The risks and rewards of catering for noble nuptials. By Teresa Fitzherbert
When Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, four banquet tables laden with food stretched the length of Westminster Hall and the centrepiece was a whole stuffed swan re-dressed in its own feathers. Royal weddings have become a little less extravagant over the centuries: George V had a mere 17 courses and only one table dedicated to stuffed fowl when he wed Queen Mary. These days, attention to detail has replaced overeating and the smartest weddings tend to offer a menu honouring the antecedents of the happy couple. When Table Talk catered for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding, it created a dessert including Berkshire-honey icecream as a nod to the bride’s home county. Since the same team are rumoured to be cooking for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, one might anticipate an American twist, such as mini burgers or a side of chips – the actress once declared ‘fries before guys’ on Instagram. Guests may also find themselves dining on a Meghan meringue or a Markle mousse, as it is a Royal tradition to name a dish after the new bride. At the Queen’s wedding in 1947, the pudding was called Bombe Glacée Princess Elizabeth.
Such occasions are always a nerve-racking undertaking for any caterer, as they come with a minefield of potential mishaps. Stately homes are full of long, draughty corridors along which food can easily cool; at one ceremony in a castle, I saw a waiter knock a rather sharp-looking sword from the wall. And then, of course, the advice never to work with children and animals is impossible at an event that inevitably involves legions of flower girls, page boys, dogs and horses. I once went to a wedding at which a knickerbockered child fell face-first into the cake, and a guest rode into the marquee on a Shetland pony. Another insisted on having her family dogs in the reception and the Irish wolfhound was later spotted eating the Brie from the cheese table. At least unlimited champagne is guaranteed and can mask all manner of misadventures – Pol Roger is a Royal favourite.
left: the top layers of the cambridges’ wedding cake. right: a model of princess elizabeth’s cake