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World awaits the wedding — dress

There is only one reason to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning and turn on the television, and that's the dress.

The well-kept secret of what Kate Middleton will wear when she weds Britain's Prince William early Friday morning (our time) will finally be revealed when she steps out of the limo with her father, Michael, and I want to see it in real time.

No DVR for me. No "Dateline" recap. No Google photos. I want to be able to say I was there when the world got its first glimpse of Kate in her wedding dress.

I was there when Diana stepped out of that gilded carriage in her wedding cake of a dress 30 years ago, one of 750 million viewers who set their alarms to watch her marry Charles. I was a single girl, living in a one-bedroom apartment with two cats. No wedding on my horizon.

Granted, we didn't think Charles was much of a catch even then, but we — all the single young women like me — ignored the rumors of an arranged marriage and went with the fairy tale that morning.

All these years later, we are empty-nesters, as Diana would have been if she had not died in 1997, watching from a discreet distance as the kids find someone — did you hear, Harry is back together with Chelsy Davy? — and marry. We hold our breath all the way, just as we will with Will and Kate. British royal marriages don't appear to take.

My friend Betsy is coming over. She is a crazy Anglophile and she still has some of the Charles and Diana wedding memorabilia. We'll have English breakfast tea, scones, some lemon curd and clotted cream if I can find it. A box of tissues between us. So sad, we will say to each other. Will loved his mother so much. He chose to marry in Westminster Abbey, the church from which she was buried.

There is plenty of room in the Gothic towers of the Abbey for politics and cynicism, and both arrived early to get a good seat.

There is talk of Will superseding his grumpy dad as king — the fresh faces of him and his as-yet-untarnished young bride are the perfect answer to the anti-monarchy rumblings that erupt every time the British economy hits the curb.

And there is gossip that Kate set her college cap for Will early on, enrolling at St. Andrews University with more than a degree on her mind, and then holding on for eight long years with a terrier's tenacity until he rounded back to her.

But on Friday, the coal miner's great-granddaughter will marry a prince, and among the guests will be the postman and the butcher from her village, and there will be enough pageantry to push all that away for a while.

After the balcony kiss and the receptions — Kate's sister, Pippa, is reportedly ruffling palace feathers because she wants to hang disco balls — and the still-secret honeymoon, these two crazy kids are going to return to his modest military digs in Anglesey, Wales.

They appear determined to live on his Royal Air Force salary as a helicopter pilot — about $60,000 a year — in a cottage they rent for about $1,100 a month. And without servants. She has been spotted grocery shopping, and the word is they both have some learning to do in the kitchen. Nobody says much about the fact that they have been living under the same roof for a while.

And he finds her family members so comfortable that he spent Easter with them at their home in Bucklebury instead of with the queen at Windsor Castle or with his father in Scotland, signaling that he intends to spend some major holidays off the royal leash.

Had she lived, Diana would have had to learn the lesson every mother of a son learns: A son is a son until he takes a wife; a daughter is a daughter all of her life.

As for the dress, I am betting it will be something that any mother would approve. I predict long sleeves and a high neck. However modern these kids are, I don't think there will be much flesh or cleavage on display in the church where monarchs are crowned and where kings and poets are buried, and Kate seems too sensible to set the place gasping. She is, after all, doing her own wedding day makeup.

And speaking of bets, there is something like 72,500 British pounds riding on whether the bride will wear the George III tiara worn by the queen and queen mother and Princess Anne at their weddings as "something borrowed."

I am betting no tiara. I can't imagine a girl who would leave heads of state off her wedding guest list in favor of the neighborhood butcher wearing a tiara.

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