If you don’t know that Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle are getting hitched, then you’re one of the few in the world. As the countdown to their May 19 nuptials ticks away, interest in all things royal and wedding are growing. But there may be some things you still don’t know about the wedding—or a few things you didn’t even know you wanted to know.
But whether you’re interested in just the basic details or want to go deep, Maclean’s is here to give you everything you want to know about the upcoming wedding, tailored to the kind of royal watcher you are. Select the one that you most align with, or just read it all to know everything about the big day! (Last updated: May 17)
The Practically Minded: Just the basics, please.
The Wedding Planner: Give me every detail, from flowers to outfits!
The Tourist: I’m going to the wedding! What should I know?
The Royal Fascinator: What are all the royal traditions?
The Conspiracy Theorist: Give me the what-ifs and reasons to be suspicious!
The Wonderer: I have a question that’s not answered. Can I ask you directly?
Bah Humbug: I don’t care about the royal wedding and I have no idea how I got on this page!
THE PRACTICALLY MINDED
When are they getting married?
Mark Saturday, May 19 on your calendar. And set your alarm clock to catch all the comings and goings. They are getting married at noon British time (7 a.m. ET) at Windsor Castle. While guests start arriving at 9:30 am (4:30 am ET), the royal family enters St. George’s Chapel at 11:20 am. After an hour-long religious service, they will get into one of the Queen’s royal carriages for a ride through the town of Windsor.
(Maclean’s also has an expert’s guide to watching the royal wedding, as well as a royal wedding identification cheat sheet.)
Where are they getting married?
Instead of marrying in a huge wedding in London like Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011 at Westminster Abbey, the couple has decided for a lower-profile, more intimate ceremony at St. George’s Chapel inside Windsor Castle, the favourite home of Elizabeth II, the groom’s grandmother. With construction that began on the orders of William the Conqueror, the castle has stood there for more than 900 years while the Gothic chapel was built in the 13th century.
Read this for more on why Harry and Meghan picked the Gothic chapel.
How many guests are coming?
According to the royal household, around 600 people are on the guest list to be inside St. George’s Chapel. Their invitations were mailed in late March.
The invitations follow many years of Royal tradition and have been made by @BarnardWestwood. They feature the Three-Feathered Badge of the Prince of Wales printed in gold ink. pic.twitter.com/cd7LBmRJxO
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) March 22, 2018
Interestingly, the invitations were issued on behalf of the father of the groom, Prince Charles, who “requests the pleasure of the company of” the invitees. In contrast, the 2011 invitations for William and Kate were more formal, befitting a future king, stating that “The Lord Chamberlain is commanded by The Queen to invite” the guests.
The trans-Atlantic nature of this wedding (British groom, American bride) extended to the invitations themselves. “Using American ink on English card, the invitations are printed in gold and black, then burnished to bring out the shine, and gilded around the edge,” a royal tweet explained.
How can I see the wedding?
Only a select few are allowed inside castle walls, either inside the chapel or standing just outside, watching the action. The narrow streets of the town of Windsor will be packed, waiting for the newlyweds to enjoy that perambulation in a horse-drawn carriage.
Everyone else gets to watch it on a screen. Expect every news organization to carry it live on every platform. (And, really, they’ll get the best views of all.)
Who is coming?
Certainly, the royal family will be out in force. Pretty much anyone who gets to stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the annual flypast for the Queen’s official birthday will be at Windsor. And you can expect a large contingent of their friends plus Harry and Meghan are inviting representatives from their charities as well as affiliated military organizations, such as the Invictus Games.
However, other than Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, it’s unclear if any other members of the extended Markle clan will be inside the church (her father had to pull out days before the wedding after having heart surgery and a pay-for-photos scandal); read more on that dysfunctional mess of a family tree here. (Wording updated on May 17 to reflect that Thomas Markle isn’t going to his daughter’s wedding.)
Either way, if you haven’t received an invitation by now, it’s best to stop looking for the required hat or morning suit: you didn’t make the cut. Royal staff will double-check RSVP so the old “lost in the mail” chestnut is just that.
(Maclean’s has an in-depth look at those lucky enough to buy frivolous hats and formal suits.)
Who isn’t coming?
Politicians and heads of state, even royal ones, won’t be at Windsor as Harry isn’t destined for the throne. Ditto for most crown princes and princesses of Europe who turned out for Prince William’s wedding because that wedding had been deemed a “semi-state” occasion. Think of this as a super exclusive family function, albeit one broadcast live to the world. He and Meghan get to invite pretty much whomever they want, though politics will play a role. (Hey, the royals do represent Britain and the Commonwealth, and this is the wedding of the year.)
