When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a.k.a. Prince William and Catherine “Kate” Middleton, wed in 2011, the ceremony drew 36.7 million eyeballs via television and 72 million live streams on YouTube. Suffice to say, that even after all this time, royal weddings are a really, really big deal.
With Prince Harry set to wed Meghan Markle on Saturday, the eyes of the world are on the young couple. As an intelligent, gorgeous, biracial actress, she represents something of progress for Britain’s traditional royal family, and has been an inspiration for many women, particularly women of color. The royal wedding is an exciting event to witness, but with so many moving parts, traditions, and scandals operating in tandem, it can be difficult to know where to start. For a complete (and we mean complete) breakdown of all things royal wedding, let this guide inform you about every detail of the big day.
The Royal Couple
When Prince Harry was 33 he was a consummate bachelor in search of “the One” when his longtime friend, socialite and Ralph Lauren PR Director, Violet von Westenholz, recommended that he meet Meghan Markle. Von Westenholz met Markle through her work at Ralph Lauren, and quickly set them up on a blind date in London. Before the former Suits actress met Harry, she had one question for Von Westenholz: “Is he nice?”. Markle told the BBC last November, “If he wasn’t kind, it just didn’t seem like it would make sense.”
The two met and went on their first date in July 2016, and sparks flew immediately. Despite the fact that they were both used to living in the public eye – the prince more so than Markle at the time – they went out of their way to keep their relationship private for as long as they could. After a month of dating, Prince Harry invited Markle to accompany him on a trip to Botswana, Africa for her 36th birthday. Her compassion and down-to-earth nature sealed the deal – it was there on the trip that the two started falling in love, and it was there that they made a pact to try and change the world for the better as the ultimate power couple.
On November 8, 2016, the Royal Kensington Palace released a public statement in which Markle was referred to as Harry’s girlfriend for the first time, and over the course of the following year, the couple were increasingly bold about being seen in public together. After a year of dating, Prince Harry popped the question while the couple was roasting a chicken at the Nottingham Cottage on the Buckingham Palace grounds. They shared the tender moment with the world in a gushing interview on the day the Royal Palace officially announced the engagement, November 20, 2017.
On December 15, 2017, Kensington Palace confirmed that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will wed at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor on May 19, 2018. It has been reported that Queen Elizabeth II is quite taken with Markle and wanted her to be comfortable in arranging the wedding, and therefore has happily foregone some traditions. One of those traditions is that royal weddings must take place on a weekday, but the couple is wedding on a Saturday.
Following years of royal tradition, the invitations were crafted by Barnard Westwood using American ink on English cards. They were printed in gold and black, burnished to a shine, and gilded around the edges. While traditionally, the bride was referred to as “Miss” on the royal wedding invitation, Markle bucked tradition by being addressed as “Ms.”.
While the maker of Markle’s dress remains a mystery, there is much speculation that the design honor will go to Britain’s esteemed couture brand, Ralph & Russo.
The Best Man
Prince Harry tapped his brother, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, to be his best man, even though the wedding date falls on the same day as the FA Cup final at Wembley, where Prince William typically presents the trophy.
Bridesmaids and Pageboys
Markle reportedly had so much difficulty deciding which of her high-profile friends to include in her bridal party that she ended up doing something completely unexpected. Instead of inviting BFF Priyanka Chopra and Suits co-star Sarah Rafferty, she has chosen not to have a Maid of Honor and has invited children from the royal circle and her personal friends to be her bridesmaids.
They include Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Miss Florence van Cutsem, Miss Remi Litt, Miss Rylan Litt, Miss Ivy Mulroney, and Miss Zalie Warren – all of whom are under the age of seven, which promises to be adorable.
Mirroring this effort, Prince Harry’s pageboys will include His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge, Master Jasper Dyer, Master Brian Mulroney, and Master John Mulroney, who are also all under the age of seven.
Naturally, state trumpeters and an orchestra comprised of members from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the Philharmonia Orchestra will provide arrangements during the service. The couple has also opted for more modern performances by Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir, and 19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who was the first black musician to win the BBC Young Musician of the Year award.
Instead of the traditional towering fruit cake, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have selected an elegant wedding cake made from lemon elderflower designed by pastry chef Claire Ptak of the London bakery Violet Cakes.
In lieu of receiving wedding gifts, the couple has requested donations to the following charitable organizations: CHIVA (Children’s HIV Association), Crisis (a UK-based homelessness charity), The Myna Mahila Foundation (a charity that supports women in Mumbai’s slums), Scotty’s Little Soldiers (which helps bereaved Armed Forces children), StreetGames (a foundation using sport to change lives), Surfers against Sewage, and The Wilderness Foundation UK (which promotes the enjoyment of wild nature).
For their special day – a day the entire world is watching – the couple chose famed fashion and portrait photographer, Alexi Lubomirski, to take the official wedding photos.
The Day Of
The wedding ceremony begins at noon (UK time) on May 19, 2018 at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor. When the nuptials end at 1 p.m., the couple will leave in a carriage for a two-mile procession along High Street through the town of Windsor. They will then arrive at their reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at St. George’s Hall on castle grounds, and will leave the castle grounds for a smaller reception for friends and family thereafter, hosted by Prince Charles at Frogmore House.
The Guest List
The guest list is 2,640 individuals long, but 1,200 of them are invited from all corners of the public sector in the UK, especially if they are “young people who have shown strong leadership and those who have served their communities.” The couple has also invited 200 guests from various charitable organizations, as well as friends, family, and members of the royals.
We’ll just have to wait and see on this one; the couple is keeping their honeymoon location a closely guarded secret.