ROBERT HARDMAN: What really happens behind the scenes of a royal wedding? ITV documentary reveals the extraordinary lengths to which planners go to keep even the tiniest details a secret before the big day
- Invitation To A Royal Wedding is a behind the scenes look at royal weddings
- Sir Trevor McDonald and Julie Etchingham interview those involved in the day
- They found two cakes were made for William and Cake incase of an accident
- Elizabeth Emmanuel, dresser maker for Princess Diana, revealed she kept the scraps in a trunk so the colour of the dress wouldn’t be discovered
When it comes to keeping things hush-hush, even the spooks at MI6 are no match for surely the most tight-lipped breed on earth: royal wedding planners.
Such is their obsessive secrecy that the trusty team embroidering Catherine Middleton’s wedding dress were told that they were working for an Italian costume drama.
Meanwhile, the man in charge of Prince William and Catherine’s wedding cake was so nervous that he changed the locks to his kitchen, installed 24-hour security cameras and produced two cakes just in case one of them should be involved in a road accident.
These are just some of the delicious details of what really happens behind the scenes at a royal wedding – as revealed on our screens tomorrow night.
Trevor McDonald learnt that there always needs to be a spare bouquet when it comes to royal weddings
We will also learn the trade secrets of royal floristry (always make a spare bouquet) and the drama at the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer when a tearful bridesmaid started wiping her runny nose on her dress.
As one member of the wedding party recalls in mock horror: ‘Snot on the silk!’
Ahead of next month’s marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, ITV presenters Sir Trevor McDonald and Julie Etchingham have been interviewing many of those in the thick of previous royal weddings.
Sir Trevor McDonald and Julie Etchingham reveal the delicious details of what it takes to put on a royal wedding
A documentary featuring the behind the scenes element of a royal wedding will air on ITV on Sunday called Invitation To A Royal Wedding
The result is a delightful documentary, Invitation To A Royal Wedding. What is striking, over and above the obvious pride of all involved, are the extraordinary lengths to which people will go in order to conceal the tiniest details.
The first truly popular royal wedding was that of the Queen’s father, the future George VI, to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923.
Previously, royal weddings had been private occasions held in royal chapels. This one took place in the public gaze at Westminster Abbey and the people loved it, flocking to Buckingham Palace for the balcony appearance which followed.
When Lady Diana Spencer was preparing to walk up the aisle in perhaps the most famous wedding dress in history its creators, David and Elizabeth Emmanuel (pictured), left nothing to chance
Elizabeth was appalled when the world had its first glimpse of her work. Having packed the dress plus 25 feet of train inside a small carriage, along with the Princess and her father, everything emerged rather crumpled
To this day, Elizabeth keeps all the old off-cuts in a trunk at her London studio
She said: ‘We had to be very careful not to let any scraps fall on the floor because we didn’t want them to end up in the rubbish’, this was so nobody could rummage through the bins and find the scraps
Come the wedding of Princess Elizabeth in 1947, the world was ravenous for details. There was no secret about the identity of the royal dress designer, Norman Hartnell. But he still took the precaution of blacking out the windows of his London studio.
Interest was even greater in 1981 when Lady Diana Spencer was preparing to walk up the aisle in perhaps the most famous wedding dress in history. Its creators, husband-and-wife designers David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, left nothing to chance.
To this day, Elizabeth keeps all the old off-cuts in a trunk at her London studio. ‘We had to be very careful not to let any scraps fall on the floor because we didn’t want them to end up in the rubbish,’ she explains as she opens her treasure chest.
Master chocolatier Barry Colenso (pictured) produced various floral designs for the icing and asked Prince William and his fiancée to choose one
They settled on a white chocolate dahlia theme. ‘Dahlias stand for longevity and love,’ says Barry
Painstakingly repeating the process – he said – three layers of chocolate petals on each dahlia; six petals per layer.
It originally took him four hours per flower, though he eventually managed to get each one down to twenty minutes
Paul was so worried about a mishap that he made two cakes and then delivered them in separate vehicles
‘We had a lot of journalists going through the rubbish to see what colour the dress was like. I’ve kept them pretty much as they were on the cutting table, no matter how small. Every thread was important as far as I was concerned.’