Who is marrying them?
Two men get the job: The dean of St. George’s Chapel, David Conner, will conduct the service, while the actual wedding vows will be uttered in front of Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, and the religious head of the Church of England.
Welby recently confessed that he doesn’t want to make a mistake, especially with a huge worldwide audience watching. “Unlike recent weddings, I must not drop the ring, and I must not forget to get the vows in the right order as I did at the rehearsal for one of my children’s weddings!” he told ITV News.
Who will be in the wedding party?
Children, lots of very young children. It’s very much a British tradition to have children, lots of very young children. Princess Anne was in so many bridal parties that when it came time for her own wedding in 1973, she avoided “hordes of uncontrollable little children” for just one bridesmaid and page boy, both 9. Harry and Meghan are ignoring his aunt’s advice.
Four days before the wedding, their names were released. They range in age from 2 to 7 and are British, American and Canadian:
- Princess Charlotte (age 3, daughter of Prince William and Kate, duchess of Cambridge)
- Miss Florence van Cutsem (aged 3, goddaughter of Prince Harry, daughter of Alice and Major Nicholas van Cutsem. Nicholas is a friend of Harry’s and an officer in the Household Cavalry)
- Remi Litt (age 6, goddaughter of Meghan Markle, daughter of Benita and Darren Litt. Benita is one of Meghan’s oldest friends, and a brand guru while Darren is an Internet marketer.)
- Rylan Litt (age 7, goddaughter of Meghan Markle, sister of Remi)
- Ivy Mulroney (age 4, daughter of Jessica and Ben Mulroney. Jessica is fashion stylist and close friend of Meghan’s while Ben is a TV host and son of former Canadian PM Brian Mulroney.)
- Zalie Warren (age 2, goddaughter of Prince Harry, daughter of Zoe and Jake Warren. Zoe used to run a clothing line and is a yoga instructor while Jake is a bloodstock agent)
- Prince George (age 4, son of Prince William and Kate, duchess of Cambridge)
- Jasper Dyer (age 6, godson of Prince Harry, son of Amanda and Mark Dyer. Mark is a former royal equerry and mentor to Harry and current pub owner while Amanda is a model and entrepreneur)
- Brian Mulroney (age 7, brother of Ivy)
- John Mulroney (age 7, brother of Ivy)
Meanwhile, it’s now official: Meghan won’t have a maid or matron of honour because she didn’t want to choose between her group of close friends.
Prince William will stand beside his younger brother as his best man, just as Harry supported William at his wedding. It may be a decision that the groom lives to regret. After the decision was made public, William commented, “Revenge is sweet,” a seeming reference to the risqué and embarrassing speech Harry gave in 2011.
THE WEDDING PLANNER
How will the chapel be decorated?
The chapel will be overflowing with flowers, though their arrangement will be anything but stuffy and formal. Floral designer Philippa Craddock’s displays will be “created using locally sourced foliage, much of which will be taken from the gardens and parkland of the Crown Estate and Windsor Great Park,” the palace announced. “Where possible, Philippa will use flowers and plants that are in season and blooming naturally in May. These will include branches of beech, birch and hornbeam, as well as white garden roses, peonies and foxgloves. The designs will reflect the wild and natural landscapes from which many of the plants will be drawn.”
What will the wedding cake look like?
After they go back to Windsor Castle, they’ll entertain their guests with an afternoon reception in the Great Hall. It’s there that they’ll cut the wedding cake, which really breaks with British tradition. Instead of tiers of fruitcake topped with marzipan, they’ve opted for a lemon elderflower cake that will “incorporate the bright flavours of spring. It will be covered with buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers.” The creator, American-born Claire Ptak, has a small shop, Violet Bakery, in London. Meghan wrote about her bakery for her now-defunct lifestyle blog, Tig. Oh, and if Harry wears a uniform, expect him to cut the cake with his sword. (If he’s at all unsure, Camilla can give him lessons. She’s amazing with a blade.)
What will the guests eat?
Only snippets of information have been released by royal officials so far. What we do know is that the freshest produce, much of it from royal estates, will be served at the wedding reception for 600.
