A Few Things To Think About Before You Head From Harlem To The Royal Wedding

May 14, 2018

Harlem already has a deep royal history, from Napoleon Bonaparte’s cousin Joseph Bonaparte to Prince William; and then, to Lord Viscount Courtenay, who lived at the Claremont Inn to Harlem’s wedding of the century of Nat King Cole and Maria Cole at Abyssinian Baptist Church. And of course, beloved Princess Di visiting the AIDS unit at Harlem Hospital.

So, our ears were perked when we read that Town & Country wrote that in 2011 the queen of England issued a 22-page etiquette guide for the 1,900 guests invited to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s nuptials approach (not to mention those of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooks bank later this year), a few of the top etiquette experts on both sides of the Atlantic offer an abridged version. On the Town & Country panel: Myka Meier, founder of Beaumont Etiquette; Lucy Hume, associate director of an etiquette coaching company and publisher Debrett’s Peerage; and William Hanson, etiquette tutor at the English Manner.

Watch Your Hemline

“Shoulders should be covered, hemlines should be on the conservative side, and closed-toe shoes.” – Myka Meier, the Plaza Hotel’s etiquette expert

Don’t Wear White

“Female guests should not wear white, a rule that spans across the pond.” – Myka Meier

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Now’s the Time for Formal Attire

“Women should opt for formal day dress–a dress and jacket, or skirt or trouser suit.” – Lucy Hume, Debrett’s

Heels Shouldn’t Be Too High

“Don’t wear huge heels. It’s not practical as well as not being etiquette. Victoria Beckham wore huge stilettos. Now, they were going into Westminster Abbey—a church floor is not a smooth floor.” – William Hanson, etiquette tutor

Bare Legs Are Not Okay

“Wear tights. David Cameron’s wife didn’t wear tights [to the Royal Wedding in 2011], which was a bit of a shame.” – William Hanson

Cover Your Head

“Ladies should be wearing a hat.” – William Hanson

Pay Attention to the Time of Day

“For men, ‘morning dress’ is the daytime formal dress code. As the wedding is expected to follow tradition and take place in the day time, most gentlemen will be suited in a morning coat, waist coat, tie and striped trousers.” — Myka Meier

If There’s a Dress Code, It Isn’t Just a Suggestion

“It is likely that some male guests will choose to wear an ordinary suit if they don’t own a morning suit, which is absolutely fine unless morning dress is explicitly stipulated.” – Lucy Hume, publisher of Debrett’s

Skip the Novelty Accessories

“Navy or grey suits are customary at weddings, and garish waistcoats or ties should be avoided.” – Lucy Hume, Debrett’s

Stay Off Social Media

“There will be no photography in Windsor Castle if they follow the precedent of the 2011 wedding. With security, you might not even be allowed to actually take your phone in with you. And with any wedding, you shouldn’t take photographs and release them before the official photographs are released.” – Lucy Hume, Debrett’s

Don’t Play Paparazi

“Stay away from taking pictures inside any wedding festivities—you’ll stand out in all the wrong ways.” – Myka Meier

Make a Patriotic Fashion Choice

“Foreign guests can wear designers from their nations. But, this is a British wedding. Why not go to a British designer?” – William Hanson

There’s No Snag in Going Stag

“Guests can absolutely go stag. Prince Harry and Meghan are known to play matchmaker, as they too were set up, and what better place to combine circles?” – Myka Meier

Hats Are Encouraged—But Not Required

William Hanson says “Ladies should be wearing a hat.” But Lucy Hume of Debrett’s adds, “Hats are not essential, but can add a sense of occasion and fun to a wedding outfit. Resist novelty elements or anything that will draw too much attention away from the bride.”

The Wedding Date Dictates Which Kind of Hat to Wear

“The weddings will be after Easter, and there’s a rule in the UK that you wear straw hats after Easter. It’s fabric hats before.” – William Hanson

Don’t Block Anyone’s View

“It’s in a church, so you can’t have a huge hat because no one behind you will be able to see.” – William Hanson

Let the Queen Come to You

“Enthusiastic fans beware: Never approach the queen unless she approaches you. One should never touch the queen unless she extends her hand to you.” – Myka Meier

Know How to Bend the Knee

“Men should bow; women should curtsy.” – Lucy Hume, Debrett’s

Address the Queen Correctly

“Address her as ‘Your Majesty’ the first time, and ‘Ma’am’ (to rhyme with ‘jam’) thereafter.” – Lucy Hume, Debrett’s

Don’t Take Too Much of the Queen’s Time

“Answer any questions briefly so as not to monopolise her.” – Lucy Hume

Don’t Bring a Gift to the Ceremony

“Don’t bring [the gift] to the wedding itself. The couple might circulate details on a gift registry. You could go off the list if you think the couple would actually use it and there is thought behind it. That said, this is a second wedding for Meghan Markle. The etiquette in both America and Britain, especially Britain, is that you don’t normally ask for gifts, because it’s your second wedding. They’ve already got toasters and French presses etc. It would not surprise me if they choose donations for charities instead.” – William Hanson

Greet the Royal Couple Quickly

“There will probably be as with any domestic wedding, a receiving line, so by that you should arrive at the reception. And you would say as part of that receiving line, say ‘Thank you very much, what a lovely ceremony, thank you for having us’, but you do not have a conversation with them. They have 500, 600 guests. It’s thank you so much, and move along.” – Willian Hanson

Know When to Leave

“You shouldn’t leave before the newlyweds. They will be the most senior members of the royal family in the room at that time.” – William Hanson

This story was adapted from a April 2018 issue of Town & Country. Photo credit: 1) Nat And Maria Cole, The Wedding Of The Century In Harlem, 1948 via source. 2) Keke Palmer at BET Awards. 3) Halston Heritage heels amazon. 4-5) Throwback Thursday: Nat King Cole and Maria Cole + Blue Wedding Dresses via source.

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