SUZY

Byline: Aileen Mehle

It was two nights before the royal wedding in London of Marie-Chantal Miller and Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, and 900 guests were on their way to a grand ball at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire, an hour's drive from central London. Everyone knew how to get there--the organizer of the party and other attendant wedding festivities was none other than Lady Elizabeth Anson of London's Party Planners and Lady E. had sent out very clear instructions. And of course everyone knew that Hertford is pronounced "Hartford"--who hasn't seen "My Fair Lady" a dozen times? But what almost no one knew was how to pronounce Wrotham. A phonetically able person would probably say "Roth-ham." Not at all. The British pronounce it "Rottem"--and Rottem it is, a rather ugly sounding name for a magnificent country house that looks more like a palace, columned and balustraded and bedecked and bedizened that glittering night, as beautiful as the water-colored invitation depicting it.
Wrotham Park is a privately owned stately home, but for the dazzling dinner dance given to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of their beautiful daughter and the handsome prince, Chantal and Robert Miller took it over and, calling in Robert Isabell, the incomparable New York party designer planner and a genius with flowers, proceeded to create a magical illusion.
Let me try to set the scene. As the beautiful done-up women in their long dresses and the men in black tie ascended the great stone steps to the entrance, they walked through a veritable English garden of bay and boxwood trees and enormous arrangement of roses on their way to the receiving line (the Robert Millers, the King and Queen of Greece, the bride- and groom-to-be) while a classical quartet from the Royal Philharmonic played in the background. Passing through the glorious house (spruced up a bit by Mongiardino for the night) while admiring the ancient bust of Athena on a pedestal, the crowd descended another stone stairway lined with 14 huge urns bursting with golden roses to the back lawns where a mammoth tent, 135 by 240 feet, had been erected. This was the reception area, and it was a staggering sight to see.
A tribute to ancient Greece, the space was surrounded by 15-foot ecru muslin draperies with wide, dark green laurel borders. The main drapery, three stories high and 135 feet wide, was also embroidered in laurel. The ceiling was squared off into 25 muslin panels bordered in real laurel imported from Greece by Isabell. He and Chantal Miller selected the design and colors inspired by ancient Greek vases and architecture.
The lighting was enchanting, casting the ceiling and the draperies in a golden glow. From Ecuador (Chantal Miller is an Ecuadoran), 30,000 roses were flown in and arranged in enormous terra-cotta urns with painted laurel borders. They towered over the guests on pedestals 10 feet high made of fresh laurel leaves. Simply breathtaking.
A sand-colored jute carpeting covered the floor on four different levels, and custom-made banquettes of ecru muslin with laurel borders made perfect seating places, along with little cocktail tables covered in the same fashion. The enormous space, for all its design reference to ancient Greece, was somehow cool and chic and elegantly simple in a modern way.
Just when everyone thought they had witnessed the quintessence of decorative beauty, the three-story central drapery lifted to reveal still a second wondrous scene, the dinner tent, to gasps and spontaneous applause. Guests entered through a two-story-high portico of white Corinthian columns onto a vast, handpainted floor, the design taken from Greek tiles, as was the 50-foot-square dance floor, designed to make room for maybe 450 killer ballgowns.
The dinner tables were laid with terra-cotta linen with a diamond pattern designed by Isabell under a golden amber overcloth with a black printed laurel border. Bronze bowl centerpieces overflowed with gardenias flown over from the USA (hooray!) and the light from four-foot-high bronze candlesticks holding golden beeswax candles made the women look even lovelier. One might have been in an ancient Greek temple surrounded by high stone walls.
