(Video by Press Association)
During the course of Boris Johnson’s colourful life and career, it could never be said that organisation is among his strong points.
Book deadlines, Brexit deals, garden bridges, necessary haircuts… A basic rule of thumb is that if it requires foresight, the Prime Minister will probably lose track of time, ruffle his mane, then bumble his way through it.
Well, now he has another date to work towards: July 30, 2022, his next wedding day. Put it on a Post-it, Boris. Set a reminder on your phone. Even you won’t be forgiven for missing this one.
After becoming engaged in late 2019, supposedly on the Caribbean island of Mustique, Johnson and his fiancée, Carrie Symonds, have left us all guessing exactly when (and how, and where, and in what way) they will actually tie the knot.
The delay was understandable. A pandemic – plus a spell in intensive care for Boris, plus the birth of their son, Wilfred, plus loads of vital interior decorating – got in the way, but the couple have now reportedly sent save-the-date cards to family and friends.
There isn’t exactly precedent. The last, and only, Prime Minister to have married while in office did so exactly 200 years earlier: Robert Jenkinson, the Earl of Liverpool, wed Mary Chester, a domestic companion of his late first wife, at Hampton Court in 1822.
So, will what sources have described as a “private family event” turn into a glamorous society affair, or stay small and discreet? City or country? Designer or vintage? Might it be like Johnson’s first wedding 34 years ago, to Allegra Mostyn-Owen, which was described as “a cross between La Dolce Vita and Brideshead Revisited”, or a little rushed, like his second in 1993, to a heavily pregnant Marina Wheeler? Will Johnson forget both his trousers and shoes, then lose his ring, like he did first time round? And who will pick up the tab? Let the speculation begin…
The guest list
If you think choosing the guest list for a normal wedding involves compromise and politics, imagine being the actual Prime Minister. Which world leaders get the call? If you invite some of the Cabinet, do you invite them all? What, even boring old Jenrick? Patel? Hancock?
Johnson isn’t known for having a huge number of friends, but rather an endless supply of “acquaintances” stockpiled from his years at Eton, Oxford, in journalism, as London mayor, and as an MP.
If Dominic Raab doesn’t insist on being best man, that duty might well fall to one of Johnson’s two best pals from the Bullingdon Club, Darius Guppy and Earl Spencer. A couple of issues there, though: despite Guppy being best man to Spencer, those two fell out spectacularly. It was once reported that Guppy conspired with Johnson to beat up a journalist (which Bojo later said was a joke). Raab might be safer, after all.
David Cameron, Evgeny (now Lord) Lebedev and former aide Will Walden could also make an appearance, as might Harry Jameson, Johnson’s long-suffering personal trainer, and what about a wild card, like Donald Trump?
On the bride’s side, the women’s rights campaigner Nimco Ali (rumoured to be Wilfred’s godmother) seems a fair bet to be among the bridesmaids. Symonds’ parents are not together, but she is particularly close to her mother, Josephine McAffee, who formed a household bubble with the couple in January to help look after Wilfred.
It isn’t known whether Johnson’s older children (Lara, Milo, Cassia and Theodore, from his marriage to Marina Wheeler, and Stephanie, the daughter he had as the result of an affair while Mayor) will be attending, but Wilfred is sure to have a starring role. Maybe he’ll be a ringbearer, if that post hasn’t been filled by Dilyn the dog.
Will it be a service at St Nicholas’s in Great Kimble and all back to Chequers? Or will they opt for something less traditional? With just a year to go and with most venues experiencing a backlog after months of cancelled events, you’d imagine the Johnson-Symonds already have somewhere lined up. So where will they be tying the knot?
Chequers was the Buckinghamshire bolthole where the PM went to convalesce after his stint in ICU, so by now it could feel like a home from home. If it’s a more simple, country wedding they want there’s the Oxfordshire farmhouse he recently put up for rent. Or could it be in London? Their son was christened at Westminster Cathedral but as Johnson is divorced they wouldn’t be able to marry there but could have a civil ceremony then apply to receive a blessing.
Wedding planner to the stars Michelle Kelly points out privacy can be more achievable at a remote country venue than somewhere in town. Kelly, founder of Pocketful of Dreams, suggests a self-contained venue like Wilderness Reserve in Suffolk, where 180 guests can stay on site in houses on the private estate. It’s perfect, she says, for well-known couples who want to be sure prying cameras won’t get near their guests. “We’ve had some mega VIP guests that have attended events there. They’ve been able to kick back and enjoy themselves; not feel like all eyes are on them.”
Port Lympne Reserve in Kent has also been touted, as Carrie works for the Aspinall Foundation, the conservation charity that oversees the estate. A wild animal park might seem an odd place for this particular Prime Minister to marry (his first wedding to Mostyn-Owen was at her family’s Grade-II listed estate in Shropshire) but given his fiancée’s environmental credentials, it wouldn’t be totally out of the question.
A marquee on the 500-acre Devon farm owned by Johnson and his siblings could work for an outdoorsy West Country knees up. Meanwhile, a venue in Italy, where Symonds apparently has relatives, has also been floated, though the carbon footprint required may be antithetical to her eco mission.
More likely, they’ll stay local and try to make the day as sustainable as possible. Kelly says reducing the waste generated at big weddings is becoming a priority for couples. Instead of flowers, many are now opting for “planted elements or dried flowers” then made into gifts for guests to take home.
The food will be chosen carefully too. The couple reportedly had £27,000 worth of Daylesford produce delivered to them in lockdown. Could the organic farm shop get the gig, or could a caterer like the Social Pantry, committed to zero waste and responsible sourcing, be what they need?
Symonds has long been a champion of small British designers and eco-friendly fashion, often wearing deadstock fabric, vintage items or renting clothes rather than buying new. Bethan Holt, The Telegraph’s fashion director, says Symonds could hire a designer wedding dress rather than having one made. “She has a subscription to a site called My Wardrobe HQ, which has lots of very fancy dresses that could be wedding-worthy.
“She could end up having multiple dresses and might justify that by renting one of them or deciding she’s going to dye one of them a different colour and rewear it.”
Favourite British brands include Justine Tabak and Eponine. Neither has a bridal collection, but could perhaps be commissioned to make a bespoke dress. “She’s worn [Eponine] a couple of times before,” says Holt. “Like when she went to visit the Queen at Balmoral. She was seen getting off a plane wearing Eponine. It’s a brand Kate Middleton wears a lot as well.
“With Justine Tabak, though it is a small label, they have the time and the resource. They’ve got the seamstresses working for them. If they wanted to just make one of their normal shapes in ivory silk or something then they could definitely do that.”
As for what the notoriously scruffy groom will wear, you can only hope Symonds persuades him to tuck his shirt in. At least for the photographs…
For a Tory politician, Boris Johnson’s music taste is surprisingly palatable. Appearing on Desert Island Discs in 2005 (luxury item: a massive pot of French mustard), he chose The Beatles, Booker T & The MGs, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and The Clash alongside some classical music.
It’s unlikely any of that crowd will volunteer their services – certainly not Van Morrison, whose latest album contains a song called No More Lockdown – so they may have to look elsewhere for their wedding singer. If they need to save money (and Boris usually does), James ‘Nul Points’ Newman might come cheap now…
Carrie’s music taste seems a little cheesier, and therefore more wedding-friendly than The Clash. She was spotted at the Abba musical in 2019, so perhaps Dancing Queen will get a spin. If it does, all eyes on Theresa May. Now there’s the entertainment.