If you’ve been a guest at a few weddings, you’re probably so familiar with the order of events that you could write them down backwards and blindfolded. Ceremony, champagne, photographs, dinner, speeches, dancing: it’s time-honoured and tested, and it does the trick.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have already shown that they’re prepared to do things a little differently. First there were the affectionate engagement photographs, then the candid BBC interview, and finally those informal and very smiley first few public appearances.
So how might the couple deviate from tradition (or decide to embrace it) on the day? We’ve got a few ideas…
We might think of a traditional wedding dress as being white, but royal brides of the last century have typically worn ivory – The Queen, Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge all chose ivory silk.
The shape and style are still up for debate – might Meghan Markle opt for the corset bodice and elegant lace sleeves favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge, or a dramatic, extra-long train like Princess Diana? The only element about which we can be fairly confident are that her shoulders will be covered, as is traditional for formal church ceremonies in the UK.
Another tradition upheld by successive royal brides is to have a charm sewn into the lining of the wedding dress for good luck. The Queen chose a clover leaf, Princess Diana a horseshoe, and the Duchess of Cambridge a blue ribbon (“something blue”).
The Hair and Make-up
On her wedding day in 1947, with Britain still suffering the economic after-effects of the war, the Queen sensibly chose to do her own make-up. Her granddaughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, followed suit decades later, although her “demi-chignon” hairstyle was created by celebrity stylist Richard Ward.
Brides like Meghan Markle who usually favour a natural look may make an exception for their wedding day and opt for a more striking and dramatic style. After all, royal bridal make-up has to endure not just a long day on show, but also the scrutiny of thousands of camera lenses.
And while it’s still more usual for brides to wear their hair up in keeping with the formality of the occasion, this decision will largely depend on the style of the dress and the veil.
Like his father, grandfather and older brother, Prince Harry may well choose to wear dress uniform on his wedding day. Though he no longer serves with his former regiment the Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry, his military ties are understandably important to him: the Invictus Games founder also took over from the Duke of Edinburgh as Captain General of the Royal Marines last year.
The Wedding Party
It’s not customary for the groom to elect a best man at a royal wedding, but Prince Harry was official ‘supporter’ to Prince William back in 2011, so it’s likely that the older brother will play a reciprocal role on 19th May.
Rumours abound over whom Meghan Markle might choose for her bridal party, but with child attendants more traditional for royal weddings (and arguably less controversial) than adult bridesmaids, she is likely to involve her new niece and nephew, Princess Charlotte and Prince George. Will her beloved rescue beagle Guy also follow her down the aisle?
Bridesmaids originally wore white to imitate the bride – the idea being that they would confuse rival suitors or those with evil intentions. Formal weddings often still adhere to this tradition, especially for child bridesmaids, although sashes and trims may be a different colour.
It’s traditional for couples to give presents to members of their wedding team to say thank you. Will Meghan Markle’s younger attendants receive an engraved pen for when they’re older, or a special photograph album to help them remember the occasion later on?
It’s traditional for speeches to be given by the father of the bride, the groom, and the best man (usually in that order). Increasingly, modern brides are choosing to say something as well, and it is believed that Meghan Markle intends to speak at her wedding to Prince Harry.
Already an experienced performer, we doubt she’ll have any trouble delivering a poised and moving speech on the day, while Prince Harry is accustomed to speaking at public engagements and charity events.
For less seasoned speakers who may be called upon to say a few words on the day, we recommend plenty of practice to help eliminate nerves and emotion. However tempted you may be by some Dutch courage, limit your champagne intake beforehand to ensure you pull off a polished performance.
Contrary to expectation, a best man’s speech doesn’t have to rival a stand-up comedy routine – for less confident speakers, heartfelt and succinct is preferable to rambling and borderline offensive.
If the couple’s choice of wedding cake creator is anything to go by, this year’s royal wedding food is likely to be influenced by their backgrounds: like the bride-to-be, pastry chef and food stylist Claire Ptak was born in California and is now based in London. It’s likely that their shared love of overseas travel and humanitarian work could provide inspiration, too. Could we see crab rolls from the sunshine coast or Vektoek (Afrikaner fried dough) in amongst the quails’ eggs and asparagus spears?
The Wedding Favours
Wedding favours are not traditional, but whether it’s a miniature fragrance or chocolates, the couple may choose to give each of their guests a token to thank them for attending.
Alternatively, given their shared commitment to charitable causes, they might choose charity favours – usually small pin badges that represent a donation made on behalf of each guest.
An evening party, complete with DJ or band, is a relatively recent wedding development, and it may be that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decide to stick with the more traditional reception or dinner and forego the party.
If there is a party component (perhaps only for close friends and family), friend to the princes Guy Pelly is surely best placed to oversee it – the nightclub owner runs Chelsea hotspot Tonteria. And will Coldplay, who performed at Kensington Palace for Prince Harry’s charity Sentebale, put in a special appearance?
Either way, we suspect that Prince Harry will set a high standard on the dance floor: according to Joss Stone, he had no qualms about initiating a conga line at a charitable event in Lesotho. Al Green’s Call Me, meanwhile, is apparently guaranteed to get Meghan’s mother, Dorla Raglan, ‘swaying her head and snapping her fingers.’
Are you planning or attending a wedding yourself this year? For style inspiration, head to the luxury boutiques at Bicester Village, less than an hour on the train from London www.bicestervillage.com