After Royal Wedding, Kicking Back in New York

Any party planner or diplomatic official would agree that hosting visits from the pope and the president and hosting a royal wedding within the past nine month warrants a vacation.

It’s time to kick back, head out of town, maybe sip a margarita, catch up with friends and perhaps spend an afternoon visiting museums.

That is exactly what the Very Rev. Dr. John R. Hall, the dean of Westminster, is doing in New York City this week.

Well, that’s partly what he is doing. As a leader of the Church of England, one of the world’s most prominent denominations, who oversaw the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, Dean Hall also attended graduation ceremonies for the St. Thomas Choir School in Manhattan and preached at its church.

He also has been meeting with Bank of America officials and foundations about partnering with arts institutions in the United States to arrange for traveling exhibitions of some of Westminster Abbey’s holdings.

On Tuesday morning, Dean Hall sat in the garden of the Palace Hotel with his shoes sharply shined and reminisced about all things royal wedding related. He laughed about misinformed news reports saying he would tweet during the actual ceremony.

“I said to the couple, ‘Everyone will be absolutely with you,’ ” Dean Hall said.

The abbey had just a few months to plan the royal wedding. Shortly after the engagement was announced, Dean Hall received a call from Miss Middleton.

He said that she was “very friendly” and that he heard a few days later that the couple wanted to be married in Westminster Abbey.

Dean Hall did not handle their premarital counseling, since the royal couple had three officiants at their ceremony. He said there were weekly meetings coordinated with St. James’s Palace to discuss details as diverse as protocol and making sure that when the BBC filmed the ceremony, no workers “screw equipment into a precious piece of 13th-century wall.”

He said he was surprised at how involved the royal couple were in the details of the ceremony and how carefully they rehearsed each step so that they would not make mistakes.

On the morning of the wedding on April 29, Dean Hall admitted to having his own pre-wedding nerves and woke at 5:45 a.m. for prayers and a hearty breakfast of porridge and bacon and eggs.

He tried to greet as many guests as he could, though one of them, as circumstances would have it, was not Elton John. He was also handling his own wardrobe changes that morning when he slipped into more formal ceremonial garb. He was also on hand to calm the nerves of the royal family members as they arrived.

“Everyone was feeling a little bit nervous,” Dean Hall said. “So I wanted to say something warm and encouraging.”

He dismissed any assumptions being made about the royal couple showing any signs of Bridezilla-like behavior. He said throughout the entire ceremony, the royal couple simply followed his directions.

“I think there’s a sort of modesty about them,” he said.

While the royal wedding was certainly a marquee event, Dean Hall has also been busy with other major events at Westminster Abbey.

In September 2010, he hosted Pope Benedict XVI’s visit. And just before the royal wedding, he oversaw Holy Week festivities, a televised visit and ceremony with Queen Elizabeth and a ceremony for 2,000 Australians and New Zealanders.

“Life was going on in its normal high octane fashion,” Dean Hall said.

Last month, Dean Hall hosted a tour of Westminster Abbey by President Obama and Michelle Obama. That is when the president mistakenly signed the date for his visit as 2008. But Dean Hall was more impressed with how Mr. Obama conferred with him about how to spell the word commemoration.

Dean Hall’s visit to New York includes a couple of firsts: his first visit to the Guggenheim Museum and his first time eating Mexican food — at Rosa Mexicana, where he had a strawberry margarita.

Even though he is the dean of one of the world’s most famous churches and had a key role in the royal wedding, Dean Hall said most New Yorkers have no idea who he is.

He stresses that meeting celebrities is something novel for him. Yes, he may have been at the same royal wedding post-reception at Buckingham Palace as David Beckham. But they did not speak.

Before becoming dean, he oversaw education for the Church of England, which certainly did not lead to sipping Champagne with Mr. Beckham or Mr. John.

“That’s not my life,” he said. “My life is of a priest and a servant.”

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