“Luckily the seasons have just fallen perfectly and that’s become the main focus in the decision making of the menus,” Mark Flanagan, veteran head chef for the royal household, said in a press release. The couple have been involved in every detail, including attending several tasting sessions held in the huge kitchen at Windsor Castle. There, beneath its 14th-century timber roof, Harry and Meghan sampled dishes made from scratch by kitchen staff.
Go inside The Royal Kitchens at Windsor Castle as Royal Chefs prepare for The Wedding of Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle → https://t.co/uq5vNcc1Cz #RoyalWedding pic.twitter.com/PiSBLxtvd7
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) May 14, 2018
Who is designing her dress?
That’s the biggest secret in London. Of all the likely contenders—and there are many—Erdem Moralioglu is the front runner. The Canadian-Turkish designer, who lives in London and usually goes by the mononym Erdem, is a favourite of many royal women, especially Kate. He knows how to create dramatic outfits that command interest. And Meghan has worn his clothes for years.
Ears perked up recently because his fall 2018 fashion show in London was inspired by a familiar-sounding story: that of Adele Astaire, an American vaudeville actress and sister of Fred Astaire, who married Lord Charles Cavendish, the son of the Duke of Devonshire. Hey, he’s not a prince, but pretty darn close. (Let’s not talk about the unfortunate fact that Adele’s husband died of alcoholism at 38.)
Will she wear a tiara?
Royals love tiaras, especially at weddings. Everything is better with a glittering tiara. Alas, not at this wedding. The British preference for hats over tiaras irks royal jewellery fans because European royal weddings are tiara magnets: check out the crown prince and princess of Denmark’s nuptials, Princess Madeleine of Sweden’s wedding and that of her big sis, Crown Princess Victoria. Everything is better with diamonds.
Read this for a deep dive into all of Meghan’s headwear options.
What will Harry wear?
I’m going to equivocate here, as he’s got a few options. He could wear a civilian morning suit (a long-tailed coat with waistcoat and lighter-coloured pants). Or he might represent his newest military title, that of captain general of the Royal Marines. He took over the role from his grandfather, Prince Philip.
However, he’s likely to wear the formal dress uniform of the Blues and Royals, part of the Household Cavalry, as he joined it in 2006 and served for a decade, undertaking two tours of Afghanistan and rising to be a captain. The biggest hint that he’ll wear that uniform came when information regarding the military presence at his wedding was released: “Members of the Household Cavalry will form a staircase party at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle as part of the wedding. The State Trumpeters and a Captain’s Escort from the Household Cavalry will also provide ceremonial support.”
What’s the dress code?
Royal officials always spell out the dress code, to avoid one guest donning a ballgown while everyone else arrives in jeans. “Uniform, morning coat or lounge suit. Day dress with hat” are to be worn. Deciphering the Brit-speak: Morning coat is a formal tailed coat, with waistcoat; lounge suit means a business suit; day dress means the fanciest, non-cocktail, non-evening outfit in your wardrobe. (Before invitees blanche at the cost of their outfits, relax: you can rent a complete outfit, hat included.)
The hats will be glorious, extravagant confections as only the Brits can pull off. And they are very, very expensive: The summer millinery options at Jane Taylor, a royal favourite, start at $1,000.
There will also be duds. Hello, Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice!
I really, really want to see the newlyweds. How do I get to Windsor?
Rooms in the town are either booked or ridiculously expensive, so your best bet is to base yourself in London—but do some planning or you’ll never make it out of London. Prepare to take transit, because parking will be a nightmare in Windsor; the significant security measures will mean open parking lots will be a long hike from the centre of town. The best option is the train from Paddington Station in London to the Windsor & Eton station in Windsor (with a very short, very easy change of trains in Slough), but—and this is very important—book your tickets now, and for as early as possible in the morning. Otherwise, you’re gambling that everything goes perfectly, which is not a smart bet given the state of Britain’s rail services. Windsor expects 100,000 people to flood into its tiny town (and tiny railway station) so build in a margin of error. (Oh, also bring food and water.)
As for where to stand, ignore the irritatingly uninformative royal wedding page of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Go to the fabulous website What Meghan Wore and download and print their map, taking time to watch the handy video of the carriage route just below the map from Visit Windsor. Once on the ground at Windsor, you can suss out a good spot. (Giant screens will be located in Alexandra Gardens and on the Long Walk (the long drive into Windsor at the end of the procession). Then you wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.
Harry and Meghan’s carriage procession starts at 1 pm.
What would they like as a gift?