The terra-cotta-colored ceiling was held up by great 65-foot-long beams painted with ancient designs and hung with immense alabaster chandeliers. In the corners of the room, were tall pillars completely covered with fragrant white stock. Eight musicians played for the perfumed pack, and during dinner 20 dancers, wearing antique costumes brought from Greece by Prince Pavlos, danced Greek folk dances, including the sirtaki, with some of the Greek royals joining the joyous circle. (You've heard the Greeks invented democracy?)
After dinner--terrine of foie gras, lamb chops and a symphony of desserts--Marie-Chantal and Pavlos danced the first dance to "It Had to Be You," and then everyone else swept onto the floor and stayed there--until the news came that something wonderful was going on in the back gardens and out they all flew, dashing down the steps into the center field where a gorgeous 18th-century carousel was going round and round. Of course, the more daring pretty young things had to clamber aboard, trying to look as 18th century as possible. Then came fireworks, imported from Macao, exploding in fiery bursts and giving new meaning to lighting up the sky.
The last diehards left at 6:30 a.m. after watching the sunrise and eating a hearty breakfast to see them on their way. Everyone agreed it was the most fabulous party in years and that it might be many more years before they saw its like again.
The crowd was dressed to the teeth and beyond, and Valentino was all smiles as he admired the women wearing his clothes: the bride-to-be in a celadon taffeta embroidered ballgown. Queen Sophia of Spain in white and silver beads. The Spanish Infanta Cristina in salmon chiffon. Princess Rosario of Bulgaria in beaded topaz chiffon. Betsy Bloomingdale in black silk crepe with an embroidered hem. Countess Maya Flick in a pink satin ballgown. Countess Georgina Brandolini in white beaded chiffon. Doris Brynner in navy blue lace.
The bride's mother wore pastel satin and chiffon by John Galliano, and the Shahbanou of Iran was in cream-colored satin and lace by Azzaro. Queen Mother Ingrid of Denmark was, well, queenly, in sapphire blue, and her daughter Queen Margareth wore a coral ballgown with important sleeves. Lita Livanos was in rosy-red satin by Givenchy, and Carroll Petrie wore a white Scaasi. Cecile Zilkha was in Mme. GrAs's brilliant blue chiffon, and her adorable daughter, Bettina, wore Oscar de la Renta's rose-colored chiffon.
Everywhere you looked you saw Annabel Goldsmith, Maria Niarchos in black and diamonds, the bride's sister, Alexandra Miller, in strapless ice-blue satin, Princess Firyal of Jordan in a white satin sheath and eye-popping jewels, Lord and Lady White, Alexandra and Taki Theodoracopulos, Princess Esra Jah, the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Karen and Peter John Goulandris, Catherine Forbes in strapless pale blue satin (she danced the first dance with Crown Prince Felipe of Spain), Charlotte Forbes in cream-colored silk, Caroline and Bluey Mavroleon, Victoria and Evelyn Rothschild, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Lord and Lady Romsay, Lynn and Egon von Furstenberg, Prince Albert of Monaco, Viscount and Vicountess Linley, the Duke of Edinburgh, the former Secretary General of the United Nations Javier Perez de Cuellar and his wife, Marcela, Queen Noor of Jordan, Veronica Hearst in a black Chanel and her daughter Fabiola in a Bill Blass that showed off her belle poitrine, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Diane Von Furstenberg, Countess Marina Cicogna in silver lamA, Barry Diller, Giancarlo Giammetti, Ludovic Autet, Jamie Figg, Astrid and Kip Forbes, Robert Higdon, Barbara and Conrad Black, Alexander von Furstenberg, Vivian Duffield and Jocelyn Stevens, Arietta Vardinoyannis, George Livanos, King Juan Carlos of Spain, the Spanish Infanta Elena, Princess Maria Gabriella di Savoia, Wendy Wasserstein, Prince and Princess Michael of Greece and their daughters Olga and Alexandra, Donatella Flick in a beige, gold and silver Lacroix, Queen Silvia of Sweden in strapless pink satin, Princess Marina di Savoia in white shoes and black stockings (really!), Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Elli Antoniades and, last but not least, Lady Peele, from whom the Robert Millers just bought a hunting lodge in Yorkshire for $16 million. So, if I've left anyone out it wasn't because I meant to. I mean, you were all so utterly divine, weren't you?

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