The Royal Wedding: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Posted April 6, 2018 2:17 p.m. EDT
Q: Who is getting married?
A: Rachel Meghan Markle, aka Meghan Markle, an American actress best known for playing Rachel Zane in the long-running legal-intrigue drama “Suits,” is marrying Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales, aka Prince Harry.
Q: When, exactly?
A: Saturday, May 19, 2018. The ceremony is scheduled for noon local time (7 a.m. ET) and will last about an hour.
Q: And where is it?
A: At St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Q: Is that near Buckingham Palace?
A: Nope. Buckingham Palace is in London. Windsor Castle is in Windsor, a picturesque old town some 20 miles west of London. Windsor is also known for its proximity to Eton College, which is the private high school Harry and William attended.
Q: Were William and Kate married at Buckingham Palace?
A: Nope again. On April 29, 2011, William and Kate (which is what the British papers call her, even though her official name is Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge) were married at Westminster Abbey, a church that is in London and a 15-minute walk from Buckingham Palace.
Q: Can I go to the wedding?
A: Sorry, but no, unless you’re one of 1,200 personal guests who get to sit in the chapel, or among the 2,640 additional people (including members of the royal household and “regular” people who work for charities, community organizations and the like) who have been invited to stand on the grounds of Windsor Castle to watch the wedding party enter and leave.
Q: Have the invitations gone out?
A: Yes. On March 22, invitations went out to the first 600 guests. The ink was American, the card stock was English and the invitations were printed by Barnard and Westwood.
Q: What if my invitation was lost in the mail?
A: Don’t fret. You can congregate around the town of Windsor with other non-invitees eager to catch a glimpse of the couple as they process through the streets in a carriage beginning at 1 p.m. local time. Windsor is not the world’s biggest town, so for prime viewing spots you might want to arrive early — like, the day before.
Q: Sounds exhausting. How can I watch from home?
A: The wedding will be televised and live-streamed, but details have not yet been announced.
Q: Do we know who any of the guests will be?
A: While the guest list is a secret, there are a number of predictable attendees: Harry’s grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip; his father and stepmother, Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall; various cousins, like Zara and Peter Phillips and Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice; and of course his brother and sister-in-law, William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Then, of course, there are members of royal families from countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Greece. (Greece is no longer a monarchy, but it has a royal family in exile anyway.) They’re all on a big royal-family-wedding circuit, traveling around to one other’s ceremonies. And, since this is as much public celebration as private service, guests will include representatives from British charities, churches and armed forces; government officials, past and present; and dignitaries from other countries.
As for nonroyals, Harry has a posse of boisterous friends — Guy Pelly, Tom Inskip and Thomas van Straubenzee, among others — who are likely to be there. Meanwhile, Meghan has her own family — her parents, who are divorced but are both expected to attend — and a number of famous friends, including Serena Williams; Priyanka Chopra; Sarah Rafferty, who starred with her in “Suits”; and Millie Mackintosh, a former cast member from the British reality TV show “Made in Chelsea.”
Q: Is Donald Trump invited to the royal wedding?
A: It seems unlikely that President Donald Trump will be there — he is not the most popular figure in Britain. In January, the president was asked by Piers Morgan if he had received an invitation. “Not that I know of,” he said.
Q: What about Harry’s pal Barack Obama?
A: Former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, have had a special relationship with Harry since they worked with him on the Invictus Games, the sports competition for injured former service members that Harry founded several years ago. But no one wants to create an international diplomatic incident. According to an anonymous “senior British government source” quoted in The Sun: “Harry has made it clear he wants the Obamas at the wedding, so it’s causing a lot of nervousness. Trump could react very badly if the Obamas get to a royal wedding before he has had a chance to meet the queen.”
Q: Is there a dress code for guests?
A: Yes! According to the invitations, men are supposed to wear uniforms, morning coats or “lounge suits,” by which they mean, essentially, business suits. Women, meanwhile, are expected to wear “day dresses” — dresses that aren’t evening gowns — and hats. The hats are often highly amusing, resembling (depending on how you look at them) flying saucers, plant pots, teacups, hedges, bathing caps, Calder mobiles, Frisbees, pyramids, fezzes — you name it.
Q: I’m not into fashion. What else can I get excited about?
A: The wedding will be a-swirl with all manner of uninformed gossip about the guests: Who knows who, why they are sitting in their particular spots, which ones slept with/dated/still pine for the bride or the groom. Even better, it will be a prime occasion to revisit the talk about the intrigues, allegiances and feuds within the royal family itself.
Also, there is always the chance that Philip will say something completely inappropriate.
Q: Who plans a royal wedding?
A: The couple have emphasized that they are responsible for much of the overall tone of the big day. That said, the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, which is the department of Buckingham Palace responsible for all public events — state visits, palace garden parties and the like — will oversee all the necessary logistical and ceremonial details.
