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Royal Wedding guide: Everything to know for When Harry weds Meghan

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.

The hat that made the world gasp with horror. Prince Andrew (l-r) with his daughters Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice at the royal wedding of Will and Kate in 2011. Beatrice’s “fascinator,” which the British press uncharitably dubbed the “Squid Hat,” ended up being auctioned off for big charity bucks.  (AP)

Other aspects will be as swoon-inducing as tiny titled tots in wedding finery:

Pippa Middleton, background right, kisses James Matthews after their wedding at St Mark's Church in Englefield, England, Saturday, May 20, 2017. Middleton, the sister of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge married hedge fund manager James Matthews in a ceremony Saturday where her niece and nephew Prince George and Princess Charlotte was in the wedding party, along with sister Kate and princes Harry and William. (Justin Tallis/Pool Photo via AP) (Justin Tallis/AP)

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).

   > RELATED: How to watch and stream the Royal Wedding (plus everything else on TV about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle)

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.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement on November 27. Since then, the world has been anxiously awaiting their wedding day. The couple met in London in July 2016 and confirmed their relationship that November. Harry and Markle will tie the knot on May 19, 2018. They will hold their wedding ceremony at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in England. Prince William will be Harry's best man and the wedding will be televised around the world.

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.

St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will have their wedding service. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - (WPA Pool/Getty Images)) (WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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). 

Good luck, Harry and Meghan. Their walk up and down the aisle of St. George’s Chapel in Windsor will reportedly take them right over the burial site of the oft-married and divorced King Henry VIII. (Gary Coronado)

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.

Prince William and Kate Middleton become man and wife in April 2011 while a crowd in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park watches the live broadcast on large screen TV's.  John Spink, jspink@ajc.com (John Spink/jspink@ajc.com)

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.

   MORE: Meet the Atlanta actor who plays Prince Charles in a new movie about Harry and Meghan

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.

Fruitcake is NOT invited to this particular royal wedding.

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.”

Actual royal wedding guests, or just Wannabe? The Spice Girls in 1998.

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.

   RELATED: Trump not invited to royal wedding, Obamas not going either

Barack Obama and Prince Harry may be buds, but the former president won’t be at the May 19 wedding of the Queen’s grandson and American Meghan Markle. (Chris Jackson/Getty)

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.

FILE--Princess Diana, right, and the Duchess of York attend an event honoring the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain at Britain's Buckingham Palace in this Sept. 15, 1990 file photo. (AP Photo/file/Gil Allen) (GIL ALLEN/AP)

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.)

   MORE: Who are Meghan Markle’s family members (and Prince Harry’s future in-laws?)

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.

It may take James Bond (portrayed here by Sean Connery in 1963’s ‘From Russia With Love') to crack the case of what Meghan Markle’s dress looks like before the royal wedding (Photo by United Artist/Getty Images) (Archive Photos)

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.

At William and Kate’s wedding in 2011, the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, looked wary sandwiched between the fascinators worn by his niece, Princess Eugenie, and his wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones, Countess of Wessex. (AP Photo/APTN)

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.  

Harry and Meghan masks above a Royal Wedding tea towel peer out at passersby fromthe window of Taste of Britain in Historic Norcross. Jill Vejnoska/AJC

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.

Mugs commemorating the May 19, 2018 wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at The Royal Pantry at Merchants Walk in Marietta. Jill Vejnoska/AJC

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. 

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