Royal bridesmaid’s advice: ‘Don’t trust anybody’
WHEN Amber Petty met Mary Donaldson working in the mid-'90s at a Melbourne marketing agency, neither could possibly have predicted what was to be - standing in Copenhagen Cathedral, one set to become a princess, the other to be thrust into the spotlight as her bridesmaid.
On May 14, 2004, Mary Elizabeth Donaldson became Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark when she married Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark. The wedding captivated a nation and forever changed the life of Mary's best friend and closest confidante. Here, Petty shares her memories of that extraordinary day with Stellar.
When Mary and I met, it was a case of opposites attract. I don't think either of us had a friend like each other. We weren't from the same scenes, but there was an instant bond; it helped she laughed at my jokes.
Our friendship of almost 30 years means everything to me. Friends that have been around long enough become family. People find that hard to believe when one person's life changes so dramatically, but they underestimate true friendship. When Mary got engaged, I was bracing myself not to be asked to be a bridesmaid. I wasn't sure of protocol and I guess I was thinking the worst.
So when I was asked five months out from the wedding, I was relieved, touched and then quietly terrified. As the day approached, there was protocol to learn, much of which was to also make us comfortable so we didn't walk into things not knowing the right thing to do.
The "terror" of what was coming set in soon after knowing I would be in the wedding party, and kept building. However, on the day, I was so tired from the anticipation and a week of incredible events, I had no energy left to be nervous.
I was the only member of the bridal party who was not family. I considered this to be a further honour. As I said, I was scared I wasn't going to be appropriate to be chosen and that would have broken my heart a little. It would have been further proof I was losing a person I loved to a very unexpected life event. I hoped for acknowledgement deep down. I think every girl who loves her best friend would understand this feeling.
I arrived in Denmark two weeks before the big day. It was bizarre; buildings were covered in my friend and her future husband's faces. There were love-heart, rose-covered bushes around the city and, of course, souvenir items. I wish I'd bought a few things, but I didn't. I was fairly self-conscious at this point - there was obviously enormous local media attention and I didn't want to get caught buying a couple of bobble-head toys with my friends' heads on them!
There was a week of extraordinary events leading up to the wedding. My fear was always of making a fool of myself by not greeting certain royals and dignitaries in the correct way. I really wanted to be a good representation for my beautiful friend, but inside I felt very much like a fish out of water.
Fashion designers such as Dorian Ho and Jayson Brunsdon helped alleviate wardrobe anxiety. They promised to make sure I wouldn't look like a lost bogan extra in a beautiful European film. A week before the wedding, the military put on a big show, blasting cannons into the air. Out of the smoke came these little Danish and Australian flags on tiny parachutes falling from the sky. The union between our two countries was beautiful. It felt like a love story in itself.
At Copenhagen Cathedral, I felt very self-conscious. As we waited outside the cathedral for Mary's carriage, we were facing a huge wall of lenses. There were about 300 cameras in the press gallery all aimed at us. I have never in my life more wanted the Earth to swallow me up. I wasn't comfortable in my own face. A weird thing to say, I know, but true.
After the wedding, I felt very empty. I didn't realise it at the time, but I was grieving the loss of a friendship that was never going to be the way it was. It did feel like all anyone wanted to talk about was "the fairytale", which wasn't how my heart was processing it for me.
It took a long time to get my energy back. I look back now and feel much calmer and peaceful about the whole experience. I don't feel so anxious - I feel proud and grateful to have been part of my friend's extraordinary day.
My biggest advice I would give to Meghan's closest friends is do not trust anybody. Do not try to be nice and "non-elitist" by being too open to people. Unfortunately, just know that no-one will be interested (aside from your own support and friend group) in anything you do for a long, long time. It will be frustrating and exhausting at times.
I felt anxious watching Will and Kate's wedding. I reacted to that tsunami of energy directed towards the event. When Pippa Middleton became the centre of a million headlines after she stood with her sister Kate as bridesmaid, I related. I felt, as I watched Pippa, that the attention and adoration will feel good in a fleeting fashion, but they will turn on you and you'll go through a dark time.
You need very solid self-esteem. Mine wasn't. It was perhaps at its worst, so I felt very, very lost. At the very point in my life I wanted to hide, I was exposed.
That day in Denmark feels like a long time ago, to be honest. So much life has unfolded since then. We were young women then. Now we're older, with lots more wisdom. There were many mistakes I made, but it's all about learning, and the greatest thing is my friendship never broke. That's the real in the surreal. That's literally all that is important.
As told to Monique Butterworth.