15th Anniversary of Wessex Wedding

Last month during Ascot, the Earl and Countess of Wessex celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary. Let’s belatedly celebrate their anniversary with a peek back at their wedding.

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When Prince Edward and Sophie married on June 19, 1999 in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the couple had dated for eight years. Their wedding reflected the maturity that comes when marrying in one’s 30s and appeared to be a deliberate departure from the grand scale Windsor weddings of Edward’s elder siblings. Nowhere was this departure more evident than in the bride’s dress (no 1980s bow-covered meringue here!). Designed by Samantha Shaw, the gown was a medieval inspired dress coat with a deep v-neckline, long bell shaped sleeves and a slim silhouette. Made of hand-dyed ivory silk organza and silk crepe, the coat was embellished with several hundred thousand  pearl and cut-glass beads and swept into a modest train. For the private party following the ceremony, the coat was removed to reveal a simple silk dress.

Sophie Rhys-Jones, June 19, 1999 | Royal Hats Sophie Rhys-Jones, June 19, 1999 | Royal Hats

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Sophie topped her dress with a long gossamer silk organza veil studded with seed pearls; the veil caught the wind when she exited St. George’s Chapel and its delicacy was shown to full effect. Her pearl earrings and necklace with cross pendant, also in a Medieval style, were a gift designed by Prince Edward. Her tiara was a surprise as it was a ‘new’ piece made of four separate Victorian pieces from Queen Elizabeth’s private collection (you can read more about it here).

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The four young bridesmaids and pages wore outfits inspired by the Knights of the Order of the Garter, complete with black velvet Tudor bonnet-inspired headpieces trimmed with a plume of white ostrich feathers on the young ladies. The unusual choice of attire for the children was a nice connection to the wedding chapel (St. George’s is the chapel of the Order of the Garter) and gave us one of the only royal weddings with hat-wearing attendants!

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While the vast majority of British royal weddings take place in the morning where morning suits, day dresses and hats are required, Edward and Sophie married in the late afternoon; the dress code for the wedding was full-length formal wear with no hats. Old habits die hard, however, as was evidenced by headgear sported on several of Prince Edward’s relatives. Queen Elizabeth wore a beaded 1920s flapper style headpiece with a spray of sweeping lavender feathers designed by Frederick Fox. A side multi looped slim silk bow studded with lavender seed pearls completes the piece. This remains one of the only times the Queen has stepped out in a fascinator and I think it was wonderfully sassy on her.

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The Queen Mother ignored the dress code (as is the prerogative of anyone 99 years of age) and wore a mauve hat trimmed in coordinating osprey feathers. I’m not a fan of the spiky feathers covering the entire hat but I’m a great fan of the Queen Mother’s unapologetic sense of both style and tradition so I’m not going to complain.

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The Duchess of Kent wore a feathered fascinator in white, tan and chocolate while Princess Anne topped her green ensemble with a spray of upright green feathers.

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Lady Gabriella Windsor wore a small white camellia hairpiece. My favourite fascintor of the day, however, was the pale pink headpiece organza bow loops Lady Romsey tucked into the back of her elegant hairstyle. Feathers sticking out of the back of one’s head have a tendency to look like a rooster but Lady Romsey’s headpiece hit exactly the right note.

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While this was not a wedding of memorable hats, I am curious, dear readers – what did you think of the headpieces?

31 thoughts on “15th Anniversary of Wessex Wedding

  1. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Sophie looked all wrong in that veil. She would have looked better without it, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a royal bride without a veil ( except Camilla, of course). Also, the coat was too big – especially around the arms, it had the fit of a dressing gown which is not what you want in a wedding dress. The whole ensemble aged her considerably.

    • The veil was totally made out of the wrong kind of material. It just hung there over that awful spiky tiara like a wet rag. And thank goodness she hasn’t worn that ugly necklace again.

  2. I like the idea of Sophie’s dress. The execution and fit were lacking. The tiara and jewelry were simply awful.

    Her Majesty looked just lovely, as did QEQM.

  3. I adore all of these. HM’s in particular. I see a resemblance to the Duchess of Cornwall’s headpiece for their blessing ceremony, also at St. George’s Chapel.

  4. Love the Queen’s outfit and her ‘hat’, glorious (and her brooch, natch). Queen mother ditto. Sophie is such an elegant dresser now, I wonder what she’d change if she could go back? Quite a bit, I suspect … but then wouldn’t we all?