They’d prefer you send money, but not to them. The couple asks “anyone who might wish to mark the occasion considers making a donation to charity, rather than sending a wedding gift,” a royal press release stated. That donation request is now standard for royal weddings (When the Queen got married in 1947, she got inundated with so many wedding gifts, that the public got to see them displayed at St. James’s Palace, with all tour proceeds going to charity.)
Harry and Meghan selected seven organizations that “they would like to support, reflecting their shared values.” Notably, they are small charities, so the increased publicity and donations, will have a sizable impact on them. So if you want to give Meghan and Harry a gift, the charities are:
- CHIVA (Children’s HIV Association)
- Crisis (Homelessness organization)
- Myna Mahila Foundation (empowering women in Mumbai’s urban slums, which Meghan visited in 2015)
- Scotty’s Little Soldiers (for bereaved military children)
- StreetGames (using sport to help young people)
- Surfers Against Sewage (a marine conservation charity)
- Wilderness Foundation UK (promoting the enjoyment of wild nature)
They will get gifts from their families, and those usually involve sparkly jewels. Prince Charles gave Kate a spectacular diamond bracelet while the diamond acorn earrings she wore to get married were a gift from her parents. They’ll also get a unique gift from the Queen (see “Are They Getting Titles?).
Who is going to be in the post-wedding carriage procession?
After their nuptials, the newlyweds will carefully climb into an Ascot Landau carriage for their 20-minute procession through Windsor Town. And unlike the procession of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999, the bridal party—including the cute kids—won’t be joining them. This time, the bride and groom will be in the only carriage, along with an escort of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. (In case of heavy rain, the carriage switches to the Scottish State Coach.)
Will we see a kiss on a balcony?
Alas, that’s not going to happen for a simple reason: Windsor Castle doesn’t have a balcony like the famous one at Buckingham Palace, where William and Kate kissed before an adoring crowd seven years ago. But Meghan and Harry will go on a carriage ride through the town of Windsor after their wedding—so perhaps they’ll indulge the crowds with a peck or two.
What will the evening party be like?
After the afternoon reception, 200 guests will don their finest evening wear for a private dinner party hosted by Prince Charles at Frogmore House, the royal family’s private retreat on the Windsor estate, followed by a party. Expect a scattering of celebrity guests, as well as blockbuster entertainment, if the last royal wedding is any guide: Ellie Goulding’s hands were shaking as she sang “Your Song” for William and Kate’s first dance in 2011. But while the Spice Girls were Harry’s crush when he was a teen, royal reunion rumours are likely just that—rumours. Betters says the wedding headliner will be another famous redhead, Ed Sheeran (hey, a firm already placed his photo on their royal commemorative plate instead of Harry).
Will we see Meghan throw her bouquet?
No, though if you wait a day or two, you can get a close look at it: As per the tradition started at the 1923 wedding of the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, royal bouquets are placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey.
THE ROYAL FASCINATOR
Are there special rules governing whether a royal can marry?
Harry was fifth in line to the throne at the engagement (No. 1 is his father Prince Charles, followed by his older brother Prince William, and his own children, George and Charlotte). After the birth of William and Kate’s third child on April 23, Harry dropped to No. 6. And that means his marital happiness is governed by an act of Parliament.
Under the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013, the first six persons in line to the throne need the permission of the sovereign—Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II—to marry. (Before that rule came into force in 2015, all descendants of King George II needed the sovereign’s permission.)
So, on Mar. 14, 2018, during a Privy Council meeting, the Queen made the following declaration:
“My lords, I declare my consent to a contract of matrimony between my most dearly beloved grandson Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales and Rachel Meghan Markle, which consent I am causing to be signified under the Great Seal and to be entered into the Books of the Privy Council.”
Are there any special rules for a royal wedding itself?
Nope. It will follow the traditional structure of a Church of England wedding. Indeed, though Harry has long been a member of the Protestant denomination (his grandmother is its defender of the faith), it was only in March that Meghan Markle was both baptized and confirmed into the Anglican faith. That private service was held at the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace, officiated by Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury.
Does Meghan’s first marriage complicate issues for the royal family?
In 2011, Meghan married producer Trevor Engelson in Jamaica. The destination wedding was attended by around 100 guests. That year, she landed her breakout role on Suits and moved to Toronto. Two years later, their marriage was over.
