In the era of laptops, smartphones and Netflix, it was assumed that the end was nigh for the communal living-room screen. Instead, "event" TV was born, and with it, the viewing party. This week, the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markel will be watched by an audience of billions worldwide, and many have decided to make a day of it.
"Everyone's going to be watching this, even if they do it quietly, so why not do it loudly?" reasons Jenny Murray, who is planning a "tongue-in-cheek" Royal Wedding party at her home in Stoneybatter, Dublin. Already, Murray has planned to decorate with bunting, and serve gin fizz and homemade gin & tonic cupcakes.
“I’d have watched all the royal weddings, but this one has got a little more pizzazz with the Hollywood element. We often get together on the street and have some craic around street parties. I wouldn’t be a royalist or anything – they don’t bother me either which way to be honest, but I think people’s affection for Harry is a genuine thing. And everyone will want to see the frock.”
RTÉ 2FM broadcaster Jenny Greene and her wife Kelly Keogh have decided to go all out with a viewing party at their south Dublin home. They're holding a brunch BBQ, complete with Pimm's, Mimosas, and have decided to accessorise accordingly.
"We went on Amazon and ordered Harry and Meghan wedding balloons, and commemorative coasters," says Greene. "We're also getting a really large British flag with their photos on it."
Adds Keogh: “My thinking is ‘any excuse for a party’. We have Eurovision and World Cup parties, so why not for this? There’s so much doom and gloom everywhere that it’s nice to celebrate something sweet and uplifting. Of all the royals, Harry and Meghan are the ones you could probably relate to the most.”
As TV3's royal expert, Noel Cunningham has observed that, while many Irish people wouldn't necessarily view themselves as defenders of the crown, but still love the glamour and escapism that the royals provide.
According to a poll for RTÉ's Claire Byrne Live by Amárach Research, 57 per cent of people said they won't follow the wedding of British Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Just over a third (34 per cent) said they will be paying attention while 9 per cent said they didn't know.
It’s not the done thing, evidently, to openly admit to liking the royals, or wanting to celebrate the royal wedding. Yet cometh the hour, it’s safe to assume that most Irish people will be throwing a glance, even a furtive one, towards the nuptials.
"Magazines with royal covers sell more in Ireland per capita than any other country in the world," Cunningham reveals. "I always say that despite our shared history and past, we've always had a strong relationship with Britain. Who hasn't lived there, or have family members living over there?
“Similar to the Eurovision, many people feign disinterest in the royals, but the reality is that despite the begrudgers, it’s a day of enjoyment and fun for anyone who wants to have it.”
Of all the royals, Cunningham theorises that many Irish people have a particular affection for Prince Harry.
“Young Harry hasn’t had a gilded life by his own admission,” he says. “His mother’s death has caused him unbelievable pain. When his mother died (in 1997, when Harry was 12), I don’t think there was a mother or grandmother or sister in Ireland who wouldn’t want to rush into that area during Diana’s funeral and scoop that child up in their arms and take him from that traumatic spectacle. On another note, there’s something about Meghan that’s totally delightful. And I think a lot of younger viewers will be all about the style.”
Whether in celebration or with a nod to irony, getting into the spirit of things from the couch couldn't be easier. Gin, elderflower champagne, Pimm's & lemonade are dependable drinks options. Anyone wanting to go the full hog can try their hand at elderflower cake (it's thought that Harry and Meghan have chosen baker Claire Ptak to make their lemon elderflower cake). Or, for a substantial cap doff to the couple, whip up a roast chicken – said to be the meal that Harry proposed to Meghan over.
Given that celebrations kick off at 11am, high tea is probably a safe bet. Think Earl Grey tea, cucumber and dill sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, and petit fours. According to research, the cucumber tea sandwich recipe has been the most saved recipe on Pinterest in recent weeks, with saves on the site for 'royal wedding viewing parties' up 1791 per cent since January.
Even more fuss-free is a helping of strawberries and cream, reportedly served at Princess Diana’s wedding breakfast.
Royal wedding enthusiasts can also opt to celebrate at a number of venues across the country. The Whale Theatre in Greystones is showing the wedding on an 11ft screen, and will be serving cheeseboards, continental breakfasts and wedding cake along with a full bar (the event is sold out, although a waiting list can be joined at whaletheatre.ticketsolve.com).
House Hotel in Galway has also decided to join in the festivities, with a specially-designed afternoon tea. The menu is set to nod to American and British classics in honour of both Meghan and Harry, accompanied by their signature champagne cocktail, The Duchess.
Down in the People's Republic – the Beckett Suite at the Metropole Hotel, to be exact – organisers will hold their own event, complete with prosecco, afternoon tea and a fun selfie booth (tickets are €20 from Eventbrite.ie).
In Dublin, lifestyle site evoke.ie are holding a bubbles-and-brunch event at the Conrad Hotel on Earlsfort Terrace, promising goodie bags, celebrity panels and no end of style for a €75 entrance fee.
In Killinchy, Co, Down, the Florida Manor Estate is going one better, combining the royal wedding with the 137th FA Cup Final in the afternoon. An all-weather screen is being installed in the walled garden so that attendees can enjoy the action from both Windsor and Wembley (tickets are £20, from Eventbrite.ie).