Elizabeth produces her original dress pattern. Thanks to Lady Diana’s determination to be in shape for the big day, there was plenty of cutting to do. ‘This pattern was laid on the fabric and the fabric was cut out. This was a long process because Lady Diana, at the time, lost so much weight we had to keep altering the toile.’
Elizabeth was appalled when the world had its first glimpse of her work. Having packed the dress plus 25 feet of train inside a small carriage, along with the Princess and her father, everything emerged rather crumpled.
‘We did know it would crease a bit. But when I saw her arrive at St Pauls and we saw the creases I actually felt faint. I was horrified,’ says the designer. ‘We’d done a dress rehearsal but that was with calico.
‘But in retrospect, looking at the footage afterwards that’s my favourite bit as she comes out the coach. She’s a bit like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly – and it just goes on and on and on.
‘As she’s going up the steps, the end of her train is still in the carriage! Then the wind catches her veil and the most dramatic pictures ever are when she’s going up the steps. I love that now.’
Having got the two cakes to the Palace without disaster, Paul then set about decorating one of them. It took two long days. ‘We’d just finished the cake on the day (not William and Kate’s wedding cake pictured)
Dress security had risen to new heights of paranoia ahead of the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton in 2011. Even the identity of its designer, Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, was a state secret.
When asked if she was making the dress, the designer had a very simple policy: she lied through her teeth. No one was to be trusted, not even the super-loyal seamstresses at the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court whom Sarah hired to do the embroidery.
‘We were asked to quote for an Italian costume drama with black lace,’ recalls embroiderer Margaret Dier. ‘They asked: “What are the chances of being able to work longer hours and having a lot of staff in?”.
Mayfair Florist Paul Thomas is no stranger to a royal wedding as he prepared the flowers for Zara and Mike Tindall’s wedding
And I said: “Well, maybe if you’re the Queen” – not knowing at the time that actually it was for the royal wedding dress!’
Once everything had been arranged, Margaret and her colleagues had to sign confidentiality agreements. Only then were they told what they were really creating – and it was not black lace for an Italian actress after all.
The contract was so strict that, to this day, they are still not allowed to say how many of them worked on Catherine Middleton’s dress. Back then, they could not even tell their own families.
Margaret’s colleague, Gemma Murray, was preparing for her own wedding at the time. ‘It was hard keeping it a secret but my fiancé had no idea, my parents had no idea, ’ says Gemma.
Dress security had risen to new heights of paranoia ahead of the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton in 2011
Even the identity of its designer, Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, was a state secret
The Hampton Court team – who were under orders to wash their hands every 30 minutes – still had no idea who was actually making the dress.
They were merely receiving instructions from a mystery boss somewhere in London. Gemma, a fashion graduate, only twigged a few days before the wedding when she was summoned to a secret location to make some final alterations and recognised some other McQueen designs.
She was still not even allowed to tell her Hampton Court colleagues, let alone her loved ones. ‘When Catherine stepped out of the car and I saw the dress for the first time, I cried a lot of happy tears,’ she says.
‘I turned to my fiancé and said: “You know I’ve not been seeing very much of you recently. I’ve been a bit busy. That’s the reason why”.’
There was similar security surrounding the cake which William and Catherine had commissioned from McVitie’s. The biscuit-makers had a long history of making royal wedding cakes and the company’s cake chef, Paul Courtney, was summoned to the Palace.
No one was to be trusted, not even the super-loyal seamstresses at the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court whom Sarah hired to do the embroidery
‘We went there thinking, well, we’re probably going to be making a fruit cake as you do for weddings,’ says Paul. ‘And they said: “No, we’d love you to make a chocolate biscuit cake” made with rich tea biscuits.
It was one of the Queen’s favourite’s when she was a girl and Prince William used to be packed off to school with it. They gave us the recipe, which is a heck of a privilege. So I took it away and guarded it with my life. I can’t tell you too much because it’s a secret.’
Paul was so worried about leaks that he imposed military-style security on the company’s research plant where he was based. ‘It was off the scale. It was all very much cloak and dagger. We blacked out the windows, we had secure door locks everywhere, we had security cameras.’
