On May 19, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry in Windsor, England in a ceremony that will be low-key only by royal standards.
For the millions of commoners expected to watch on TV, some aspects of the nuptials may seem as odd or over-the-top as the more highbrowed guests’ headgear.
Other aspects will be as swoon-inducing as tiny titled tots in wedding finery:
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Not to worry. There’ll be no royal wedding FOMO on our watch. This guide covers everything anyone’s ever wanted to know about the big event. Plus a few things we’d all probably like to unknow (Two words: Wedding Fruitcake).
The happy couple: Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales (aka “Harry”), 33, is the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger son of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales. He’s sixt in line to the throne (Charles is first), having slipped down a rung on April 23 when his sister-in-law Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to her third child.
Rachel Meghan Markle of California (aka “Meghan”), 36, is the only child of Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland, who are divorced. She co-starred for seven seasons on “Suits” on USA Network, but says she’s retired from acting( one day after the royal engagement announcement on Nov. 27, 2017, USA made it official Markle wouldn’t be back for Season 8.) Her last appearance, in the two-hour season finale, aired April 25th.
The “I Do” date and time: The ceremony begins at noon (U.K. time) on May 19, 2018. That’s 7 a.m. EST in the U.S. After the ceremony, the newlyweds will take a carriage ride through the town of Windsor, then head back to the castle.
The venue: St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. A royal residence located some 20 miles west of London, Windsor Castle is where ”Granny” (what Harry and William call the queen, at least in private) spends most weekends. It’s the largest inhabited castle in the world. The chapel, which was built in the 14th century, is where some other royals have wed (In 2005, Harry’s dad and stepmom, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles were married in a civil service in the town of Windsor, then had a prayer service at St. George’s Chapel).
Many royals are buried in the chapel as well . Most infamously, perhaps, King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, his third (of six) wives lie there for eternity.
Will it be on TV?: Two things are beyond certain about this wedding: The Queen and her colorful hat will have the best seat in the house. And it will be televised and live-streamed. England is the royal family, in the eyes of much of the world. And nothing brings in tourists and other business like TV coverage of a fancy wedding ,complete with gold carriages and royal trumpeters. When Harry’s brother, Prince William, married Kate Middleton in 2011, it was shown live on TV in over 180 countries and streamed online (YouTube alone had 72 million live-stream views). All the major TV networks will have five hours of live coverage or more on the big day, and you can even book a seat in three metro Atlanta movie theaters to watch a commercial-free replay just a few hours later. Read a complete viewing guide here, including the lineup of related specials, movies and documentaries airing all wedding week.
The reception: All guests invited to the actual ceremony (see below) will attend a luncheon afterwards hosted by the Queen at St. George’s Hall. The traditional wedding cake for royal weddings is fruitcake, which must mean something different over there than it does here.
But Harry and Meghan are said to be going rogue and having a “lemon elderflower cake” with buttercream icing. Next up: A reception that night for an even more select guest list of 200 people that Prince Charles is throwing at Frogmore House, another royal residence about a half mile from Windsor Castle.
The wedding party: The Brits do this differently, generally favoring little kids as “bridesmaids”/flower girls and page boys instead of adult attendants. In past royal weddings this has led to such memorable incidents as a wee Prince William playing with his straw boater hat and chattering away during the 1986 nuptials of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Right now, William’s own kids, Prince George and Princess Charlotte are considered locks for Uncle Harry’s wedding party; so is the 4-year-old daughter of Markle’s Canadian stylist and close friend, Jessica Mulroney. Meanwhile, you can bet on everything in the U.K. when it comes to this wedding and William is getting top odds to be his brother’s best man (oddsmaker William Hill also is taking bets on how William will wear his hair on the big day).
Update: On April 26, Kensington Palace sent out a tweet making it official that William will be Harry’s best man. More than official, the tweet was darned cute!
Update 2: On Wednesday, the 10 members of the wedding party were officially unveiled, all age seven under. And yes, George and Charlotte lead the wee pack.
Who’s invited: Six hundred invitations to the ceremony have gone out (the chapel seats about 800). Count on all the immediate royal relations (The Queen and Prince Philip, Uncle Prince Andrew and his fun loving daughters Beatrice and Eugenie), plus various dukes and duchesses and major and minor European royalty.
Then there are some celebrity friends of the bride (tennis star Serena Williams) and groom (singers James Blunt and, if you believe the tabloids, Rihanna) who should make the cut. Also, the Spice Girls may or may not be there. Melanie Brown (aka Scary Spice) has said they will be; but asked about it by “Late Late Show” host James Corden, Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice) stammered, “I don’t know.”
