Critic's Notebook: The Royal Wedding Is the Ultimate Red Carpet
Millions watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get married, including such celebrities as Oprah, Elton, George and Amal and the Beckhams.
I just finished watching the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and I'm all verklempt! The bride was so gorgeous! The groom was so dashing! The bridesmaids and pageboys were so adorable! The weather, as if by royal decree, was so beautiful! The guests included Oprah Winfrey, Sir Elton John and George and Amal Clooney! And that David Beckham is such a hunk!
Sorry for being emotional. It's the inevitable aftereffect of watching hours and hours of television coverage of the event. The reporting had such a breathless quality that it made it seem as if America were still a British colony, which in a way, it is. We may have fought for our independence, but there's something in our collective unconscious that keeps us fascinated with the royals. It may be why we elected a would-be king as president, one who styles himself after Henry VIII.
There was a lot of suspense leading up to the ceremony. Who will walk Meghan down the aisle? Who designed her dress? Will Harry wear his military uniform? Which celebrities will be attending?
(Full disclosure: None of these questions were keeping me up nights. As a straight American male, my interest in the royal nuptials was exactly nil. But since the event was being broadcast around the world to millions and millions of viewers, I'm clearly in the minority.)
The television coverage began (God help me) at 4 a.m. ET. It made sense, since the ceremony itself took place at noon, British time (7 a.m. ET). But it also seemed a missed opportunity to replenish the royal coffers. The wedding should have been held during primetime and broadcast on PPV. Hey, those tiaras aren't cheap.
The event was covered live by ABC, NBC CBS, E! and CNN, among other networks. It was also shown on a special edition of Fox & Friends, so you know that Donald Trump was hate-watching.
During the many hours leading up to the ceremony, many of the commentators felt the need to psychoanalyze the participants. "I'm sure there are butterflies in Harry's stomach," commented CBS' Kevin Frazier. Gayle King said about Markle and her mother, "I hear they're both feeling very Zen." The pair also speculated about whether Prince Harry would show up clean-shaven. "She's only known the man with the beard! That's who she fell in love with!" Frazier argued, sounding like a writer of romance novels.
ABC's David Muir seemed excited by the guest list. "They're all here, by the way. The cast of Suits!" he proclaimed. A British commentator (many were hired for the occasion) pointed out that Markle would be surrounded by British kings during the ceremony. Dead ones, to be precise. "There are 10 of them of them buried in there," he informed us, as if every bride dreams of getting married in the presence of corpses.
The celebrities in attendance naturally got the lion's share of attention. There were so many close-ups of Pippa Middleton that she should have demanded royalties. "He's taking off his sunglasses!" one commentator marveled about Beckham, as if it was breaking news. CNN actually showed a graphic that read, "David and Victoria Beckham inside chapel" for those viewers just tuning in. Victoria, by the way, looked miserable throughout, presumably because the event wasn't about her.
Many of the networks featured a "Countdown to the Ceremony," showing the time ticking by as if we were about to witness a rocket launch. At PBS, a group of fashion experts talked about "The Meghan Effect." I'm not exactly sure what it was, but it sounded kind of horrifying. E! provided the names of the bridesmaids and page boys and their ages, ranging from 2 to 7, because that's something we all need to know. "This is the ultimate red carpet!" one of its commentators declared. Their coverage also included a scroll at the bottom of the screen displaying such tweets about the wedding as "Oprah looking fabulous!," "David Beckham totally winked at the camera!" and "Loving the event! I feel so royal in my PJ's and drinking tea!" (OK, I admit it. That last one was mine.)
Practically all the women attending the wedding were wearing hats. Very elaborate hats. Hats so silly that you began to wonder if the whole thing wasn't a Monty Python routine. I did learn something new, namely what a "fascinator" is" — which turned out to be not very fascinating. On the other hand, it's not every day you get to hear an expert commentator greeted with the phrase, "You have a Talmudic knowledge of tiaras."
The arrival of Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, practically sent CNN's Richard Quest into palpitations. "Oh, doesn't she look wonderful!" he gushed. "The fact that she has been invited is a seal of approval!" Especially since, as he reminded us, she wasn't invited to Prince Williams' nuptials. Quest then pointed out the presence of former British prime minister John Major, which provided the perfect opportunity to change the channel.
The folks at PBS, not surprisingly, got a bit wonky at times. We learned that Queen Elizabeth's dress is "weighted at the bottom, so it doesn't fly up" — which I think we can all agree is a good thing.
CNN's Anderson Cooper looked bemused during the coverage. Upon the arrival of several lesser-known members of the royal family, he asked, "So what do the minor royals do for a living? Do they have jobs?" Apparently, they do, although no one on the panel seemed to know exactly what.
At one point, King speculated about when Markle will get pregnant, which made you think she was less interested in covering the wedding ceremony than the marriage consummation. (It's a thing. Look it up.)
Journalistic objectivity was in short supply. The Today team literally clapped when Markle stepped out of her car in front of the chapel. "She looks absolutely regal!" one of them rhapsodized.
The ceremony itself was thankfully shown without play-by-play commentary. After all the red-carpet hoopla, it seemed almost anti-climactic. At one point there was a close-up of Prince Harry talking quietly to Meghan at the altar, and you could imagine all of the news executives saying the same thing: "Damn, why didn't we hire a lip-reader?"
Forget Harry and Meghan. The wedding was stolen by American bishop Michael Curry, who delivered a sermon about "the power of love!" in the sort of overexcited cadences that made it seem as if he was auditioning for a mega-church. He concluded his address in particularly folksy fashion: "With this, I'll sit you down, we gotta get y'all married!" he told the laughing couple. The queen, needless to say, did not look amused.