These elements of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding might surprise non-royals.
With just one day before the big event in Britain, we can only imagine the excitement and nerves Meghan Markle must be feeling before she says “I do” to her very own prince. As with any bride, there’s the usual checklists to go through and all the last minute adjustments to make. Yet, what makes this wedding different to any most of us have ever been invited to is that there are a few unusual royal traditions that the bride will have to adhere to if she is to start her married life as a royal on the right foot …
While it’s often seen as the bride’s prerogative to keep her guests waiting a little, Markle will have to be at church on the dot! There is military precision — quite literally — to the timing of the whole ceremony, with soldiers and police lining the way to the chapel. The Queen will be the last to take her seat, normally five minutes before the ceremony is due to begin, then the bride will make her way to the altar. Although there has been much speculation in the press as to who will accompany the bride, if indeed it is her mother Doria Ragland, then Markle will not be breaking with royal tradition; Queen Victoria notably led two of her daughters down the aisle after the premature death of her husband Prince Albert.
With the list of bridesmaids and page boys announced this week, Markle will have the unusual honor of having a future king accompanying her to the altar. Harry’s nephew and niece, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, will be used to the media frenzy surrounding the occasion, yet the godchildren of Harry and the children of Markle’s close friends, who also make up the group of 10 youngsters in the bridal party, may find the event pretty overwhelming.
In usual wedding celebrations the bride gets to throw her bouquet at all her single friends — often aiming at a particular friend if love is in the air! Yet, for Markle, she will probably have her bouquet brought to the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, a tradition started by the Queen Mother in memory of her brother Fergus who died during World War I. The many remaining blooms — when Prince William and Kate Middleton were married there were 30,000 flowers in Westminster Abbey — will be taken to charitable organizations such as hospitals after the festivities.
Although we don’t know the precise flowers Markle will have in her bouquet, it is expected that they will be flowers currently in bloom. One thing is pretty sure is that the bouquet will contain a sprig of myrtle — a tradition dating back to Queen Victoria’s wedding that the then-Kate Middleton included in her own bridal bouquet, and Princess Diana before her.
Most brides getting married in church have their pick of veils to wear as they take their vows; some may also choose a pretty tiara to add a touch of sparkle. However, as is customary in high society, on certain occasions such as state banquets, only married women get to wear their tiaras. So the wedding is a rite of passage for any royal bride to don an elegant tiara for the first time, which is most often borrowed from the Queen’s extensive collection — although Princess Diana opted to wear a beautiful tiara from her own family’s collection. Markle will have quite a choice available to her from both the royal family’s impressive collection, and Princess Diana’s own jewelry; it would be most unusual if she decided to eschew this tradition.
Getting married is often the chance for a couple to share their love with their local parish priest who has known the couple for many years. For Meghan and Harry, they will have not one but three notable religious figures conducting the ceremony. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who also happened to confirm Markle into the Anglican faith a few months ago, will be presiding over the exchange of vows. As the Telegraph reports, the most senior cleric of the Church of England shared with the BBC that he is a little anxious about the upcoming nuptials as he has made a few mistakes in recent weddings, saying: “I’m always nervous at weddings because it is such an important day for the couple — whoever they are.”
The service itself will be led by the Dean of Windsor, whereas The Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States, will be flying over from Chicago to deliver an address during the ceremony, which has “thrilled” Welby who tweeted: “[Bishop Curry is] a brilliant pastor, stunning preacher and someone with a great gift for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.”
To curtsy, or not to curtsy
Many a young girl will have practiced the odd curtsy or two as she envisioned meeting her future Prince Charming. Yet, for Markle, she will have to carry out this regal gesture as she leaves the altar as a newly married royal. As she and Prince Harry turn to walk down the aisle, Markle will stop before the Queen and curtsey in respect to the British sovereign — perhaps not overly easy when wearing heels and a wedding dress! In return, Markle can expect to receive curtsies from the British public and lower members of the royal family. The curtseying protocol is actually pretty complicated, depending on whether she is with her husband or alone.
After the vows, many guests love the first bridal embrace: it feels like the marital stamp. For a royal bride however, there is none of that kissing in church. As you may remember from previous royal weddings, the bride and groom head to the balcony at Buckingham Palace for their first kiss in front of delighted crowds. As the wedding is taking place over 20 miles away from the Queen’s London residence, it is not sure if the couple will publicly embrace — there’s always the carriage ride!
Most brides and grooms spend days drawing up gift-registry lists to send out to their guests. Like William and Kate before them, Harry and Meghan have asked for no gifts. Instead the newlyweds hope that the charities they have selected will benefit from their wedding by receiving sizable donations. However, the Queen, being a queen, will no doubt offer the couple a substantial country home on her Sandringham estate in Norfolk — as she did with Will and Kate.
No one likes talking about those wedding costs, and indeed for many young couples it can be a contentious issue. For Markle however, she need not worry. The royal family will be footing the bill for the “core costs” of the wedding concerning the reception, church, flowers, and music — which is just as well, as this is set to be a hefty $2.5 million. The security surrounding the wedding, which will be in the tens of millions, will be paid for by the taxpayers, as is usual for all royal events.
With most couples jetting off on honeymoon to unwind after the excitement, the royal newlyweds, who should have been made an official duke and duchess by then (we’ll find out on the morning of the wedding their new titles given to them by the Queen), will actually be delaying their travels for their first official engagement: a garden party held for the 70th birthday of Prince Charles, along with other family members, friends, and 400 charity representatives.