West view of Westminster Abbey, London.

Image via Wikipedia

Like a few others, I rose a little earlier than usual (4:00 a.m.) to watch Britain’s big Royal Wedding on Friday.  As we wrap up the weekend, we continue to witness a flurry of media playback and commentary, much of which concerns the event’s fashion significance and celebrity/guest gossip.

On a slightly different note, here I propose a toast to making the wedding an event to enjoy –as a true learning experience!

DIY (Humanities) Lesson 1: The venue

Visiting Westminster Abbey’s official website will give you an introduction to this thousand-year-old building’s significance to Britain and to the world.  Click the History tab for more: start with who’s buried in the Abbey and why?  Move on to “Architecture” for a bit about the Gothic style:
http://www.westminster-abbey.org/home

DIY (History) Lesson 2: The monarchy

The British Monarchy’s official website features beautifully illustrated pages that offer an outline view of the Kings and Queens of England, Scotland, and the UK from 400 AD to the present.  The current family tree on the site details who’s who in the House of Windsor:
http://www.royal.gov.uk/HistoryoftheMonarchy/HistoryoftheMonarchy.aspx

DIY (Government) Lesson 3: Beyond the monarchy

Speaking of monarchy and governments in general, this is a good opportunity to review types of government.  According to the learning website Hippocampus, governments “can be identified by who holds power and who can participate”; the United States and Great Britain are both democracies, but the US is a republic (also called a “constitutional republic”) and GB is a representative monarchy.  What are the finer points?  Begin here:
http://www.hippocampus.org/homework-help/American-Government/Constitutional%20Beginnings_The%20Nature%20of%20Governments.html

DIY (Government) Lesson 4: Parliament and Congress

While we’re comparing, a good grasp on the basic structure of British Parliament, and a comparison/contrast between Parliament and the US Congress, are supremely useful lessons in understanding politics.  Here’s a relevant document from the Federation of American Scientists:
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32206.pdf

DIY (Culture) Lesson 5: Ceremonial traditions

The web features a multitude of wedding planning sites that claim to explain wedding traditions across cultures.  For fun, browse around to find the origins of wedding rings, special wedding attire, vows, music, food, and dancing.  You might start with the internet, but also consider the library (summer reading?), as it will have books that may be more reliable.