The office is comparable in many ways to that of the White House social secretary. Its day-to-day running is handled by its comptroller, Lt. Col. Sir Andrew Ford. Under him, and working with Harry’s private secretary, Edward Lane Fox, the staff is in charge of such tasks as sending invitations and collecting RSVPs; drawing up the chapel seating plan; the wedding ceremony itself; and the carriage ride at the end.
Q: Who is performing the ceremony?
A: The Dean of Windsor, who’s the spiritual head of St. George’s Chapel, will perform the service, and the archbishop of Canterbury will preside over the vows.
Q: Who writes the vows?
A: The royal wedding vows are likely to follow a rigid script of words and rituals based on the traditional Anglican wedding ceremony prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer.
Q: Let’s back up. How did Harry and Meghan meet?
A: They met in London in July 2016, on a blind date organized by a mutual friend. A few weeks later, he whisked her off to Botswana, where they “camped out with each other under the stars,” Harry said afterward. They then had a few months of long-distance dating, visiting each other in Britain and in Toronto, where Meghan was filming “Suits.”
Q: When did their relationship become public?
A: That November, Harry’s office issued a statement identifying Meghan as his girlfriend and denouncing the racist and sexist undertones of some newspaper coverage and social media commentary. “Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,” the statement said.
Q: OK, so tell me about Meghan Markle’s engagement ring.
A: The ring was designed by Harry himself and comprises a large central diamond from Botswana and some smaller diamonds that belonged to his late mother, Diana, the Princess of Wales.
As he explained: “The little diamonds either side are from my mother’s jewelry collection, to make sure she’s with us on this crazy journey together.”
Q: Does Queen Elizabeth II need to give permission?
A: Yes. Anyone who is “one of six persons next in line of succession to the Crown” must receive the queen’s permission to get married, according to Section 3 of the Succession to the Crown Act.
Q: Has she signed off yet?
A: Yes. In mid-March, the queen issued her formal declaration of consent at a meeting of the Privy Council. It read as follows: “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 in the Books of the Privy Council.”
And it isn’t only the queen who approves. “The Corgis took to you straight away,” Harry told Meghan in a BBC interview, referring to his grandmother’s beloved dogs. “For the last 33 years, I’ve been barked at. This one walks in and absolutely nothing. Just wagging tails.”
Q: Why is this wedding important?
A: It is not important. For one thing, Harry is currently only fifth in line for the throne, and will soon be sixth, when Kate and William’s third child, who is due in April, is born. Barring the unlikely event that all the people ahead of him — the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth; Prince Charles; Prince William; and William’s two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, as well as their third child — are eliminated in some sort of “Kind Hearts and Coronets” scenario, he has no chance of ever being king. And to be honest, British monarchs have nothing like the kind of power that they used to.
Q: So why should we care?
A: Because Harry, being unconstrained by the responsibilities that burden his older brother, William, has recovered from some earlier lapses in judgment to bring a delightfully racy and joyously improvisational approach to his royal life. And because Meghan is so different from most royal brides-to-be: She is American, biracial (her mother is African-American and her father is white), divorced and 36, which makes her three years older than her Harry.
Q: How significant is the fact that Meghan is biracial?
A: People of color are underrepresented in British politics and not represented at all in the royal family. Many have said they are thrilled to see someone like themselves in Meghan’s position.
The idea has resonated across the Atlantic, too, with #blackprincess gaining traction on Twitter and Instagram the day the engagement was announcement. (Meghan will probably be a duchess, not a princess, but it’s a matter of semantics.)
Q: How do Kate and Meghan get along?
A: By all accounts, the soon-to-be sisters-in-law get along just fine. They’re neighbors at Kensington Palace and have appeared happily together on several occasions since Meghan and Harry’s engagement was announced.
Q: What’s this about them being neighbors?
A: Harry and Meghan currently live in Nottingham Cottage, a (relatively) modest two-bedroom home on the grounds of Kensington Palace, in London.
Q: What’s the difference between Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace again?
A: Kensington Palace is a royal residence that is currently home to not just Harry and Meghan, but William, Kate and their children, as well as several other members of the royal family. Buckingham Palace is the home of Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.
Q: Did Meghan have a bachelorette party?
A: It’s rumored that she had a spa-themed “hen do” (that’s British for “bachelorette party”) at the Soho Farmhouse, which is a countryside arm of the members-only Soho House, in March.
Q: Will she have bridesmaids?
A: The Duchess of Cambridge may have had her younger sister Pippa Middleton as her bridesmaid, but Pippa’s role was the exception, not the rule. Royal weddings rarely feature bridesmaids. So while you can expect to see an adorable clutch of preschool-age page boys and flower girls processing down the aisle, it’s extremely unlikely that the wedding party will also include any 30-something women clad in identical, and probably unflattering, dresses. The palace has not commented on the subject.
