For hundreds of Georgetowners and other residents of Washington, D.C. — mainly women — the wedding of Great Britain’s Prince Harry and American Meghan Markle began at around 5 a.m. on Saturday, May 19. That’s when they dragged themselves (or hopped) out of bed to don elegant summer suits, dresses and tiny hats called “fascinators,” festooned with flowers, feathers and the like, and got themselves to the Ritz-Carlton hotel ballroom.
From 6 to 10 a.m., they were immersed in all things fit for the royal wedding. The morning cocktails (after 8 a.m.) included not only tall flutes of champagne and orange juice, but specially designed cocktails with the names Windsor Ginger, a mix of vodka, Earl Grey tea and strawberry and ginger foam; Big Ben Calling, made from coffee, Jos. A Magnus bourbon and coconut milk; and Marry Me Meghan, which combined navy-strength gin and harissa from Lebanon with just a dusting of (edible) flakes of real gold.
The paneled ballroom in soft pastel colors was filled with dozens of massive white flower arrangements of roses, hydrangeas, stocks and other fragrant blossoms in urns, on top of large candlestick holders and set on elegantly “scaped” tables in wide bowls. Well over a dozen cooks made custom omelets and pancakes, and sliced massive, perfectly cooked ham legs with hot apple sauce, as well as a variety of toasts, smoked salmon, cheeses, fruits, coffee and, of course, tea.
Excitement built at 7 a.m. as all attention turned to the three large TV monitors live-streaming the wedding from Windsor Castle. First there was the parade of guests with their elegant but rather understated dresses and hats. They included all the royals and some (but not too many) American celebrities, such as George Clooney and wife Amal, Oprah and tennis star Serena Williams.
Then the two princes arrived. Prince Harry and Prince William wore their long black military frock coats decorated with medals — all legitimately earned during the young officers’ military service — striding and waving easily to onlookers on the way to the church. The groom got special permission from the queen to wear his uniform and his beard for the wedding.
Applause and delighted comments broke out around the ballroom at the arrival of the bride’s escorts of 10 children, all under the age of 10, the girls in designer dresses and rosebud headpieces and the boy in military tunics and striped pants like the groom and his brother. Finally, the bride arrived, in a super-simple elegant gown by Clare Waight Keller (none of the online betters of the day before, reported in the papers, got it right) and a five-meter (15-foot-plus) silk tulle train, embroidered with all the flowers of the Commonwealth as well as the California Golden Poppy, the flower of Markle’s home state. The veil was fastened by Queen Mary’s diamond tiara, created in 1932 and lent by Queen Elizabeth.
Most of the wedding ceremony was followed with breathless reverence by the crowd. When it was over, the hotel served wedding cake and coffee and those delightful cocktails once again. “This was so worth it,” said Megan Beie of Lovett, Texas, smiling. She had come to D.C. to begin a congressional internship and her mother, Jordan, had decided “this was the perfect mother-daughter event to experience together.”
The hotel was inspired by the royal wedding to organize the viewing party and make a special wedding offer of its own, a $1-million wedding package, according to Amal Zaari, director of catering sales. It includes custom-made everything by famous and top designers: all the wedding dresses, rings and jewelry, make-up and hair designs, flowers, cocktails and wine, reception, dinner, music, wedding cake and transportation for the bridal party for fittings and the wedding. The package culminates with a two-week honeymoon with everything included on one of the Ritz-Carlton yachts in the Mediterranean.
Other wedding viewing parties were held throughout the day, such as a high tea at the St. Regis. But perhaps the top ticket of the day was the wedding party and high tea — meaning lots of crustless triangle sandwiches, colorful macarons and strawberries and cream — at the British Ambassador’s residence behind the embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. According to guests, a wall of multicolored fragrant roses and a life-size photo of Harry and Meghan provided the backdrop for a toast by British Ambassador Kim Darroch and his wife Vanessa, and for photos for the hundreds of guests that attended.
Washington celebrities seen at the ambassador’s party included International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.