A Special Relationship: Harry and Meghan's Wedding in London

As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle prepare for the wedding of the decade, we reveal how American and British traditions are brought together.

The interest in the forthcoming wedding of actress Ms Meghan Markle to Prince Harry is reaching fever pitch, as fans and subjects from both the US and the UK look forward to a fairytale made real. This isn’t the first unification of American and British cultures—the "special relationship" across the pond has existed ever since the Mayflower first set sail from Plymouth in Devon in 1620.

As we all wait to see what role the relationship will take on the world stage, here’s our look at what American and British wedding traditions we can expect from the big day and a guess at who will come out on top. You can also download our special souvenir edition, in full, here.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle engagement photo, London, UK
The engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has captured people's imagination around the world. (©Alexi Lubomirski via Getty Images)

The Venue

St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle is the venue of this wedding on 19 May 2018—the site of many royal celebrations. Twenty miles west of London, the castle makes for a fantastic day trip, but there are other popular royal wedding venues in London. The first royal wedding at Westminster Abbey took place in 1100 between King Henry I of England and Matilda of Scotland, and there have been many more celebrations including that of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947. 

Meghan’s first wedding took place over four days on a beach in Jamaica, while her parents, Doria Loyce Ragland and Thomas Wayne Markle, got married in a Self-Realisation Fellowship Temple in Los Angeles. 

Who will design the dress?

For many, the ultimate royal wedding was Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in July 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral. That wedding featured an iconic wedding dress: an ivory silk taffeta and lace gown designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel. 

Meghan Markle’s chosen designer needs to match up to the Emanuel's, and other recent royal dress designers such as Sarah Burton (of Alexander McQueen) who designed Kate Middleton’s dress. Designers now in the running include Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta, or perhaps the British fashion house, Ralph Russo, who designed the couture gown she wore for her engagement pictures. 

Harry—Suit or Military Uniform?

There is still some debate as to whether Prince Harry will elect to wear military uniform or a traditional morning suit. Pundits seem to be suggesting that a morning suit will win out, but Harry is extremely proud of his career in the Army in which he served as a captain and may choose to reflect that at the wedding. Should he elect to wear a morning suit, he’s likely to source one from Savile Row in Mayfair. 

Savile Row, London, UK
Prince Harry might choose to wear a morning suit from Savile Row, London's famous Mayfair street. (©OpenRowChivas)

Who's on the guest list?

Meghan and Harry’s reputation as a "couple of the people" was enhanced by the announcement that 1,200 members of the public will be invited to watch the wedding in the palace grounds.

Royals, dignitaries and politicians will receive invitations, but it’s the star names that we will all want to hear about, particularly as the bride, who was born in Los Angeles, is one of their own. 

Speculation about some of the big names in attendance includes Meghan’s longstanding friend, tennis champion Serena Williams, actress Priyanka Chopra, actors from her hit TV show Suits and, perhaps the biggest names of all, Barack and Michelle Obama—friends of Prince Harry through his work on the Invictus Games. 

The Wedding Singer

With the world’s biggest entertainers at their fingertips, there is already much speculation about who’ll be singing for the couple’s first dance. Names in the running include Mel B of the Spice Girls and Sir Elton John, who sang at Diana’s funeral. Ed Sheeran, who is friends with the royals, is said to be on the shortlist; his song “Thinking Out Loud” is a popular first dance choice.

The Speeches, and a Break with Tradition

Wedding traditions in the United States and the UK are similar, with some notable differences. Only the best man, the groom and father of the bride give a speech, unlike in the States where the chief bridesmaid also gives a speech. Everyone will be waiting for the best man’s speech – in the UK he usually digs out the most embarrassing stories they can find.

Breaking with tradition, Meghan is planning on doing something that has never happened in a royal wedding: she is giving her own speech. Given that she called her husband a feminist, and the family she is marrying into have changed the succession rules so that eldest daughters can inherit the throne, this is a landmark moment.