Forget Kate’s Dress: What’s Behind William and Harry’s Wedding Uniforms?

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REUTERS/Phil Noble

Wondering why Prince William married in red, wearing the famous tunic of an Irish Guards officer, rather than in his Royal Air Force uniform?

Since it’s tradition for royal grooms to marry in military dress, and William is a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF, he was expected to have worn his air force attire. But he also holds the honorary rank of Colonel of the Irish guards, and perhaps preferred its dashing scarlet color to the more subtle blue. The last major royal wedding to feature a groom in red was Captain Mark Phillips back in 1973.

“The prince could have chosen to wear his RAF Air Force military uniform …”, a senior RAF officer told the Telegraph. “I am sorry that he’s not wearing an Air Force uniform. That’s what all his RAF colleagues thought he was going to be wearing so it’s a bit of a shame… It seems a pity that no one in the Royals will be wearing RAF uniform especially as the Service is working so hard out in Libya,” he said.

(More on See pictures from the big day)

William was newly promoted Captain in the Household Cavalry’s Blues and Royals, so he wore the uniform of his new rank, with its distinctive arrangement of buttons grouped in four. He wore this along with the Harp of Ireland surmounted by the Crown imperial, which denotes his position in the Order of Battle,  the fourth regiment out of five Foot Guards regiments: Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish, Welsh.

William complimented his uniform with a forage cap, featuring the Regiment’s motto “Quis Serabit?” – “who shall separate us?”, which he wore on the way to Westminister Abbey. He didn’t carry a sword, but opted for gold and crimson sash and gold sword slings. And he also wore his Garter sash and star, Royal Air Force ‘wings’, and his Golden Jubilee medal.

His brother and best man Prince Harry, who is a trainee Apache helicopter pilot, wore a Blues and Royals’ officer’s uniform in dismounted order, with a forage cap that carries a badge of the Blues and Royals and has an insignia of the Most Noble Order with the Queen’s cipher. He didn’t carry a sword, but he proudly wore his aiguillettes, cross belt, gold waist belt, and sword slings. And some might say his gaudier ensemble made him look a little bit like the singer Prince, but it’s all about military tradition.

(More on See TIME’s full royal wedding coverage)