The bride from Northwestern University stunned and the bishop born in Chicago wowed. That was the buzz as guests arrived Saturday to the Chicago British consul’s residence for a party celebrating the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The party started at 10:30 a.m. so guests could watch a replay of the wedding instead of waking in the wee hours to see it live. But guess what–everyone watched it live anyway, so this party was about socializing.
Guests dressed as if they were invited to St. George’s chapel, where the wedding took place. Women wore fascinators and men dressed in spring suits.
Chicago British Consul General John Saville and his wife, Fabiola, hosted the British consul residence located in the same high-rise that billionaire Sam Zell counts as home.
You know it's "the queen's pad," as Saville likes to call it, as a portrait of her in blue greets you at the door.
Saville was named head of Chicago’s British Consulate about about six months ago. The office oversees 14 states across the United States, including Illinois. His role is to push for economic growth between the two countries, promote British exports and American investments and hold court over events at the residence just off Michigan Avenue.
Later this summer, Saville and his wife will host a party to support the Walking With the Wounded charity supported by Prince Harry.
“I have the luck of being paid to immerse myself in the politics and the culture and the social dynamics of the Midwest,” Saville said. That includes understanding “the interesting dynamics” between blue and red states.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent a congratulatory note. But there were plenty of political names in the crowd, including Leslie Munger, a top aide to Gov. Bruce Rauner. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton attended with his wife because he knew she’d enjoy the spectacle of it all. He's no wedding watcher, he said. “I’m focused on the budget.”
Guests chit-chatted about the bride’s dress: "beautiful, but couldn’t she do something" about the uncontrollable wisps in her hair?
And while the Brits in the room carefully described Rev. Michael Curry's sermon as “interesting,” Chicagoans cheered it for being so relatable.
Markle is the former Suits actress, who’s divorced and bi-racial–all points that raised eyebrows when the youngest son of Prince Charles and the late Lady Diana announced they’d marry. The monarchy has traditionally been stuffy about allowing marriages outside the rules of royalty. Think 1936, when Edward VIII gave up the crown to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
But given Prince Harry is far down the line of succession to be king–or maybe because the royals have softened their view of the world–the wedding was embraced by the royal family. And Chicago.
“I grew up admiring Diana and the work she did with children who had AIDS. Now you see Meghan–this strong, African American woman,” said Aisha Noble, herself African-American and the wife of Gus Noble, the president of Scottish Home and Caledonian House in Chicago.
Aisha hung on every wedding detail that highlighted Markle's ethnicity–from the dreadlocks worn by her Markle's mom, Doria Ragland, to the African-American choir, minister and cellist. “So elegant. And such a lovely service,” Aisha said.
Some guests, like 1871 CEO Betsy Ziegler, have a personal affection for all things British. She attended with her mom and recalled the fun she had living in England for a time after college.
Jim Dunlop, of counsel at Jones Day and a member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and Fernando Redondo, CEO at Skyway Concession Co., lingered in front of the TV screen while the party swirled around them and their wives, Kirstin Dunlop and Marie Redondo, compared fascinators.
And Sandeep Baliga, an economics professor at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, took in the scene with his son, 13-year-old Oscar.
"I lived in England (for a time) so I was excited to to be invited," Baliga said. "I really wanted to see the residence."