Q: Will George and Charlotte be in the wedding?
A: All the British newspapers are in a state of great excitement over the fact that 4-year-old George and 2-year-old Charlotte are likely to reprise their roles from their aunt Pippa’s wedding last summer as page boy and page girl. The third child, who will be less than 2 months old on the big day, is unlikely to participate.
Q: Do Harry and Meghan want kids?
A: Sounds like it. In their post-engagement interview with the BBC, Harry said, “Of course, one step at a time and hopefully we’ll start a family in the near future.”
Q: What will Harry and Meghan’s titles be?
A: We don’t know yet. Harry is a prince but will undoubtedly get some fancy new title when he gets married. That title will automatically be bestowed on Meghan, too, just as Kate Middleton became the Duchess of Cambridge to William’s Duke. Money in Britain at the moment is on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, a title that has not been used in the royal family since 1843.
Q: So what name will be on Meghan’s driver’s license?
A: Best guess is Rachel Meghan Mountbatten Windsor. Windsor is the last name adopted by the British royal family in 1917; King George V changed the name from the German “Saxe-Coburg and Gotha” to the English “Windsor” amid strong anti-German feeling during World War I.
Q: Who are Meghan’s parents?
A: Her mother, Doria Loyce Ragland is a social worker and yoga instructor who lives in California. Her father, Thomas Markle Sr., is a lighting director who worked in California for years but now lives in Mexico. The two divorced in 1988. Markle is expected to walk his daughter down the aisle and give the traditional father-of-the-bride speech at the wedding.
Q: Where is Meghan from?
A: Born and raised in Los Angeles, Meghan is a true California girl.
Q: Does Meghan have brothers or sisters?
A: She has two older paternal half-siblings, Samantha Markle and Thomas Markle Jr. In February, her 51-year-old half-brother told In Touch Weekly that he had contacted the palace for advice on dealing with the press after Meghan’s engagement was announced. He then claimed that his lawyer received a response from Meghan that said: “That’s distant family and I don’t know those people.” Odds are he’s not at the top of the guest list.
Q: And who was Meghan’s first husband?
A: His name is Trevor Engelson, and Meghan dated him for seven years before marrying him on the beach in Jamaica in 2011. (A mere 100 guests attended that wedding; the marriage was over two years later.) After Meghan got engaged again, Engelson reportedly began work on a TV pilot about a divorcee who marries a prince. What are the odds?
Q: And who has Harry dated?
A: The prince was known for his penchant for blondes until he met Meghan. For seven years he dated Chelsy Davy, a Zimbabwean lawyer turned jeweler. Then there was aristocratic actress Cressida Bonas and, more recently, pop star Ellie Goulding. Amazingly, all three of these exes are expected to attend the wedding.
Q: Who will design Meghan Markle’s wedding dress?
A: That’s the million dollar (or pound) question. A royal wedding dress is one of the most prestigious commissions in British fashion and guarantees global publicity for its designer, whose identity will be kept secret until the last minute.
The current favorite, at least according to the gossipy fashion industry, is Erdem Moralioglu, a London-based Canadian-Turkish designer known for his romantic designs. Erdem commands a glittering A-list clientele, recently produced a sold-out H&M collaboration and already counts Meghan as a firm fan (in a Vanity Fair interview last year she mentioned him as “a designer I’ve been wearing for years”). Oh, and his most recent show at London Fashion Week in February was inspired by the tale of an American actress who marries an aristocrat. Sound familiar?
Q: Any other contenders?
A: British-Australian brand Ralph & Russo is another possible contender. Meghan chose a dress made by the couture house for her official engagement portraits.
As a reminder, when Kate married William in 2011, she wore a spectacular dress with a 25-foot train designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, and a tiara borrowed from the actual queen. (The dress was said to have cost the paint-peeling sum of $434,000 to make.) So who will do the honors for Meghan? Only time — or a scandalous leak — will tell.
Q: What will Harry wear?
A: Harry received the title of Captain General Royal Marines in 2017, which means he is ceremonial head of the Royal Marines (he took over the job from his grandpa, Philip). More pertinently, he’s an officer in the Blues and Royals, part of the Army Air Corps. All of this is to say that he could conceivably wear one of many available Blues and Royals uniforms at his wedding. (William wore a scarlet Irish Guards Mounted Officer’s uniform at his.) Or he could just go ahead and wear a morning suit.
Q: Will there be cake?
A: But of course. British weddings usually feature fruitcakes.