Additionally, 2,640 members of the public have been invited inside the grounds of Windsor Castle to watch the arrival and departure of the wedding party and guests. Included are 100 schoolchildren, 600-plus people who live and work around Windsor Castle, plus others from charities, nonprofits and other causes important to the couple.
Who’s not invited: Besides you and me? President Donald Trump. And he’s in good company. British Prime Minister Theresa May isn’t invited either. In fact, no U.S. or world political leaders have been invited, according to Kensington Palace (home base and official representative of Harry and William). “It has been decided that an official list of political leaders — both UK and international — is not required for Prince Harry and Ms. Markle’s wedding,” the palace explained in that lovely, do forgive us sort of British way. Royal officials won’t say if good FOH (Friends of Harry) Barack and Michelle Obama, were invited, but it’s known they’re not going.
WHAT ABOUT FERGIE?! That would be the OG Fergie, of course: Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York and BFF of Harry’s late mum Diana. The fun-loving redhead fell out of favor with the royal family after her 1996 divorce from Prince Andrew (it didn’t help that a newspaper ran photos of her topless sunbathing with a gentleman-not-her-husband). In a very public dis, she was left off the guest list for William and Kate’s 2011 wedding. All England is aflutter over whether she’s invited this time. British tabloid the Sun quoted a source who said no way, because Harry couldn’t trust her to “keep her mouth shut and respect their privacy.” But People magazine reported Harry had “pushed for” Fergie to be invited because he’s very close to her daughters, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice.
What about Meghan’s family? Though long divorced, Markle’s parents released a joint statement of joy over her engagement and it’s said both will be at the wedding. In fact, Thomas Markle, an Emmy-winning lighting director, is expected to give his daughter away.
(Another update: After a several days long soap opera earlier this week, Thomas Markle officially backed out of coming and Prince Charles agreed to walk his future daughter in law partially down the aisle.)
After that, things get a bit sticky. Proving that the royals don’t have a monopoly on family issues, Meghan’s two older half-siblings from her dad’s first marriage reportedly aren’t invited -- and at least one of them isn’t happy about it. Her half-sister, Samantha Grant, has claimed Meghan is “inviting 2000 complete strangers” to the wedding rather than family and even blasted Harry about it with a “Time to man up!” tweet. Blimey. Then again, Grant’s reportedly writing a book about Meghan, so maybe she should’ve known not to Save the Date. So, apparently, should Trevor Engelson, an American film and TV producer who’s Meghan’s ex-husband. The pair split after two years of marriage in 2013 and Engelson is said by some British newspapers to be developing a show about an American divorcee who moves to England to marry a prince.
Meghan’s wedding dress: Yes, it’s expected to be a dress, despite her convention-flouting penchant for wearing pants at some royal engagements. The dress design is more top-secret than James Bond’s computer password -- still, the design houses mentioned most often as frontrunners to create it are Erdem Moralioglu, Ralph & Russo and Alexander McQueen. All three are London-based and McQueen designed Kate Middleton’s royal wedding gown -- which could work for or against the house’s chances. This being the U.K., of course you can bet on the dress. Sometimes, that is. British bookmakers have periodically suspended betting as a lot of money pours in on one particular designer.
Harry’s duds: Almost certainly a uniform. He’s got tons of ‘em. But seriously, Harry served in the British Army for ten years, doing two tours in Afghanistan and rising to the rank of captain. In 2014, he launched Invictus Games, an annual Paralympic-style sporting event for injured servicemen and women (The 2016 Games were held in Orlando, Fla., leading to a fun back-and-forth between the Obamas and Prince Harry and his Granny, the Queen). And in December 2017, he was appointed Captain General Royal Marines, taking over the important ceremonial role after 64 years from his grandfather, Prince Philip.
What everyone else will wear: For men, the invitation specifies “Dress uniform, morning coat or lounge suit.” For the ladies, it’s “Day dress with hat.” The word “hat” doesn’t begin to do justice to the “fascinators” many women will sport. They’re lightweight headpieces decorated with feathers, flowers, beads, fruit, etc. and worn in “can you top this” fashion (literally and figuratively) on formal occasions.
Ye Olde Royal Wedding Souvenirs (and where to get them in Atlanta): There are several stores in metro Atlanta run by and catering to Brits living here (and American customers as well). Two in particular, The Queen’s Pantry in Marietta and Taste of Britain in Norcross already have official royal wedding mugs, tea towels, decorative objects and the like for sale.
There are also some slightly less official, yet equally must-have items, like masks or the life-sized Harry and Meghan cutout figures to pose with and purchase at The Royal Pantry. Manufacturers and suppliers in the U.K. are busy churning out additional items that will be available in stores here and online closer to the wedding date.