Pippa Middleton’s lesson in wedding ‘etiquette’ will be everywhere this year, writes Grace Dent.
Many of us this weekend enjoyed playing the Avoid Pippa Middleton’s Wedding game. The rules were simple, but the odds wildly stacked against us.
From dawn last Saturday, each time phrases such as “Giles Deacon dress”, “12th-century church in Englefield” or “celebrity guests including Ben Fogle” pinged across one’s conscience, the game was to switch channels. Or click swiftly to news images of Trump bobbing along to the Sword Dance in Saudi Arabia like a piss-coloured Kermit.
Some keen refuseniks snapped muted the term “Pippa” across all social media platforms, but resistance, of course, was futile. By osmosis, I’m still furnished with Pippa wedding titbits to ruminate over.
This million-pound royal-but-not-royal wedding, between the daughter of exemplary social climbers and a billionaire stockbroker, says much about British class and social mobility. It’s also a priceless glimpse at how the middle classes in 2017 do weddings.
For example, “Uncle Gary” Goldsmith, who often takes the prefix “disgraced” or “black sheep” in news reports over some relatively tame misdemeanours, appears to have been invited to the church service only. No lavish evening party at Carole Middleton’s mansion for Gary. Julie-Anne, his wife, wasn’t at the wedding at all. By early evening, Gary posted photos on Instagram of a dinner in London.
Why this section of Pippa’s family, reminders of their humble class origins, were given slender access to her big day over, say, Princess Eugenie is a mystery. Still, bearing in mind Pippa’s marquee was styled as an enchanted forest and guests were beckoned outside to watch a flypast from a single spitfire, I’m guessing it wasn’t a budget issue.
The thing about social climbing is that, once you’ve jumped the fence, the last thing you want is a reminder of the field in which you once stood.
This isn’t just a Pippa thing: the modern middle class bride will humblebrag for months about costly dress fittings, Bentley hire, ornate wedding favours, pre-tropical honeymoon jabs and her firework display before micro-managing the guest list, nixing all the “commons” claiming she can’t afford an extra £14 per head for salmon en croute.
Meghan Markle, a Californian actress and Prince Harry’s girlfriend, was permitted to attend the evening event but not the church service. But then, she’s not married to Prince Harry so her invite to the enchanted forest really was charitable dispensation from the Middleton family’s alleged “no ring, no bring” rule. That’s the cheery phrase for: no plus-one invites to guests who aren’t married or engaged to their other half.
“No ring, no bring” will be parroted by semi-deranged twonks in white frocks across the UK this summer. I’ve heard several “modern etiquette” experts praising its tact and diplomacy. It is, in fact, hideous, non-inclusive, gold-plated bridezilla bullshit.
One of the cruellest thing about a “no ring, no bring” policy is that it earmarks the exact moment a bride crosses over to smug married, purging herself of all empathy for what it’s like to be alone. Those days are over, she thinks. “Yes, you can come to my big special fairy princess love extravaganza, but you must come on your Jack Jones. You must get the commuter train to Bumsplash-On-The-Nowhere, and stay in a one-person Colditz-like cell in a rural B&B. You must sit on the oh-so-funny singles table where the running joke all day is that you’re lined up as a bed partner for the drunk best man or chief bridesmaid. No, you can’t bring a friend. We don’t know them at all!’
When I receive an invitation of the like, I often want to RSVP with, “You’ll be divorced again in eight years’ time, get over yourself”, scrawled on the tiny chamomile-coloured embossed envelope.
The fact is that Pippa Middleton did indeed know Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Meghan Markle, is one of the hottest showbiz gossip topics in the world. In fact, a photo of Ms Markle looking radiant in a pretty designer day dress holding Prince Harry’s hand on the church steps would blow Pippa’s wedding arms right off the front page. This is, I’ll guess, why she spent the day sitting awaiting her cue.
Some news reports this weekend suggested, in breathless tones, that Ms Markle waited in London and that Harry went on a heroic 100-mile round trip to pick her up. I was less blown away: an 100-mile roundtrip is an average morning for someone on Ebay driving to collect a broken desk.
But as I say, I was ignoring the wedding and had muted it on all channels, so I’ve hardly thought about it at all.