Royal Wedding Venues
With anticipation building over Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s upcoming royal wedding next month, I thought I’d look into the famous churches which have played host to previous royal weddings.
Choosing a wedding venue is one of the biggest decisions in your planning process and is usually the first too, so imagine having to pick a venue to host your royal wedding. Bearing in mind the entire nation (and even the world) will be watching, not to mention the lengthy guest list it must be able to accommodate (and the small fact of needing to impress the Queen), the pressure is certainly on to find the perfect venue. Luckily though, the British royal family are quite traditional when it comes to choosing their venues, with four churches in particular being the most popular.
Dating back to the 1100s, the royal wedding venues of choice are pretty specular to look at, and while you most likely have to been marrying into the royal family to access one of these spots for your own wedding, it can’t hurt to brush up on your royal wedding history. From huge Gothic – style cathedrals to chapels located within palace grounds, there is something very special about a royal wedding venue.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Arguably, one of the most iconic weddings of the decade, Prince Charles and Princess Diana chose St Paul’s Cathedral for their wedding in 1981. An image which always stands out is Diana’s train following them both back down the steps of the Cathedral to meet the crowds. Prince Arthur (son of King Henry VII) also chose St Paul’s when he married Princess Catherine in 1501.
Located in London, St Paul’s Cathedral sits at the highest point of the city and is said to have been built somewhere between 1675 and 1710. It features the second largest dome in Europe and has frescos and mosaics decorating the interior. It has also caught Hollywood’s attention as the setting for several films, including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Founded in the year 960, Westminster Abbey has held its fair share of royal weddings throughout the last century, holding 16 in total. Most recently Prince William and Kate Middleton, chose the Abbey to host their 2011 wedding. Other royal couples include Prince Andrew (the Queen’s second son) and Sarah Ferguson in 1986, and Princess Anne (the Queen’s only daughter). Westminster Abbey has in fact hosted both the Queen’s and Queen Mother’s nuptials. The Abbey’s monarchial roots dates back to the year 1100, when King Henry I was the first royal to marry here.
Not just famed for royal weddings, Westminster Abbey has also served as the British royal family’s go-to coronation spot since 1066. It’s Gothic design and with stained glass windows aplenty, this massive structure is not technical considered a Cathedral, or even a church. It is more formally known as the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster. The Abbey is deemed as a ‘royal peculiar’, which means that it’s completely under sovereign control, rather than belonging to a specific diocese of archbishops and bishops.
St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle
All eyes will be on St. Georges’ Chapel next month when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tie the knot here. There is no shortage of royal predecessors who have also married here, with Prince Edward (Queen Elizabeth II’s youngest son) marrying Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999. Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles had a prayer service to commemorate their nuptials, and Peter Phillips (the Queen’s oldest grandson) also married here. Additionally, four of Queen Victoria’s children (Princess Louise, King Edward VII, Prince Leopold and Prince Arthur), and two of her grandchildren (Princess Alice Mary of Albany and Princess Margaret of Connaught) also wed their spouses at St. George’s Chapel.
With the capacity to seat 800 guests, the church features Gothic-style architecture and a grandiose vaulted stone ceiling. Located on the grounds of Windsor Castle, St. George’s Chapel also marks the spot where Prince Harry was baptized.
Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace
This small chapel, seats 100 and originally served as the royal wedding venue of choice, which started when Queen Anne married here in 1683. Following this tradition, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 and then King George V (who was known as Prince George, Duke of York at the time) followed in 1893. Several royal infants, including more recently Prince George, have also been baptized in the Chapel Royal.
Most of St. James’s Place was built between 1531 and 1536 and, before Queen Victoria ascended to the throne, many British monarchs actually called it home. Following a fire which destroyed Whitehall Palace (another former royal family residence), Kings George I, George II and George III lived here. In more recent times, the royal family uses the venue for charity events.