Prince George will be a pageboy, Princess Charlotte a bridesmaid and the $650,000 wedding reception will be in a grand marquee. Royal writer Katie Nicholl reveals the planning of Pippa Middleton’s upcoming nuptials.
the plans for her lavish wedding
It can’t be easy following in the footsteps of her famous older sister, the Duchess of Cambridge, especially on her wedding day. Yet when Philippa Charlotte Middleton marries former racing driver turned hedge fund millionaire James Matthews on May 20, all eyes will be on the blushing bride.
With the help of her mother, professional party planner Carole Middleton, Pippa has organised a wedding fit for royalty and one that will be remembered as one of the most lavish society weddings of the year.
The 33-year-old Pippa, who has written a book on entertaining, has hired the most exclusive – and expensive – baker in the posh London suburb of Belgravia to make her wedding cake at a cost of around $8000, while the Middletons are believed to be splashing out more than $650,000 on the reception alone.
“No expense is being spared,” says a source close to the family. “The Middletons are treating the wedding like a serious production and it will be the best of everything. Months of meticulous planning have gone into the day. It’s going to be quite something.”
Save-the-date cards went out with the couple’s Christmas cards, while the highly sought after invites – printed by upmarket publisher Mount Street in Mayfair, according to one newspaper report – were posted to
350 select guests nearly two months ago.
Among those sitting on the oak-wood pews at St Mark’s Church in Englefield, a small village in the county of Berkshire in England’s prosperous south, 11km away from the Middleton family home, will be two future
Kings – Pippa’s brother-in-law, Prince William and her nephew, Prince George, who will be a pageboy. Prince Harry has also been invited, along with Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.
The Australian Women’s Weekly has learned that in order not to upstage the bride, Kate will be taking “a deliberate back seat” on the wedding day, leaving the spotlight to her younger sister, Pippa. And contrary to reports, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s new girlfriend, is unlikely to attend.
“Kate has been very involved behind the scenes right from the start, but when it comes to Pippa’s wedding day, she won’t be matron of honour,” says the source. “She is likely to do a reading along with their brother, James. Kate wants this day to be all about Pippa and her groom, and if anyone risks upstaging the bride it’s going to be George and Charlotte for their cuteness.”
Pippa, who is close to her niece and nephew, asked William and Kate if they would allow George and Charlotte to be a pageboy and bridesmaid shortly after her engagement last year.
We can also reveal that Pippa has asked her old school friend, Alice Avenel, if her daughter, Rose, would be a flower girl.
Sources close to the bride-to-be, who used to work for Table Talk, one of the UK’s most prestigious private events companies, say she has planned a “thoroughly traditional wedding” and has employed the help of her former employers to ensure the day runs smoothly.
Known for its discretion, Table Talk has refused to say whether it is involved, but one guest revealed, “Knowing Pippa, it will be quintessentially English, classy and beautiful. She will inevitably have asked Table Talk to help out because they are brilliant at staging big events such as this.”
Sources say Pippa and James, 41, have shunned at least two lucrative media offers to photograph their wedding. Her spokesperson has also said that there are
“no plans” to release an official picture of
the couple on their wedding day, insisting
that they want to keep it private.
Of course, the couple will want their day to be memorable and Pippa has consulted her sister Kate, herself a keen photographer, on which photographer to hire, while Lavender Green Flowers, based in chic London suburb Chelsea, has been commissioned to do the springtime bouquets.
While she had a number of possible wedding venues, including Scotland, where the Matthews family has an estate, and the Caribbean island of St Barts, where the family owns a resort, Pippa was keen to get married in her local church. The ceremony will be conducted by the parish vicar Reverend Nick Wynne-Jones, who says the church is big enough for 350 guests.
The service at St Mark’s Church Englefield, where the Middletons, together with the Cambridges, worshipped on Christmas morning, will be traditional and at least two pews in the 12th-century church have been reserved for the Cambridges’ security. A team of at least six protection officers will accompany the royals to the church, which will have been swept before the ceremony.
According to the Queen’s cousin, Lady Elizabeth Anson, whose company Party Planners helped organise the royal wedding in 2011, the security will be thorough but unobtrusive. “Royal protocol is to sweep the church two hours before the wedding and after that the doors will be locked down until just before the ceremony,” she says. “The protection officers will accompany the Cambridges, but they are trained to be discreet.”
When it comes to arrivals, there is also a strict protocol when the royal family is in attendance. “The royals should be the last guests to arrive after the bridegroom’s family,” explains Lady Elizabeth. “Mrs Middleton should be the last person to arrive at the church before the bride and father of the bride, and I imagine she will probably be accompanied by her son, James.”
Pippa will be walked up the aisle by her father, Michael Middleton, who was praised for his calm demeanour when he escorted Kate to the High Altar at Westminster Abbey. “Both Carole and Michael have been a lot more hands-on with Pippa’s wedding and they are far more relaxed this time round, understandably,” says a family friend. “They are really looking forward to Pippa’s wedding day, not least because it’s their turn to shine and show off what they do best.”
