The royal wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle is five months away and already we're panting with questions about the details.
Alas, we're not likely to learn the answers for many more weeks; maybe not until the day of the nuptials, May 19, in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, the largest and oldest (nearly 1,000 years old) inhabited castle in the world.
Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle, December 2017. pic.twitter.com/WHIMNNZzto— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 21, 2017
But we can speculate, and who's to object?
As everyone knows, planning a wedding is a major endeavor for ordinary mortals; imagine the hassle if you're royal. Harry, 33, will soon be only sixth in line to the throne but the wedding will still be a semi-state event and a very public affair likely to involve hundreds of "official" guests beyond the principals' close relatives and friends. And it's a binational wedding: the principal members of Markle's family live on the West Coast.
So here are some questions we're all curious about, and some possible answers based on the 2011 royal wedding of Prince William to the former Kate Middleton, now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and the royal-relation wedding of Kate's sister, Pippa Middleton, to James Matthews last May.
How big will it be?
Not as big as either his brother's wedding in Westminster Abbey, nor his parents' wedding in St. Paul's Cathedral, both of which had thousands of guests. It will be more in line with the 2005 wedding of his father, Prince Charles, and second wife Camilla Parker Bowles, also at Windsor Castle.
St. George's is a "chapel" in name only; it seats 800, about half the 1,900 guests at Will and Kate's wedding. That's also the number of guests at Charles and Camilla's 2005 prayer ceremony in the chapel, which was followed by a reception in the State Apartment of Windsor Castle hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.
Compared with the Will/Kate state event, the Harry/Meghan nuptials are going to be more low-key. London (28 miles away) will not be festooned with zillions of Union Jacks and miles of bunting. The wedding day won't be a national holiday. Millions will not gather on The Mall to watch the parade of gilded coaches surrounded by scarlet-clad soldiers on prancing horses. Hordes will not surround the Queen Victoria statue in front of Buckingham Palace to await the couple's appearance on the balcony amid cries of "Kiss her!"
Instead, much smaller numbers of onlookers will pack the narrow streets of the town of Windsor outside the castle gates, and the Lower Ward within the gates and near the chapel. Most people will likely see what's happening via giant screens. There may also be tickets to the grounds distributed to the public, as was the case when Harry's uncle, Prince Edward, married Sophie Rhys-Jones there in 1999.
Ordinarily open most days to tourists, the castle will be closed on the day of the wedding. There will be cameras in the chapel (as there were for Charles' and Camilla's wedding) but as a TV production, this will be much less overwhelming, as is Harry's and Meghan's preference.
But Kensington Palace said when the engagement was announced the couple want the public to feel part of the celebration and are working on ideas to make that possible.
Who will officiate?
It will be a Church of England ceremony (the royal family is Anglican, the monarch is the symbolic head of the church), so Markle, 36, will be baptized into the church before the wedding. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is the senior prelate of the church and might be expected to officiate but Harry and Meghan may choose someone else.
Who will design Meghan's gown?
As a style leader, Markle is still largely an unknown, though she's been spotted over the last seven years of her Suits acting career in attractive red-carpet frocks.
Since her relationship with Harry became public 13 months ago, her style has ricocheted from torn-knee jeans and loafers to a gobsmacking gorgeous gown (with a price tag of about $73,000 to match) by Ralph & Russo (the Australian duo based in London) for their engagement photos. It featured a see-through black mesh bodice with embroidered gold feathers and a feathery silk organza skirt.
Markle's few appearances on Harry's arm at public engagements (they're scheduled on Jan. 9 to visit London's multi-ethnic Brixton district, where residents and police clashed in the 1980s and 1990s) have been studied by fashionistas to discern her style: She wore a cream-colored coat by Line the Label for the engagement announcement and a caramel-colored coat by Sentaler for the Christmas Day service at Sandringham.
But Markle talked with Glamour in March 2016 about wedding gowns when her character on Suits, Rachel Zane, got married. Rachel's style is more "classic and timeless" than her own, she said.
"My personal style — wedding or not — is very pared down and relaxed," she said.
"Classic and simple is the name of the game, perhaps with a modern twist. I personally prefer wedding dresses that are whimsical or subtly romantic. Delphine Manivet and Christos Costarellos are faves of mine for their uniqueness and beauty. And I will always be a fan of Ellie Saab. J. Mendel is spectacular as well, especially for more structural designs."
Make of that what you will. For certain: Whoever designs her gown will reap millions in free publicity and brand awareness.
What will her wedding ring look like?
Two words: Welsh gold. He's Prince Harry of Wales and it's a tradition dating back to his great-grandparents' nuptials in 1923 to use gold mined in Wales for royal wedding rings.
We've already seen her engagement ring, designed by Harry using two diamonds from Princess Diana’s personal collection and a larger, center diamond from Botswana, a country close to Harry’s heart. The couple traveled there earlier this year.
What will their titles be?
She won't be Princess Meghan, just as Kate is not officially Princess Kate. Like Kate, Meghan will become a royal duchess, as in HRH Meghan, Duchess of … . Typically, the queen grants a royal dukedom to a royal bridegroom on his wedding day and the long-vacant title of Duke of Sussex (last used in the early 1800s by a son of the king who lost America, George III) is the clear frontrunner as a likely title for Harry, according to British royals experts. He would become HRH Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex; she would become HRH Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
The bridesmaids: Who will be her 'Pippa'?
When Kate Middleton married Prince William in 2011, they had been a couple for most of a decade and everyone already knew who would be her maid of honor: her sister, Pippa Middleton. Then Pippa and her shapely bottom, packed into a Sarah Burton/Alexander McQueen bridesmaid gown, nearly blew away the attention from the bride. Pippa instantly became as famous as her sis.