  5. This is an interesting dress code. It is most reminiscent of traditional court day dress for ladies – long dresses and hats, such as one sees in the wedding photos of the Queen and Princess Margaret (in fact, I wonder if Princess Margaret’s wedding was the last time that this style was the norm? certainly by Princess Anne’s wedding a decade or so later, it wasn’t worn). However, this had a slightly different skew, in that it was designed to go from day to evening, so the reasoning behind it was different. However, I suspect that lots of royal ladies felt it would be inappropriate to attend a wedding in church without something on their heads, hence the various ornamentations. I think the Queen’s ensemble is a wonderful answer, as it looks both day-formal and eveningy, and the fascinator is lovely.

    • Actually, I think the Queen’s shoes at Andrew’s wedding were her regular silver shoes, although I wish I could find a close-up. Here’s a view from a distance:

      Same for Prince Charles’s wedding: silver shoes, I believe. In each case the purse was made from the dress material, but the shoes do not match the dresses.

  6. Has Sophie worn her wedding necklace on any other occasion? I appreciate that it was a gift but…it is rather unattractive.

  7. I loathe Sophie’s dress and jewels, and that tiara is some kind of joke. It clearly looks like the cobbled together parts of some other broken jewels. Her hair is an untidy mess, and ought to have been styled to cover the hideously ugly base of the tiara. I can’t say I like the guests’ outfits either, except for the Queen and her mother. One should either do daytime weddings, or evening weddings, and not some strange thing in between.

  8. I also thought the Queen looked lovely that day. That was the first royal wedding I was able to watch live, and I can hardly believe that it was 15 years ago! Here is a closer view of the Queen’s Frederick Fox headpiece from when it was on display at the ‘Hat and Handbags’ exhibition at Kensington Palace in 2003.


      • Thanks for that Baxter. The Queen’s headpiece reminds me of the Beautiful Treacy headpiece worn by The Duchess of Cornwall on the occasion of her Marriage to Prince Charles, some 6 years later. I have ALWAYS thought that Camilla looked absolutely sublime at the Service Of Dedication, the headpiece matching so beautifully with the gold in that gorgeous dress. It was a sign then of a woman confident and comfortable in a certain look….and brave enough to pull it off on the most public of stages. Thanks again.

      • Absolutely fantastic photo. Thank you so much for sharing!

        The shape reminds me of the Philip Treacy headpiece the Duchess of Cornwall wore at her own wedding six years later in May 2005.

  9. Not only is this the only time the Queen may have worn a fascinator, but this is the only time that I think she’s worn purple shoes. The purple purse obviously was made out of the dress fabric. The Queen looked fantastic that day.

  10. The Queen looked marvelous. so feminine and lovely! Wish that would come back. Sophie’s dress did not show up well on TV or pictures, and the bodice was entirely too large. not flattering at all. I did not catch the connection of the attendants with the chapel, so thank you for pointing that out. That might also explain Sophie’s jewelry , as I didn’t think it especially attractive either.

  11. The Queen looked lovely. I love the fascinator and that color in her. And her broad smile. She looks genuinely happy. I like the bride too (I love Sophie) but I’ve always thinked that the dress is big for her. Or perhaps she lost weigh as all brides do and they couldn’t fix the dress apropriately.

  12. I’m deeply impressed by the Queen’s extraordinary elegance. She’s always elegant, but here it has a special swing and verve from the flowing fabricd. Marvellous!
    I like the headpieces, only the one of Princess Anne really has something rooster-like 🙂

  13. Thnx very much for this post.i adore the pictures of this wedding.one question to the readers here,was this wedding broadcast live on bbc?

  14. I am impressed with how lovely the Queen and Queen Mother looked. It would be nice if the Queen’s designers would learn from this event .
    I do remember the bridal coat not fitting well on the shoulders but the photos are lovely.
    Also learned far more from the wedding descriptions here the details of the fashion and the connection to the chapel.
    Very interesting.
    Never hear anything about her parents and often wonder. I will do a search.
    Thank you.

  15. The Queen Mother should get extra points for recycling her hat from her 80th Birthday Service at St. Paul’s for this wedding 19 years later. Clearly this is where the Princess Royal gets it from. 🙂

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