Master chocolatier Barry Colenso then produced various floral designs for the icing and asked Prince William and his fiancée to choose one.
They settled on a white chocolate dahlia theme. ‘Dahlias stand for longevity and love,’ says Barry painstakingly repeating the process – three layers of chocolate petals on each dahlia; six petals per layer.
It originally took him four hours per flower, though he eventually managed to get each one down to twenty minutes.
Founded in London’s Mayfair in 1989, Paul Thomas Flowers are a family of master florists
They have decorated some of the most glittering parties and weddings of the last three decades, all over the world
Paul was so worried about a mishap that he made two cakes and then delivered them in separate vehicles. ‘What happens if one’s in an accident? We were carrying precious cargo. I took one of the vans and drove the route three times, literally noting every pot hole, every corner!’
Having got the two cakes to the Palace without disaster, Paul then set about decorating one of them. It took two long days. ‘We’d just finished the cake on the day.
We’d literally just put the top on and of course, at that point, it’s a collective sigh of relief. Barry and I hugged. I think there was a tear in my eye. We’ve done it! It looks fantastic!’
It was all going so well – and then the best man came in to have a look.
‘Harry came bounding in, how you’d expect him to be – a fun joker. And he walked up to it, very enthusiastic.’ As the two master cakemakers looked on in horror, Prince Harry said: ‘Oh wow fantastic! Is this chocolate?’ He then picked up a piece of chocolate up and popped it in his mouth. ‘Then he pretended to box with the top decoration,’ says Paul. ‘And we were like – “Oh no!”. It was just fun. But a slightly heart stopping moment….’
There was similar secrecy surrounding the cake in 2005 as the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles were preparing to marry. The couple had chosen Dawn Blunden who operated from a small shop in rural Lincolnshire.
How on earth was she going to make a 17-stone royal cake with customers coming in and out all day? ‘Trying to keep secrets in a village is virtually impossible. So I said to my business partner: “I think we need to find somewhere safe and secure where people aren’t going to see what we’re doing”,’ Dawn recalls.
‘The nearest place we could think of was just behind our little shop – Woodhall Methodist Church.’ For three days, Dawn and her team worked behind a screen in the church hall as locals dropped in a few feet away for tea and gossip, blissfully unaware of the royal secret under their noses.
Even the most thorough royal planning is not immune to the odd glitch. India Hicks still has vivid memories of being a bridesmaid at the marriage of her godfather, the Prince of Wales, to Lady Diana Spencer.
She recalls the surreal experience of spending the night before the wedding at the home of Princess Margaret. In all the mayhem, India had not even packed a toothbrush. ‘Just like any wedding – lots of chaos, lots of excitement!’ she says.
‘And I do remember a knock at the door and Princess Margaret so sweetly coming in for me to borrow her toothbrush. That was quite a moment: deciding whether to use the Queen’s sister’s toothbrush or not!’
The following day was rich in comic moments, not least the Queen coming in to inspect the dress. At that very moment, David Emmanuel was crawling around underneath it attaching bits of petticoat and ended up attempting to bow while on all fours.
‘I do remember Diana getting ready and she has her tiara on and she’s still in her jeans. That’s a remarkable sight,’ says India. ‘Then she gets into the dress and she’s standing in the middle of the room. At that moment, it just felt wonderful.’
It would not be so wonderful for one bridesmaid. Catherine Cameron was the six-year-old daughter of friends of the Prince.
Despite all the planning, the organisers had somehow overlooked the fact that she was allergic to horses. Now she had to share a horse-drawn carriage across London, along with all the other bridesmaids and Prince Edward.
India remembers that both she and the Prince were ‘very concerned’ about their travelling companion.
‘She was very small and allergic to horses and no one had anticipated this. How could we?’ says India. ‘Of course her eyes were streaming, her nose was streaming. She kept wiping her nose on this silk dress.
Edward and I were trying to cope with this very, very, very miserable child inside the carriage. Snot all over the silk!’
But then you can never have a wedding without the odd drama – not even a royal one.
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