The traditional American wedding party consists of a maid of honor, best man, a few bridesmaids, an equal number of groomsmen and exactly two children: an adorable flower girl and an oh-so-cute ring bearer. Before the ceremony, the attendants generally stay on the boys’ or girls’ side. Afterwards, the two sides walk arm-in-arm, one maid to one man, down the aisle with the childish couple somewhere among them.
A royal wedding looks quite different. First of all, the male and female attendants are almost never equally apportioned and are even less frequently matched up like blind dates to escort each other awkwardly up the aisle. The groom usually has one or sometimes two “supporters” who walk in with him (but are almost never dressed like him). His supporter is usually a brother or, less often, a good friend. In 2010, a tuxedo-ed Daniel Westling was supported by his soon-to-be brother-in-law Prince Carl Philipp of Sweden in a naval uniform. At the Wedding of the (last) Century, Prince Charles had both of his younger brothers—Prince Andrew in a naval uniform and Prince Edward in a gray morning suit.
A few royal brides draw bridesmaids from among sisters and friends, but it is much more common for all of their bridesmaids to be very young. In fact, there may be no adults in the bride’s party at all. Sometimes, a teenage girl may be the chief bridesmaid as Prince Charles’ cousins Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones and India Hicks (yes, the now famous designer!) were for Princess Diana in 1981. Then, at least two little boys are added, although they are generally called pageboys instead of ring bearers. A four-year-old Prince William was one of four pageboys when Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson in 1986.
The children are usually close relatives or godchildren of the bride or groom. At Daniel Westling’s marriage to Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, three tiny future monarchs—all of them her godchildren—were in her party: Prince Christian of Denmark, Princess Catharina Amalia of the Netherlands and Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway.
Amazingly, these children are fairly well-behaved. Although the media had speculated in 1986 that a rambunctious Prince William might run wildly around Westminster Abbey, he only made a few faces and played with his hat. In 2004, Prince Felipe of Spain’s nephew Froilan shouted, “Hola Felipe!” when the groom entered the church. No screaming tantrums or refusals to walk the aisle.
Sometimes, these youngsters are dressed, like their American counterparts, in child-appropriate versions of the adult’s outfits but this is rarely the case. For little boys, the designer (and bride, of course!) often look to military attire or national costumes for inspiration. Royal wedding photos are full of little boys in sailor suits and kilts. Meanwhile, national costume or traditional party frocks are frequently used for the girls. Royal brides with a real taste for history, sometimes draw ideas from the past. Sophie Rhys-Jones dressed her young attendants in dark blue velvet capes and hats, like those worn by the Knights of the Garter, when she married Prince Edward in 1999 and Letizia Ortiz-Rocasolano channeled the 17th-Century master painter Goya for her bridal party when she married the future King of Spain in 2004.
So, if you truly want a princess wedding (even a Las Vegas princess wedding), you should start figuring out which of nieces and nephews don’t mind being dressed like a 400-year-old painting. Of course, there are drawbacks: a six-year-old bridesmaid would probably throw you a Dora the Explorer bridal shower and your eight-year-old nephew should definitely be kept away from the stag party!