Eileen Wallace hasn’t worn her wedding gown since she tied the knot more than 35 years ago. But Friday she wiggled into it at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. She gathered with a dozen friends in Merrick to watch the only event with enough fanfare to cajole her into that dress again: the marriage of Prince William to commoner Kate Middleton.
“She fits into it. God bless her,” said Terry Burke, 49, of Bellmore, who wore a blue tiara purchased at the local dollar store. When Kate emerged from a Rolls-Royce on the flat-screen TV, Wallace was gleeful, feeling ahead of her time. “Lace on the sleeves!” she said, extending her own arms. “Notice the similarity, girls?”
Women across Long Island threw themselves into celebrating the big event Friday, in ornate hats, tiaras, jewels both real and costume, even formal gowns. “People were telling me, how can you not have a party?” said Anne Parizat, 51, of Old Westbury, who moved to the States from London in 1986. “And I thought it’d be a lovely thing to do for my prince. He and Kate are such a lovely couple, and I think they represent a new, modern era for Britain.”
At the Huntington home of Liz Cordeiro, 20 women ate crumpets and sausage rolls and drank tea from china cups as they took in the festivities, which they had taped and replayed at the more civilized hour of 9:30 a.m.
On a table awaited a four-tiered, fondant-iced wedding cake topped by flowers, with a medallion bearing the couple’s first initials in gold calligraphy. In the living room: a life-size cardboard cutout of Will and Kate. Cordeiro, 47, wore a fascinator — a hat-like hair ornament — that looked as though silver fireworks had exploded atop her head.
WATCHING A WEDDING
All eyes were on Kate during the mostly female viewing parties. The fantasizing wasn’t about being Prince William or Queen Elizabeth. Partygoers identified with Kate, the everyday girl chosen by a prince.
“Oh my God, look how tiny her waist is!” Cordeiro said.
“Can you imagine what she’s thinking right now?” said Janna DeRisi, 32, of Lloyd Harbor.
“ ‘I did it, I did it,’ ” Cordeiro said in a singsong voice.
Not that Kate’s future will always be easy. “I don’t envy her,” said Norma Gorecki, 44, of Huntington. “She is going to have a tough life. She is always going to be in the public eye. She’ll have so many expectations. She’s going to be compared to Diana.”
Several moms at the Huntington party broke the “pact” not to peek at the royal proceedings before their gathering because they wanted to share the wedding of a future monarch — something that happens once in a generation — with their daughters.
“I watched Princess Diana and Charles getting married with my mother, who is no longer with us,” said Suzanne Muller, 50, of Huntington, who made her 12-year-old daughter Alexandra get up at 6 a.m. “It may not mean anything to her now, but when she has kids, she’ll look back and be happy she watched with me.”
Moms of boys were moved as well. “The wedding makes me think of my own three boys, about what part I’ll play in their wedding,” said Sherrie Glasser, 55, a physical therapist from Old Westbury who was celebrating before going to work at 8:30 a.m.
WEIGHING IN FROM AFAR
Partygoers alternated between playful jeering and heartfelt cheering. The jabs were mostly aimed at wedding guests’ hats. (“It looks like a door knocker.” “It looks like a lampshade.”) But when William said to Kate, “You look beautiful,” the women in Huntington broke into applause.
In Old Westbury, guests squealed as the camera turned to Elton John. Giddiness was replaced by hushed silence once the Archbishop of Canterbury began the ceremony, but laughter erupted during the vows, when Kate’s ring appeared too snug for her finger.
The only disappointment: The first kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. It was more of a peck. The couple gave the crowd another, but it was only minimally more romantic.
In Merrick, the women popped Champagne bottles. “Long live Will and Kate,” toasted Merrick hostess Marie Sussingham, 56. Lauren Kellachan of Bellmore read a quiz regarding royal history, and awarded prizes such as a commemorative coffee mug. Sussingham’s Yorkie, Max, scampered around with a British flag ribbon tied around his neck.
Some family members were incredulous — even mortified — by the level of interest. Gorecki wore a black mermaid-style, floor-length gown and a wide-brimmed hat with a huge flower. “I got dressed this morning and my kids were, like, ‘Don’t go to the bus stop, Mom.’ ”
DeRisi said her husband, Darren, was agitated by the media attention when there are more pressing news stories, such as the tornadoes in the south. DiRisi told him: “You just need to get lost in the fairy tale for the day. Just for a day.”