Pippa Middleton is getting a crash course in why planning a wedding is often fraught with unexpected dangers. There are the guest lists—whether to invite Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Meghan Markle, who will likely steal the bride’s thunder–as well as the usual issues of seating plans at the reception, the DJ’s music list and oh yeah, the dress.
Pippa received an added complication courtesy the Church of England, which issued a new directive from its General Synod Legal Advisory Commission entitled, “Celebrity Marriages in Anglican Cathedrals and Churches.” Its stilted prose packs a punch: The Church of England kiboshed her hope for a private wedding, away from prying reporters and gatecrashers.
How the Anglican directive affects Pippa Middleton’s wedding
The first home truth in that directive is that celebrities, used to their every whim and desire delivered on a silver platter, will have to play by the same set of rules as ordinary folk: “The same law applies to the weddings of celebrities in Anglican cathedrals and churches as it does to the weddings of any other persons, although there may be added complications if the couple have entered into an agreement for exclusive publicity with a magazine or other form of media.”
Number two is a killer for famous people who either want privacy (Pippa Middleton, her sister, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge etc etc) or want to sell exclusive photos and stories (think the Kardashian clan): marriages aren’t private ceremonies, they are public events.
The Anglican Church doesn’t care how much a famous person wants to keep their nuptials out of the public domain: “Whether or not the couple have entered into an exclusivity agreement they may not wish persons other than those they have themselves invited to attend the marriage ceremony itself. Nonetheless, a marriage is a public ceremony which at the least all parishioners (including those whose names are on the electoral roll) are entitled to attend.”
Other pesky issues
Just saying the church is too “full” to seat those unwanted guests isn’t going to work either: “Such persons are entitled to attend as long as there is available seating or standing room unless a genuine question of safety or security arises.”
If that wasn’t enough, churches with assigned seating must honour those assignments. “Any person with a right to seating in a particular pew cannot be denied that right,” it said. So if Mrs. Smith always sits in the first pew on the right at St. Mark’s Englefield, then she has the right to sit in that same pew for Pippa Middleton’s wedding.
Even though Pippa Middleton is marrying James Matthews at a church on the private Englefield Estate near her parents’ home in Berkshire, its parishioners would still enjoy the rights set out in “Celebrity Marriages.” Furthermore, as the Telegraph explained, they can’t be denied access to the building as a “church way” guarantees them the right to walk across private property to their place of worship.
It’s not the first royal wedding hiccup
Pippa Middleton isn’t alone in facing unexpected bumps down the aisle. Just ask her sister. A month before Kate Middleton wed Prince William, she cleaned up some religious housekeeping. Though Kate was baptized as a baby, she’s never been confirmed. That affirmation of faith, which usually occurs as a teenager, ensures Anglicans “have a proper understanding of what it means to live as a disciple of Christ within the life of the Church of England,” the denomination’s website explains. Many individual churches within the Anglican faith require confirmation before a person can receive the bread and wine in communion.
On March 10, 2011, the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres, then Bishop of London and a close friend of William’s father, Prince Charles, confirmed her at St. James’s Palace. Officially it was her “personal choice” as she prepared for their April 29 wedding. Unofficially, Kate closed a necessary gap in her religious education, especially given William is the future Defender of the Faith of the Anglican Church.
Just ask Prince Charles
Sometimes, it isn’t religion, but law that plays havoc with wedding wishes. In 2005, Prince Charles announced he was marrying Camilla Parker Bowles in a civil ceremony at Windsor Castle (a religious ceremony being impossible under Anglican rules because her first husband is still alive.) Unfortunately, they’d not thoroughly investigated British licensing laws. There aren’t “one-off” licences. If Charles and Camilla registered Windsor Castle as their wedding venue, then anyone else would have the right to be married there.
So they hastily switch venues. Out was the grand, ornate Windsor Castle, in was the more plebeian Guildhall in the town of Windsor.
Such hiccups are par for the course. While Pippa Middleton won’t have to switch her venue as Prince Charles did, she’ll likely have some uninvited guests, no doubt with fully-charged mobile phones ready to snap a few pictures.