But adult bridesmaids are not the norm at royal weddings; usually, they are little girls, with little boys as pages. Markle has only one older half-sister, Samantha Markle Grant, 52, who has been openly critical of Markle in some interviews with the media and is writing a book she's calling The Diary of Princess Pushy's Sister. She has said they have hardly spoken since Grant was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008 and began using a wheelchair.
Duchess Kate is unlikely to be in the wedding party; she will recently have given birth to her third child.
But judging from her Instagram, Markle does have many celebrity friends to choose from, such as tennis great Serena Williams, fashion designer and pal Misha Nonoo (who may have set up her first date with Harry), TV producer Lindsay Roth (Markle was maid of honor at her wedding in August 2016), actresses Abigail Spencer (a co-star on Suits), Priyanka Chopra and Janina Gavankar, and her stylist, Jessica Mulroney.
Who will be Harry's "best man"?
Royal weddings of the past didn't typically feature a best man, but Prince William and their father both opted to break with the past and chose their brothers as their "supporters," as the British call them. It's likely Harry has chosen Will just as Will chose him.
Will Harry's royal nephew and niece take part?
Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, who will be 3 by then, were the adorable stars at Auntie Pippa's wedding in May, she as a bridesmaid and he as a page. There's no reason they wouldn't be included again. They'll be older and thus somewhat more well-behaved; at Pippa's nuptials, George had a mini-meltdown after his mum scolded him for stepping on the bride's train.
Harry has a clutch of other younger relatives, first and second cousins, who may participate, including Mia Tindall, who will be 4, daughter of his cousin Zara Phillips Tindall, and Isla Phillips, 5, daughter of his cousin Peter Phillips.
And naturally, the entire royal mob of adult relatives, headed by the queen, will be there.
Another child who might have a role: Isabel Veronica "Ivy" Mulroney, the 4-year-old daughter of Markle's bestie Mulroney and the granddaughter of a former Canadian prime minister.
Who will attend from the bride's family?
It is still not clear who among Markle's family besides her divorced parents, father Thomas Markle Sr., a former Hollywood lighting director, and mother Doria Ragland, a yoga teacher in Los Angeles, will attend. She has older half-siblings from her father's previous marriage but her family is not as large as Harry's.
During the BBC radio interview broadcast on Dec. 27, Harry said Markle had a "fantastic" time meeting her inlaws-to-be during the annual royal Christmas at Sandringham — a first-ever royal fiancée invited to the family retreat before the wedding — and "the family loved having her there. ... She's done an absolutely amazing job (fitting in). She's getting in there, and it's the family I suppose that she's never had."
This remark came as a surprise to Grant, who complained on Twitter and to The Daily Mail.
"Actually, she has a large family who were always there with her and for her. Our household was very normal and when dad and Doria divorced, we all made it so it was like she had two houses. No one was estranged, she was just too busy. Read my book complete with facts and photos," she posted before her account was made private.
Who else will be on the guest list, and will it include the Trumps?
Even for Will and Kate's wedding, the queen allowed the couple to tear up the "official" guest list and make their own friends the top priority before all the usual grand and good and foreign pooh-bahs. Harry's wedding may be expected to feature an even more casual approach given that he is not the heir to the throne.
By the end of December, the British tabloids were breathlessly reporting about whether or not Harry and Meghan will invite former president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, instead of President Trump and the first lady.
On Dec. 27, while guest-editing a BBC morning radio program, Harry was asked about the Obama controversy; he joked the guest list was still a ways off.
"I don't know about that, we haven't even put the invite or the guest list together. Who knows if (Obama's) going to be invited or not," Harry said. "I wouldn't want to ruin that surprise."
But Harry hardly knows the Trumps and Meghan has been an outspoken opponent: In May 2016, during an appearance on The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, she called Trump "misogynistic and divisive" and said she supported Hillary Clinton. (As a member of the royal family, she won't be able to say anything like that ever again, anywhere.)
Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle, December 2017. pic.twitter.com/HrAc9FeN51— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 21, 2017
The Obamas did not attend Will and Kate's 2011 wedding (he was busy that weekend, monitoring the mission to capture and kill Osama bin Laden), but the U.S. ambassador was there as America's representative. Soon after the wedding, the Obamas met Will and Kate at Buckingham Palace, and later, in April 2016, he met Prince George at Kensington Palace, captured in a famous photo.
The Obamas have been especially friendly with Harry since he dropped by the White House for a surprise visit in May 2013 to talk about their mutual interest in wounded warriors. Mrs. Obama and her daughters had tea with Harry at Kensington Palace in June 2015. Harry and the Obamas followed up with goofy U.S. vs U.K. video challenges featuring the queen in the runup to Harry's second Invictus Games in Orlando in 2016.
In September, Obama taped the BBC radio interview with Harry in Toronto during the Invictus Games; later the two watched a wheelchair basketball competition together. And in November, Harry was a star guest at the inaugural Obama Foundation leadership summit in Chicago.
Where will the reception be?
This is not firmed up, but the official engagement photos released last month were taken at Frogmore House, the 17th-century manor on the Windsor Castle estate. It’s best known as a former royal family home and the site of the royal mausoleum, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are buried, but it's also used for royal wedding receptions.
But maybe not this one. A former Windsor Castle staffer told People that the reception will likely be held in the Waterloo Chamber, St. George’s Hall and the Grand Reception Room within the castle. All are part of the State Apartments, a royal sequence of rooms that form the centerpiece of the Upper Ward of the castle.
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