A Room Full Of Fascinators: Hoosiers Find Connections To Royal Wedding

May 21, 2018

Prince Harry is marrying the American actress Meghan Markle in Windsor, England, almost 4,000 miles away from downtown Indianapolis. But at the Circle City's Skyline Club, more than 80 people have gathered to see the ceremony, reflect on the deeper meaning of the union...and drink mimosas.

On every widescreen TV in the room, at 7 a.m. Eastern Time and 1 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, Markle emerges from a Rolls Royce and onto the steps of St. George’s Chapel beneath a 16-foot long wedding veil.

“She’s getting out now!” says Kate Sureck, who’s been up since 3:30 a.m. “Right now! Oh my God!”

Sureck and her friend Emily Rogers-Cline are dressed for a royal wedding in their elaborate, befeathered hats, but since they weren’t on the guest list, Rogers-Cline says they’re happy to view the nuptials from the 36th floor of Indianapolis’ One America building.

“We’re just obsessed,” Rogers-Cline says. “We’re so excited to have someone from America marrying in."

“I guess in this case I would also want to point to the colonial context--that the UK's not just a random country for Americans,” says Jean Beaman, a Purdue University sociology professor. Beaman says the concept of ritual is important in bringing people together, but in this instance, part of the interest is rooted in the U.S.’s historical connection to England. For the record, Indiana land came under British control in 1763.

“I think that it's great that the queen is welcoming her into the family, and that the nation is welcoming her as an African-American,” says Ethelenor Washum, who came to the party with her daughter and granddaughter.

Washum says the wedding, which featured a gospel choir and a sermon from an African-American bishop, is a new dawn for the monarchy.

It's a different look for them, and I think that people are happy about it,” Washum says. “I am.”

Like Washum, Purdue professor Jean Beaman is black. She says the fact that Meghan Markle isn’t just an American, but also has an African-American parent, makes this event more meaningful.

“This represents some kind of way forward into a more inclusive or multicultural world,” Beaman says. “But I think a lot of Americans, particularly at this particular moment, are very invested in that idea.”

The watch party looks and feels like a wedding reception, with a buffet line, floral arrangements, and artfully folded napkins. People dab away tears and critique the wedding dress (reviews are mixed). There’s even a table for Northwestern University alumni, who’ve gathered in support of the newly-minted Duchess of Sussex, a graduate of the Northwestern class of 2003.

She represents a Northwestern alum,” says Deanna Conerly, who organized the alumni meet-up. “She represents so much.”

Conerly says when a wedding of this magnitude happens, it belongs to the world.

And I think people find their own story in a royal wedding,” Conerly says.

Markle, who’s also been married before, resonates for Kate Sureck.

“I am married, and I have been divorced, and she gives hope to all of us!” Sureck says.

So how long do the friends plan on staying? Emily Rogers-Cline doesn’t hesitate.

“As long as they're going to continue to serve us mimosas,” Rogers-Cline says.