High Stakes for Pippa Middleton's Wedding
Hooray! Pippa’s wedding will bring out the worst in snobbish Britons, says Rowan Pelling
If I had my life again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Except for the fine details of my wedding day. I’d keep the groom; he was pretty perfect and has proved exceptionally kind and patient. But I’d let down my hair now, metaphorically and literally.
The truth is, as a 27-year-old publican’s daughter still scrabbling to find direction, I was in awe of my country squirearchy in-laws and worried too much about what might appal them. An unseemly display of bridal cleavage or bare shoulders was definitely out, as were non-engraved invitations and whacky alternatives to the Wedding March. I even considered promising to obey my spouse at one point, so convinced was I that this gesture would endear me to my shooting-‘n’-fishing, monocle-wearing, one-legged father-in-law (the other leg was blown to pieces at Sidi Barrani, where he won the MC). Meanwhile, my mother-in-law said to my spouse that she hoped he wasn’t intending to wear a wedding ring, as she thought that would be naff.
If you think I was negotiating a minefield, save your sympathy for Pippa Middleton, who announced her engagement to hedge-fund manager James Matthews last week. The only scrutiny I feared was from two fierce, if key, new relatives. The foxy sister of the Duchess of Cambridge faces the critical eye of the entire country, desperate for a display of Bridezilla vulgarity to distract us from our own shabbier lives.
Much has already been made of her fiance’s vast wealth and his father’s trajectory from coal miner’s son to millionaire hotel owner - an almost uncanny mirroring of Pippa’s own ascent from Geordie mining stock on her mother’s side of the family. In America, this coal-to-riches story would be celebrated, whereas here we first seek signs of arriviste faux-pas. We don’t look upon Downton Abbey as costume drama, so much as active social commentary - and nothing brings out our inner Dowager Countess of Grantham more than a society wedding.
Celebrity nuptials are far too easy prey for the truly gimlet-eyed. Any cut-price Lord Snooty can laugh at Posh and Becks’s marital thrones, or Katie Price in her panto Cinderella carriage. It’s subtler social indicators that delight our inner snob: petal- and heart-smothered invitations, wedding lists with nothing affordable, modern hymns, hen weekends in Dubai, Swarovski crystals hand-sewn on the gown, and couples who spend months perfecting the routine from Dirty Dancing for their star moment on the dance floor.
Everyone has their pet hates, if you delve deep enough. One friend confessed a small part of him dies every time a professional toastmaster bellows in Estuary English: “Will everyone be upstanding for the bride and groom!” Another cited “favours”: little baglets of sugared almonds and the like, often used to dress place settings. I wince whenever the wedding service deviates too far from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, or when a newlywed declares their spouse is “their best mate”.
The stakes will be sky-high at the Middleton-Matthews wedding with royalty in attendance, yet Boujis nightclub types to accommodate. And both the affianced have close relatives who excel in toe-curling embarrassment. The groom’s brother is the minor celebrity womaniser Spencer Matthews, of Made in Chelsea infamy, while Pippa’s tattooed uncle Gary Goldsmith has the tabloid drugs sting at his villa, La Maison de Bang Bang, to live down. If Spencer is made best man, you can only make an informed guess at how low his speech may go. Perhaps no more scandalous than my husband’s best man, who concluded his speech by saying he was glad his best friend had found “a good woman”, before pausing dramatically and adding: “There are enough bad ones out there.”
If you think this thesis is ridiculous, you’re almost certainly far posher than I am - or securely working-class. The middling rest of us are doomed to sniff out every signifier of social standing. Including the humble-bragging of the boho landed classes. I’ve been to outdoor weddings where no one seems to give a damn about convention: the bride sports fairy wings, the groom juggles, and the service is held on the edge of a cliff. But the event is only made possible by the fortunate fact the groom’s uncle owns a thousand acres, some medieval barns and room for everyone to camp.
In some ways, the glitz of a chandelier-strewn marquee is more honest - and, as Pippa surely knows, more bling-tastic for a spread in Hello!.
— The Sunday Telegraph