Throwing aside this strange and perverse custom, the couple have decided to serve lemon elderflower cake that will be covered in buttercream icing and fresh flowers and meant to “incorporate the bright flavours of spring.” It is to be made by the hip Violet bakery in the (even hipper) London borough of Hackney. The owner and baker, Claire Ptak, who was raised in California and believes in using seasonal, organic ingredients, said on Instagram that the couple “both share so many of the same values regarding food provenance, sustainability, seasonality and of course, flavour!”
Q: And what about the flowers?
A: Last week, it was announced that the couple had chosen white garden roses, peonies and foxgloves for their wedding day floral displays.
The bouquets, decorations and garlands will be designed by florist Philippa Craddock, Kensington Palace said in a statement. Craddock is a favorite of the fashion world and has done floral arrangements for Jenny Packham’s runway show, a Star Wars after-party, Dior events and more.
The displays will use flowers and foliage taken from the gardens of the royal palaces and Windsor Great Park, and reflect the wild and natural landscapes from which many of the plants will be picked from, and Craddock will work alongside a team of florists from St. George’s Chapel and Buckingham Palace.
“Working with them has been an absolute pleasure,” Craddock said of the royal couple, calling the creative process, “highly collaborative, free-flowing, creative and fun.”
The presence of peonies was no major surprise: Meghan has previously said on social media that peonies make her “endlessly happy.” White roses meanwhile, were a favorite flower of Diana.
Q: When does the real party start?
A: Per Kensington Palace: “Later that evening, around 200 guests are being invited to the reception at Frogmore House given by The Prince of Wales.” The Prince of Wales, of course, is Harry’s dad, Prince Charles.
Q: Will they have a band or a DJ?
A: The rumor mill went into overdrive when Elton John — a friend of Diana — canceled two scheduled concerts in Las Vegas for the weekend of the royal wedding due to a “scheduling conflict.” The Spice Girls — who have hinted at reuniting for a tour this year — may also provide dance floor entertainment. In February a very coy Melanie Brown (aka Scary Spice) confirmed that all five band members would be going to the wedding, which will no doubt make the groom very happy. As a youngster, Harry described meeting the band as the best day of his life.
Q: Who is paying for all of this, anyway?
A: The Royal Family is paying for the wedding itself — the service, the flowers, the music and the reception. Meghan will pay for her dress. The British public will pay for security.
Q: How much do royal weddings cost?
A: If you have to ask, you can’t afford one.
Q: Fair enough. How much did William and Kate’s wedding cost?
A: It reportedly cost $34 million, of which $ 32,000,000.00 went to security — and was paid for by the British taxpayers.
Q: What sort of things has Meghan had to do in preparation for marrying into the royal family?
A: In addition to the regular stuff — making official public appearances at various events; making small talk with people in crowds; dressing more conservatively and accessorizing her outfits with the kind of hats that young female royals seem required to wear in a way that is not ironic — Meghan has opted to (or had to) convert to Anglicism, the official religion in England, before marrying Harry. She has already been baptized and confirmed.
Q: What religion is she converting from?
A: Meghan was already a Protestant, so it was not a huge stretch.
Q: Will she become a British citizen?
A: Yes. And she’ll have to take a torturous citizenship test to do it.
Q: Is Meghan giving up her career as an actress?
A: Yes. But, she says, “I don’t see it as giving anything up. I just see it as a change. It’s a new chapter,” saying to Harry, “Now it’s time to work as a team with you.”
Q: What will she do? What do royals actually do day-to-day?
A: In many ways, young royals are just like us: they drive cars, go to supermarkets, drop kids off at school and work out at the gym. But while some have day jobs — Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, for instance — it’s unlikely that Meghan will take on a 9-to-5 job after her marriage. There will be numerous public engagements to attend (exactly what kind will be clearer once she has outlined the causes and charities she plans to support), and you can expect a royal tour abroad with her new husband in the first year or two. Got to keep the fans happy, after all.
Q: What are some other ways Meghan’s life will change after the wedding?
A: For one, she’ll have to get used to sitting in royal ranking order. At events attended by a large number of royal persons, members must enter in reverse order of who’s next in line to the throne, from most junior to most senior, with the queen last of all. Partners stay together, so Meghan and Harry will enter first, followed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate), the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall (Charles and Camilla), and lastly Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh (Philip). Her Majesty will then be seated in the middle, with the family ordered around her.
Also, royals are not meant to make their political views public, at least on certain issues; don’t vote; and can’t run for office. So Meghan, long outspoken on many social issues, will have to be careful with how she uses her new platform.
Q: Is it true that Harry and Meghan are distant cousins?
A: Possibly, according to a report in the Daily Mail.
Q: By the way, what else is happening on May 19?
A: The FA Cup final, the most important soccer match of the year in Britain. It’s like holding the Academy Awards at the same time as the Super Bowl. #awkward
Q: What are some reliable sources of information on this wedding?
A: You can follow Kensington Palace on Twitter or check the royal family’s official website, www.royal.uk.