After the ceremony, cars will take guests back to the Middletons’ $9.6 million heritage-listed family home, Bucklebury Manor, just outside the Berkshire village of Bucklebury, where the wedding dinner and party will take place in a grand purposebuilt marquee. Big enough to serve guests a lavish four-course meal, the marquee will be transformed into a nightclub later in the evening.
Although they run a multi-million-dollar online children’s party business, the Middletons have called in the formal-event experts for Pippa’s big day. As well as Table Talk, The Admirable Crichton, which holds a royal warrant and caters for Prince Charles, is said to be in charge of the food.
“It’s a chance for the Middletons to show off their daughter and their beautiful family home, and also to do what they love best, which is entertaining,” says a family friend.
“They have hired plenty of help, including caterers and event organisers, to oversee all the food, which will be simple and very English, and the marquee is rather special.
“Pippa has overseen all the details, from the lighting to the flowers. She loves to dance and there will be a band and a DJ, and she wants the party to go on late into the night.”
According to Lady Elizabeth, home weddings are the preferred choice for England’s upper
Pippa has overseen all the details.
classes. “It’s always preferable to get married at home, as long as one has a large and flat-enough lawn for a marquee,” she says. “It’s quite sensible of Pippa to be having her wedding reception at home because that way they can keep it completely private.”
With seven hectares of land and a sweeping gravel drive which leads from a winding country road to the property, the manor is private and spacious. The Cambridges are regular guests and security measures are already in place for when they visit. There is no public access to the property, which is surrounded by tall trees and is extremely difficult to photograph.
Among the VIP guests, who will be asked not to use their mobile phones on the day, will be tennis champion Roger Federer and his wife, Mirka, who are close to the Middleton family, and UK TV presenter Ben Fogle and his wife, Marina. Pippa’s close friend George Percy, son of the Duke of Northumberland, Reading Football boss Sir John Madejski, and brother James Middleton’s girlfriend, Donna Air, have also been invited. It will be the first time Donna has joined the Middletons for a formal occasion and she will be seated with James at one of the top tables.
English tennis star Tim Henman’s parents, Tony and Jane Henman, who are close friends of the Middletons, have also been invited, along with many of their friends from Mustique, where the family holidays annually, who were guests at the royal wedding as well.
Pippa and James’ wedding is also being seen as an opportunity to heal family rifts. The groom is reported to have asked his 27-year-old brother Spencer Matthews – who starred in the reality TV series Made in Chelsea and once admitted to being on steroids – to be best man, while Pippa has invited her uncle
Gary Goldsmith to the wedding and asked his daughter, Tallulah, to be a bridesmaid. Carole fell out with her brother after the now defunct News of the World newspaper exposed Gary’s hedonistic lifestyle in Ibiza where he owned a home called “La Maison de Bang Bang” and where William and Kate stayed before they were married.
“He is absolutely delighted to be going as he is very fond of his nieces and nephew,” says a source close to Gary. “It’s lovely that Pippa has asked her cousin to be a bridesmaid and it’s typically inclusive of her.”
When Pippa walks up the aisle it will, according to those in the know, be in a very different dress to the one she wore on her sister’s wedding day. The figure-hugging Alexander McQueen bridesmaid gown she wore in 2011 turned Pippa into an overnight sensation, with the media crowning her “Her Royal Hotness” and focusing on her toned derrière.
Friends say Pippa, who once claimed she’d like to get married in tennis whites, wants a more classic and conservative wedding dress, with a fuller skirt, and may opt for a flower garland in her hair instead of a tiara or veil. Shortly before Christmas, British designer Giles Deacon was seen leaving the Middletons’ family home carrying an oversized dress bag, fuelling rumours he has designed the dress. The designer is known for his über-glam creations and cites Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel as inspirations.
“Pippa was rather surprised by all the fuss that she inadvertently generated at her sister’s wedding,” explains a friend. “She actually has very simple tastes and is determined that people should be looking at her happy face and not her bottom when she is married. She has chosen what she says is a very classic dress, but wants it to be a surprise.”
In that case, she should definitely ask Kate – who kept her dress a secret until the last minute – for advice.
Pippa and James’ wedding is being seen as an opportunity to heal family rifts.
Pippa’s fiancé James Matthews. LEFT: Pippa was dubbed “Her Royal Hotness” after sister Kate’s wedding.
ABOVE, FROM LEFT: Guests include tennis star Roger Federer and wife Mirka; James Middleton and girlfriend Donna Air; Princesses Eugenie (left) and Beatrice; TV adventurer Ben Fogle and wife Marina; the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry.
BELOW: St Mark’s Church in Berkshire will be swept by security before the ceremony, in which Prince George and Princess Charlotte will have big roles.
ABOVE, FROM LEFT: Parents of the bride, Carole and Michael; the bride and sister Kate; Bucklebury Manor; the engaged couple and the ring worth an estimated $411,000. BELOW: The bridesmaid dress that made Pippa a star.
The happy couple at Wimbledon last year. Pippa once said she’d like to be married in her tennis whites – “shorts with no pleats or frills”.