Royal wedding: Prince William wears Irish Guards uniform
Britain's Prince William waves as he arrives at Westminster Abbey in central London (Reuters)
With all the speculation about the design of Kate Middleton's wedding dress, it was actually Britain's Prince William who brought an unexpected surprise to royal wedding fashion in the lead up to the couple tying the knot on tonight (NZT) at Westminster Abbey.
Royal watchers had expected the groom, a highly trained helicopter rescue pilot, to wear his navy blue air force uniform to take his vows at Westminster Abbey.
But William has opted to wear the scarlet tunic of an Irish Guards officer when he weds Middleton, a tribute to his honorary rank of colonel in the regiment.
William's choice of ceremonial military dress sends a strong signal of his support for the armed forces, reinforcing his preferred image as a dedicated military man and distancing him from past characterisations as a night clubbing party boy.
While the groom could have chosen the morning suit with tails, William opted to take his father's lead in wearing a ceremonial military uniform.
Prince Charles wed William's mother, Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, wearing full naval dress.
Still, the young prince's choice is a slight break from recent tradition, the last major royal wedding to feature a groom marrying in red was when Captain Mark Phillips, then an officer with the 1st Queen's Dragoon Guards, married Charles's sister, Princess Anne, in 1973.
William will sport his Royal Air Force "wings" as a tribute to his career as a search and rescue helicopter pilot. He will also wear a Garter sash and star and a Golden Jubilee medal, topped off with a forage cap bearing the Irish Guards insignia and motto, "Quis Separabit?" which translates to "Who shall separate us?"
Other members of the royal family will also be in military dress when William and Middleton take their vows.
Best-man Prince Harry is wearing the uniform of his new rank as Captain in the Household Cavalry's Blues and Royals. A trainee Apache helicopter pilot, Harry will wear the "wings" of the Army Air Corps and his Golden Jubilee and Afghanistan Campaign medals.
Charles, who has held the title of Admiral of the Royal Navy since 2006, will wear his blue Royal Navy number one ceremonial dress, embellished with a blue sash. He will wear numerous military decorations and carry his Royal Naval sword.
Charles's father, Prince Philip, will wear his Grenadier Guards uniform, a scarlet tunic and dark blue trousers with a red stripe.
Another topic of much public debate is what the wedding ring will look like. The couple have chosen a family business with long ties to the royal family to make the wedding ring of rare Welsh gold that William will slip onto Middleton's finger on Friday.
Palace officials said the ring was made by the Wartski company, which was founded in Wales in 1865.
Best man Prince Harry received the ring on Thursday and is responsible for its safekeeping until the couple are wed at Westminster Abbey.
Only one ring is involved because William has chosen not to wear a ring.
As is traditional for royal brides, the ring has been fashioned from Welsh gold, valued for its quality and scarcity.
The gold was given to William by Queen Elizabeth II shortly after his engagement to Middleton was announced in November.
Welsh gold has been used in royal weddings since 1923 and has been worn by Queen Elizabeth II, and the late Princess Diana.
Traditionally gold from a nugget from the Clogau Gold mine was used, but the mine has been closed and only a sliver remains.
However, the British Royal Legion gave the queen a small quantity of Welsh gold in the 1980s for incorporation into wedding rings, and this gold was used for Middleton's ring.