Katie Byrne takes a look inside 2018’s most-anticipated wedding – and the Royal love story that lies behind it
Ever since their engagement was announced on 27 November 2017 via a statement (and a Tweet, naturally) issued by Clarence House, the world has been just a little obsessed with the wedding plans of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Where will they wed? When will they wed? And – perhaps most pressingly for some - will we get a Bank Holiday out of it?
Of course, it’s not just the logistics of the celebration we’ve all been hungry for: rather, the love story of the Prince and the Hollywood star who ‘tripped and fell’ (to use his words) into his life has ignited a thousand modern fairytales.
“This has been a whistle-stop romance [the couple met in July 2016] by royal standards and has captured people’s hearts because it looks and feels so genuine and authentic,” says Katie Nicholl, author of Harry: Life, Loss and Love (available from April 12th here). “Harry has spent many years searching for his ideal woman and we’ve watched him fall in and out of love. Now, he seems complete and happy. It’s a wonderful love story and a very exciting time for the Royal Family.”
Aside from the fact almost everyone loves a royal wedding, there seems to be a genuine joy about the impending nuptials and the introduction of Meghan to the Royal Family. She is the epitome of a dignified bride-to-be: elegant, bighearted and intelligent, with a passion for helping others via charity work and her role within the UN, which in 2015 saw her give an impassioned speech about gender equality.
The best thing about this love story? It’s as normal as anyone else’s – it just happens to be playing out on a worldwide stage. Talking to the BBC about Harry’s proposal, Meghan revealed he popped the question as they were roasting a chicken together at home.
“Trying to roast a chicken,” interjected Harry, to which Meghan countered: “it was so sweet and natural and very romantic. He got down on one knee...”
The rest, as they say, is history - so what exactly do the couple have planned for their celebration?
At the time of writing, the details are few yet substantial: we know the date, the location, the time. The pair will exchange their vows on Saturday 19 May, in a ceremony held at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. The wedding isn’t the only headline-grabbing event taking place on that particular spring Saturday: football fans will also be keeping half an eye on the FA Cup Final.
For a couple who have been described as subtly twisting tradition throughout their romance, this is another discreet yet significant decision: royal weddings typically take place on week days. Queen Elizabeth tied the knot with Prince Philip on a Thursday, whilst Prince William wed Catherine Middleton on a Friday. What other twists on wedding tradition might we expect to see from the couple?
Susie Young, award-winning wedding planner at Knot & Pop, has some ideas. “Meghan is a strong and independent woman, so I would expect to see some small twists to the normal customs of a royal wedding,” she explains. “As well as traditional all-male speeches, for example, we might see her mother, a bridesmaid, or perhaps Meghan herself choosing to say some words, too. Any twists to traditional wedding etiquette would, in my opinion, be very welcome. It would encourage other couples to have the confidence to make their own wedding rules.”
Meghan Markle portrait by Amy Wiseman.
Naturally, comparisons between Meghan and Harry’s wedding and the now-iconic 2011 nuptials of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are rife – so will there be any similarities between the brothers’ celebrations?
“I covered William and Kate’s engagement and when the news came, the world went crazy!” remembers Katie Nicholl. “There was a global interest, which was reflected in the many millions who tuned in to watch their wedding.”
Whilst William and Kate swapped their vows at Westminster Abbey, in front of an estimated 1,900 guests and a worldwide audience of millions, it’s thought that Harry and Meghan’s ceremony will be on a more intimate (well, by comparison) scale: for one thing, their ceremony venue can only accommodate 800 people.
“This wedding will be different – smaller, and obviously not in London,” says Katie. “It’s still going to be a very big deal, of course: just look at all the attention they already attract. Harry is a global star and with Meghan by his side, his popularity will continue to grow.”
According to reports, the couple were actually denied their initial location of choice – their ‘dream’ venue, Frogmore House in Windsor (where their official engagement photographs were taken), is simply not able to host the number of guests expected to attend. Naturally, in terms of people expected to actually watch the nuptials, it doesn’t end with the guest list. The wedding is expected to bring in an estimated £200 million forthe UK tourism industry, with a quarter of that expected to come from sales of memorabilia alone.
Speculation has been hot regarding the style of wedding gown Meghan will wear but naturally our interest lies firmly at the floral end of the planning spectrum. What can we expect from the flowers the couple pick for their celebration? Simon Lycett imagines the floral details will be kept minimal for the historic ceremony venue, which was founded in 1348. “St George’s Chapel is a typically British wedding venue,” says the florist. “It would need very little in the way of enhancement other than some seasonal flowers and foliage.”
Simon imagines the flowers for the celebration will be overseen by Shane Connolly, the Royal Warrant Holder who was the florist responsible for the ‘utterly breathtaking’ decorations at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding - remember that tree-lined aisle?
To the bouquet! Simon thinks Meghan might hold something small and relatively simple, adding: “I can see her holding a hand-tied arrangement of British-grown flowers and foliage, that’s loosely rounded and understated”.
In a tradition dating back to Queen Victoria’s 1840 wedding to Prince Albert, British royal brides have always included a sprig of myrtle in their bouquets, which represents luck and happiness. That aside, Simon thinks there’s a chance Harry and Meghan might add a bit of their own symbolism into the flowers, with a floral nod to their shared love for Africa. Shortly after they began dating, the couple shared five magical nights of camping under the stars in Botswana, whilst the prince has previously admitted Africa is the continent where he feels ‘more like myself than anywhere else in the world’. The pièce de résistance in the theory? Meghan’s engagement ring features a sparkling diamond from Botswana, nestled between two smaller stones sourced from the jewellery collection belonging to Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana.
Princess Diana's wedding bouquet, by Amy Wiseman.
So how, exactly, might Harry and Meghan add a meaningful African twist to their wedding flowers? The answer lies with the humble rose, reveals Simon. “They could include some stems of wonderfully fragrant garden roses in their arrangements,” he enthuses. “More specifically, the roses ethically-grown by the Tambuzi Farm in Nanyuki, near Lake Naivasha in Kenya. Having recently filmed a documentary there, I can vouch for what a special place it is.”
It’s also known Meghan is a big fan of peonies - and with her wedding date falling in peak-peony season, it would be little surprise to see the blousy bloom make an appearance. Whatever the couple have got planned for 19 May, one thing is for sure: it will be 2018’s most talked about celebration.
“We’ve seen Harry grow up under the world’s gaze and have watched him grow into the man he is today,” concludes Katie. “It’s wonderful he has fallen in love and is getting married to someone he seems so well-suited to.”
Illustration by Amy Wiseman.
What does it feel like to share a Royal wedding date?
We asked the brides who are also preparing to say ‘I do’ on 19 May 2018…
“I’m so excited! It hasn’t influenced our plans but it has given us a kick to get on with the organising. I wouldn’t mind guests checking in with the Royal wedding throughout the day but if they’re constantly glued to their phones then I’d have to say something. There’s always TV catch-up which they can watch the next day - which I know I’ll be doing!” Samantha Reynolds
“Not many couples can say they share their wedding anniversary with royalty, can they? I hope my guests won’t be sneaking a peek at Meghan during the day - I’m not sure I want to be compared to a royal bride...” Hayley Lloyd