While marrying a divorcee was once verboten for any royal (King Edward VIII abdicated to marry his twice-divorced love, Wallis Simpson, in 1936), society’s strictures have relaxed in recent years. So have religious rules. As the Church of England now states: “The Church of England teaches that marriage is for life. It also recognizes that some marriages sadly do fail and, if this should happen, it seeks to be available for all involved. The Church accepts that, in exceptional circumstances, a divorced person may marry again in church during the lifetime of a former spouse.”
So all is good.
They’re going to exchange rings, right?
Maybe not. If royal tradition holds, then Meghan will get a ring, but Harry won’t, at least for his ring finger. For generations, men never wore rings, which explains why Prince Philip, 96, doesn’t have one. Charles wears a discreet band, but it’s tucked beside the signet ring on his pinky finger. And William passed on donning a ring for a simple reason: he’s not fond of wearing jewellery.
Meghan’s ring is expected to be steeped in history. For a century, royal brides have worn wedding rings made from rare Welsh gold. Though the principality’s mines are closed, there are still enough golden nuggets to make a new band, and its yellow hue will complement her engagement ring.
Are they getting titles?
Oh, almost certainly. Otherwise Meghan will use the rather clunky title of HRH The Princess Harry of Wales.
But expect Queen Elizabeth II to bestow her grandson, and thus his new wife, with a dukedom as one of her wedding presents. Because when you’re monarch, you can do that!
It can be any name not currently in use (so no Edinburgh, Cambridge…you get the idea). Also, some now-defunct titles have always been royal ones, so one of those is likely to be resurrected. That’s how William came to be duke of Cambridge. The Sussex title appears to be the favourite, but the Queen can do anything she wants, including inventing a new title (that’s how Prince Edward became earl of Wessex on his wedding day, as he waits to inherit the dukedom of Edinburgh from his father.)
So Prince Harry will be “HRH The Duke of XXX,” while Meghan becomes “HRH The Duchess of XXX.”
And repeat after me: She will never be “Princess Meghan.” That’s reserved for women born into royalty. And don’t even think of using “Duchess Meghan.” That’s just wrong in every way, shape and form. (“Duke of XXX” or “Duchess of XXX” are treated as stand-alone titles in Britain. So no Duke Harry or Duchess Meghan.)
THE CONSPIRACY THEORIST
What if she flubs Harry’s names?
The bane of royal brides has always been to remember their grooms’ long list of first names. In 1981, Lady Diana Spencer famously twisted her vows, nervously pledging to marry “Philip Charles Arthur George” instead of the correct “Charles Philip Arthur George,” leading some to posit she’d married her father-in-law. Umm, good theory, but no. That mistake didn’t void the wedding.
Still, it’s at times like this that Meghan Markle has to be glad for her acting training. While all Harry has to remember is “Rachel Meghan,” she has to rhyme off “Henry Charles Albert David.” (Yup, that’s his formal name.)
Will Meghan promise to “obey” Harry?
Oh, you want to know more? Well, the decision to repeat the traditional Anglican vows, first laid out in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, which requires women to promise to “love, cherish and obey,” is ultimately up to the bride. The first major royal bride to nix the old-fashioned vow was Lady Diana Spencer, when she married Prince Charles in 1981. Since then, it’s been a bit hit-or-miss, with Sarah Ferguson (marrying the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew) and Sophie Rhys-Jones (marrying the Queen’s third son, Prince Edward) choosing the “obey” while Kate Middleton promised to “love, comfort, honour and keep” Prince William in 2011.
Given Meghan Markle’s independent, feminist attitudes, it would be shocking if she did utter the word “obey.”
This sounds expensive. Who’s paying the bills?
“The royal family will pay for the wedding.” That was the word from Buckingham Palace. Covered in that declaration are the invitations, the service, flowers, music and the reception as well as the dinner that evening. Though Harry has money inherited from his mother, the bills will go to his father and grandmother, like they did for his brother’s wedding. Security costs will be borne by the British taxpayer, though they should be much more reasonable than those of the last big royal wedding, since most of the events are inside a royal protection cordon. Meghan Markle will pay for her dress (no freebies allowed for royals).
Will taxpayers even know how much this costs them?
No, we’ll never know the final tally of how much the wedding costs. The royal portion will certainly be in the six figures while security costs are rarely revealed. It may all sound too expensive for a nation struggling fiscally, but it’s expected to pump around $500 million into the economy, through increased tourism, celebrations and commemoratives.
Are British royals actually shape-shifting lizards in disguise?
No, David Icke.