A rare occasion that calls for royal treatment

Bob Anderson, front, dressed as a British guard, escorts Jennifer Brisson of Voluntown while Bob Porter escorts her mother, Johanna Kotecki of Griswold, to the front door as they arrive for an early morning party to watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live on television Saturday, May 19, 2018. The party was hosted by Candace Porter of Voluntown. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Bob Anderson, front, dressed as a British guard, escorts Jennifer Brisson of Voluntown while Bob Porter escorts her mother, Johanna Kotecki of Griswold, to the front door as they arrive for an early morning party to watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live on television Saturday, May 19, 2018. The party was hosted by Candace Porter of Voluntown. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Voluntown — It was all pomp and circumstance as guests arrived to celebrate the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Turning up as early as 6 a.m., guests dressed in floral day dresses emerged from parked cars. Ornate fascinators, tightly pinned to pulled-back hair, bobbed through the air as high heels clicked across pavement. British guardsmen, robed in bright red tunics and faux-bearskin hats, stoically walked out to escort the guests inside.

Such was the scene at Candace Porter’s royal wedding viewing party, held at her Voluntown home Saturday morning.

Her party, just one among thousands of similar gatherings held around the world, marked the rare occasion of a royal wedding — an event so special, Porter says, that it prompted her to pull out her late mother's never-before-used fine china.

“(Weddings) like this never happen in the United States, so I just wanted to have fun and throw a party for this one,” Porter said, wearing a floor-length, navy-blue ballgown. She'd risen at 4 a.m. to curl her blond hair, which was crowned with an elaborate cap complete with flowers and a fishnet veil. “Really, it’s like watching a fairy tale.”

Though just a small gathering of about 20 guests, Porter made sure to pull out all the stops for the event, starting with the invitations she'd typed in fancy script and mailed to her invitees. Situated around her house were tiered trays of scones, quiches and fancy lemon-elderflower mini cakes — the same flavor Ms. Markle had chosen for her wedding cake. A life-size cutout of Prince Harry, himself, stood in a living room corner. Costumed British guards walked about serving ornate cocktails, while four tiny chihuahuas ran and yipped in adorable tuxedos.

“Here you go, my lady,” said one of the guards as he bent over to serve one guest a Bloody Mary topped with bacon, shrimp and olives. Smiling at the guard’s serious composure, Porter admits that she asked her brother and her boyfriend to play the roles.

“I just wanted them to do me this one favor. ... And I love that they are taking it so seriously and really getting into character,” she said, stating that the two studied British guardsmen behavior over YouTube in the days leading up to the party.

As for the guests, every moment of the wedding, from Markle’s first step out of the maroon Rolls-Royce that escorted her to St. George's Chapel in Windsor, England, to the couple’s first kiss as husband and wife, was dutifully noted as they watched the event unfold over Porter's big-screen TV.

“Just look at that dress,” one woman said, while others sat on smiling enthusiastically or pushing back tears of joy. “It’s just beautiful.”

Waking up at 4 a.m. to attend the festivities was Joyce Gervais, who drove two hours from her home in Attleboro, Mass.

“This makes me feel a very part of the wedding and the festivities,” Gervais said. “I love seeing the dresses, the hats and you know, it’s nice to have tradition. It’s a fast-paced society here, and I really feel that it’s nice to sit down and enjoy this one event that is so steeped in history.”

Through all the revered traditions, however, Porter’s guests also seemed excited about Prince Harry’s nontraditional bride — a biracial, American divorcee who has stirred up much controversy in the months since the couple’s engagement.

Such details, however, were happily accepted by the guests, who were excited at the prospect of an American woman being inducted into British royalty.

"I do think it's remarkable," Porter said. "It brings the two sides together."

For Nicola Parr, an English-born native now living in Norwich, watching the royal wedding unfold was a nod to her British heritage. She reminisced about Princess Diana’s wedding in 1981, stating that Diana was the first princess to shake up tradition within what she described as the "typically stuffy royal family."

“They used to call her the 'people’s princess' because the royal family was always a little cool towards the general public. But Diana was able to bridge that gap in a way that brought the whole royal family closer to us,” Parr said. “I think Meghan will be the one to step into that same role, too.”

Already shaking up the aristocracy, Harry and Meghan's wedding included a sermon by African-American Bishop Michael Bruce Curry, as well as a rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” performed by the Kingdom Choir — a black, British, Christian group based in southeast London.

The wider implications of such choices didn't escape the twenty women watching.

“This wedding represents a moment where we are moving forward,” Gervais said. “I think it represents a moment bigger than the wedding itself.”

m.biekert@theday.com

Cindy Albert, second from left, of South Glastonbury wipes away a tear as she and other guests watch the start of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live on television during an early morning party hosted by Candace Porter of Voluntown on Saturday, May 19, 2018.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Cindy Albert, second from left, of South Glastonbury wipes away a tear as she and other guests watch the start of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live on television during an early morning party hosted by Candace Porter of Voluntown on Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
With a life-size cutout of Prince Harry in the background, party hostess Candace Porter, right, chats with Johanna Kotecki of Griswold during Porter's party to watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live on television at her home in Voluntown early Saturday, May 19, 2018.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
With a life-size cutout of Prince Harry in the background, party hostess Candace Porter, right, chats with Johanna Kotecki of Griswold during Porter's party to watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live on television at her home in Voluntown early Saturday, May 19, 2018. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
During an early morning party to watch the royal wedding on live television, Nicola Parr, front right, of Norwich, the only guest originally from England, Rose Kovalik, front left, and others react when the see Prince Harry kiss his bride, Meghan Markle, as they exit the chapel Saturday, May 19, 2018. Parr is originally from Epsom in Surrey, England, and moved to the United States in 1990. The party was hosted by Candace Porter of Voluntown.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
During an early morning party to watch the royal wedding on live television, Nicola Parr, front right, of Norwich, the only guest originally from England, Rose Kovalik, front left, and others react when the see Prince Harry kiss his bride, Meghan Markle, as they exit the chapel Saturday, May 19, 2018. Parr is originally from Epsom in Surrey, England, and moved to the United States in 1990. The party was hosted by Candace Porter of Voluntown. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

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