for ascension, but if she chooses to exchange "I do's" with a Catholic, she'll lose her eligibility to the throne. There has been some debate about loosening this restriction, but as of now it remains, for the most part, in effect.
Again using the United Kingdom as an example, provided a princess is a direct descendent of the ruler, she must first obtain permission in order to wed her dearly beloved. And while men today occasionally request permission to wed from the father of their intended, this is still serious business for these royals.
First step: Talk to the ruling monarch and try to win him or her over to the cause. If that route doesn't work and the king or queen disapproves, all is not lost for our petulant princess. She can consult with Parliament to feel out whether its members are all right with the marriage. If both houses have no objections, she simply needs to wait a year, and then she can get hitched to her honey.
If having to obtain permission to wed from a mighty monarch -- or, should the request be denied, having your relationship viewed under the microscope of Parliament -- isn't reason enough not to be jealous of princess brides, how about the now-dated practice of arranged marriages? When a princess declared "till death do us part" to someone who was decided for her? It used to be standard practice.
The old aristocracies and monarchies used to swap around pureblooded progeny all the time, forming alliances and developing diplomatic ties, creating intricate webs among the various ruling families. And it certainly wasn't a hard-and-fast requirement for the two parts of a future couple to like, or even actually know each other, prior to their engagement.
While princesses are often allowed to make decisions in regard to their wedding, chances are excellent some things are already decided -- or at least highly championed -- by the family, the media and/or the public.
Whether it's the ring, the veil, the tiara, the venue, the dress, the processional, the ceremony, you name it -- somebody has already thought of it! The prince's grandmother was married there; his mother wore that ring. Must you imitate them? Or can you break from tradition?
If you know a pouty princess-wanna-be, sit her down and remind her that even real princesses don't get to have their way at every turn.
If a woman is already a princess, then she's probably had some necessary practice at this last one. But if she's new to royalty, there's an awful lot to learn. Spouses who are unfamiliar with the trappings of monarchy must often be trained in the ways of refined society, upper-crust airs and the art of maintaining a squeaky-clean image. Then there are the public appearances which are so enormously numerous. Princesses must exhibit a polished presentation at all times; there's no room for uncouth behaviors.
Then there's the cadre of paparazzi princesses have to deal with, and that's no picnic. The public has always thirsted for knowledge (or as we mentioned earlier, straight-up gossip and speculation) concerning royal families, so princesses can expect round-the-clock company from the press. They'll also often need to cancel any major career plans they may have entertained, since the work of a princess will occupy the bulk of their time.
It's a life of privilege, but that doesn't mean it's perfect.
Americans don’t have a royal family, but are fascinated by royalty. HowStuffWorks looks at five Americans who married into royalty.
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