For royalty groupies, it must be confessed, some of life's great moments take place -- as they did yesterday -- at the British Embassy.
And elsewhere around town, there were countless parties and breakfasts where hats, flowers and decorations were very much the order of the day as prince and princess enthusiasts gathered to watch the fairy-tale nuptials on predawn telly.
It was at the embassy during a bicentennial state dinner that Elizabeth Taylor met John Warmer and also Elizabeth of England. Taylor, alas, could not attend yesterday's embassy breakfast. She was "working on Broadway," said her husband, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) -- in a role named Regina -- so it was left to about 250 other citizens or diplomats to celebrate and to try to explain why, in a democracy, le tout Washington would drink champagne cocktails, eat kippers, and get all warm and mushy inside over monarchist pomp.
Said Warner, husband of our Elizabeth: "Every woman dreams of being a queen. And we need an uplifting experience."
Said Vice President George Bush: "Because it's very special. We have a special relationship with Great Britain," which, as both Bushes got up at 5 a.m. to watch the wedding, is saying a lot more than it seems to. They did not, said Barbara Bush, cry.
Sarah Brady, wife of the convalescing White House press secretary, did cry, "because those wedding vows are the same ones you look yourself."
Mrs. Brady said husband Jim watched it from his hospital bed.
White House counsel Ed Meese bore home a slice of the wedding cake carbed by British Ambassador Sir Nicholas Henderson (the cakes of princes, or this one anyway, had a teeny-weeny crown with three teeny-weeny Prince of Wales' crest feathers on top). It was, said Ursula Meese, for their daughter to put under her pillow and dream. Of the bonnie bachelor Prince Andrew? The Meeses just laughed.
Sen. Charles Mathias (R-Md.) left early. "My coach," he said to Sir Nicholas, "has turned into a pumpkin. I've got to go to a meeting."
Not everyone was invited to the wedding breakfast. Nor welcome. Twenty-five Irish Americans gathered at the 500-yard embassy border zone Tuesday evening to protest the Irish Republican Army hunger strikers' lot, and a few showed up yesterday. Carolyn Conroy, a Silver Spring registered nurse, and her 15-year-old daughter Maureen unfurled a banner saying "Irish Hunger Strikers Die While You Feast. Shame." It was not, to say the least, the talk of the levee.
Across town in a neighborhood near Dupont Circle, PR woman Loretta Ucelli and stockbrokers' sales assistant Laurie Flynn threw a wedding breakfast for about 20 friends in Ucelli's walk-up. The stairs were carpeted with red crepe paper. Guests were greeted at the door by a man with a party store cardboard crown, red satin cape and running shorts, introduced as Exchequer de Safeway (a.k.a. Ken Groth, bartender at The Bottom Line). There were, as at the embassy, "buck fizzes" (a.k.a. champagne and orange juice) and Welsh rarebit.
And there were hats. Joan Bieard, wire operator at Kidder Peabody, found her '50s vintage bird cage, with rhinestones, at a rummage sale, and wore it with beaded cornrow braids. Flynn and lawyer Janice LaChance wore natural-colored straw hats with big brims. Ucelli, in a shiny black garrison gap and "morning attire" -- a formalk nightgown -- noted, "You only go to one royal wedding in a lifetime."
But there were other breakfasts. Dr. Carlotta Miles, a psychoanalyst, figures the last time she was up at 4 a.m. "was when I was a nursing mother." But yesterday, long before 4, she drove to a friend's house, passing all the houses lit by bright red burglar alarm lights, for champagne and strawberries.
Marilyn Funderburk, former assistant social secretary at the White House, had sent sliver-bordered invitations to the gathering that started at 3:30. The guest list was all female. "I just don't know any men who would get up at this hour to go to a wedding."
White balloons were attached with silver ribbons to the outside of the colonial house and similar balloons hung from the chandelier in the front hall. "I took down the colorful balloons from my daughter's graduation party of a month ago to put up these balloons," laughed Funderburk. gHer sister's wedding album was oin the floor of the den to boost any lagging wedding spirit.
Both Funderburk and Miles, and the next arrival, Francella Press, wore wedding whites, Miles in a white cotton dress, white hose and sandals with flowers in her hair, while the other two were in white shorts.
Not all the guests were so formally attired. Shana Dennis, who works in the cultural office of the British Embassy, arrived in jeans carrying two loads of dirty laundry. "My machine broke," explained Dennis, who disappeared to the laundry room before settling in front of the television set. d
Funderburk planned the party late last week "just for the fun of it," she said. "Mother, you must be awfully bored," commented daughter Julie, a Yale sophomore, when she heard the plans.
Several friends of Julie and her sister Christina were overnight guests at the Funderburks', and settled in the den before the wedding began, all wearing hats embellished with ribbon flowers. Even Billie Funderburk, a Yale junior, had a ribbon flower his sisters had sneaked on the back of his bathrobe.
When the bride, in reciting the vows, reversed the many names of her husband, Shana Dennis exclaimed, "My goodness, she just married her father-in-law." She then disappeared to put her clothes in the dryer.
Just as the bride and groom walked back down the aisle, Alma Brown, a program director with the National Council of Negro Women, got up to leave. "This will be the first time I've gotten to work early. I'll be the first one there."
Meanwhile, back at the embassy -- where it truly seems less humid than other parts of Washington -- a few women had dug out their wide-brimmed hats, but most had not. Lady Henderson wore a pink rose in her hair and bridal white cotton -- different parts diplomatically chosen from British and American designers. Lorraine Cooper, wife of John Sherman Cooper, wore a drop-dead, coral, wide- and floppy-brimmed hat from Dior any queen might covet. And Sarah Mbogua, wife of the ambassador of the former commonwealth of Kenya, wore a sensational red lame kitabah (turban in Swahili). Indeed, the royal ladies' hats upon the occasion of the wedding were stunning, from the queen another's jade osprey feathers to Princess Anne's yellow flowered pie plate.
The profusion of hats worn by the St. Paul's congregation may have started a trend. Or at least a small fad.
Louise Backrach of Bachrach's Millinery, at 11th and G, believes her shop to be the last -- and at 72, the oldest -- ladies' hat store in Washington. She said yesterday, "We've sold a lot of hats today. The American people haven't been buying hats. They saw all those people going into the cathedral with hats on, and they're coming in today asking for them."
Her shop is making copies of the princess of Wales' going-away hat. For $65, you can have the little beige satin tricorn with ostrich feather.