On May 19, 2018, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will exchange vows in one of the most anticipated weddings of the year. While we're counting down the days, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at all the ways their modern royal wedding will shirk tradition in favor of something new… starting with Meghan's wedding dress. While wearing an opulent gown from a couture designer is not unheard of for a royal bride (Duchess Kate's dress was designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen), fashion critics are expecting an even more over-the-top dress for Meghan, who's long been a fan of high fashion. Judging by what she wore in her and Harry's engagement photos — a sheer-bodice Ralph & Russo gown reportedly worth $75,000 — we can probably expect a wedding dress unlike anything the British royal family has ever seen. Keep reading for more ways this couple is changing it up for their big day…
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Meghan's much older than most royal brides
Not counting Camilla Parker Bowles, who married Prince Charles in 2005 at the tender age of 57 — when both were divorcées with adult children — Meghan Markle will be one of the oldest royal brides ever when she marries Prince Harry. (She's also only the second royal bride — after Kate Middleton — who's graduated from college.) Although Meghan will only be 36 on her big day, she's considerably older than her recent royal predecessors. Duchess Kate was the ripe old age of 29 when she married Prince William; Princess Diana was just 20 when she wed Prince Charles; and Queen Elizabeth II was only 21 on the day she married Prince Philip. While Camilla is 16 months older than Prince Charles, traditionally, royal grooms have been older than their brides. Meghan, on the other hand, is three years and one month Harry's senior — plus she's also older than both William and Kate. All this proves is that when it comes to royal weddings in this new era, age ain't nothing but a number.
They're marrying on a Saturday
Much to the disappointment of British citizens everywhere, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are breaking with royal tradition and getting hitched on a Saturday instead of during the work week. This means that there will be no "bank holiday" for residents of the British Commonwealth, as is traditionally given for royal weddings (such as when Prince William and Duchess Kate were married in 2011 on a Friday). Some speculate this is because Harry is sixth in line to the throne and not likely to ever be named king.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have given us a longer wait
Prince Harry and Prince William both announced their engagements during the month of November — but there's one difference between their timelines! Prince William married Kate five and a half months after their announcement, while Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will tie the knot almost six months after sharing their big news.
Royals weren't always allowed to marry Americans
Meghan Markle is one of the first American brides to be welcomed into the British royal family. And she'll likely be the first American ever to be given the title of Her Royal Highness. (That said, she has started the process to become a British citizen.) Long before her engagement to Prince Harry was announced in late 2017, another famous royal couple walked a similar path, but had very different results. In 1936, King Edward VIII ascended the throne following the death of his father, King George V. However, just months into his reign, Edward revealed his decision to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. When the Church of England forbade the union (the monarch is also the head of the church), the king abdicated his throne, turning it over to his younger brother (Queen Elizabeth II's father), who became King George VI. The former king was re-styled the Duke of Windsor and traveled with Wallis to France where they married in 1937.
Meghan is a divorcée
Another reason the Church of England forbade the marriage of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII is because she was a divorcée. Meghan Markle is also a divorcée. On Sept. 10, 2011, she married film producer Trevor Engelson. The couple divorced less than two years later. It would be three more years before Meghan met and fell in love with Harry (unlike Wallis Simpson, who was still married when she began an affair with Edward). Thankfully, rules forbidding royals to marry divorcées whose ex-spouses are still living have been relaxed, allowing Harry and the rest of his family to welcome Meghan with open arms.
Meghan's (perhaps) the first bi-racial royal bride
The British royal line has a long history of remaining exclusively white, which makes Meghan Markle's bi-racial ancestry something to celebrate. Born to an African-American mom and a Caucasian dad, Meghan is giving people of color the chance to dream about their own royal fairy tale romances. Interestingly, Meghan might not be the only bride of color in Britain's royal past. In fact, many historians believe that Queen Charlotte (the great-great-great-great grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II) might have had African ancestry in her past, although it was hidden and never publicly celebrated as it is today.
Meghan's a famous actress
It's not unheard of for a member of the British royal family to marry a "commoner" (we know, we hate that word too). Duchess Kate is the perfect example of a regular girl who fell in love with a prince and became royalty. Meghan Markle's story, however, is quite different. Meghan's a successful and well-known actress who has a Hollywood career that dates back to 2002 when she landed a guest spot on the daytime drama "General Hospital," which led to her current gig as Rachel Zane on "Suits" (seen here). Her marriage to Prince Harry will mark the first time a British royal has married someone who's already a celebrity in her own right.
Their guest list will be very Hollywood
Because Meghan Markle is a Hollywood celebrity, her and Prince Harry's wedding guest list is likely to be a star-studded one. Nowadays, it's not uncommon for big-name celebrities to attend royal weddings (David Beckham, Victoria Beckham, Elton John and Ellie Goulding were all in attendance at Duchess Kate and Prince William's nuptials), but Meghan and Harry's wedding is reportedly going to be packed with bold-faced names. Meghan's guest list is expected to include her "Suits" co-stars (like pal Abigail Spencer and on-screen love interest Patrick J. Adams) as well as tennis star Serena Williams and "Quantico" actress Priyanka Chopra, who are both close pals. There's also rampant speculation that Elton will be at this wedding too. (Reports that invitations were being sent to former U.S. President Barack Obama and wife Michelle Obama, as well as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie, are reportedly false).
Meghan was baptized and confirmed before the wedding
What's perhaps most unique about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's upcoming wedding isn't what's happening during the big event, but what happened right before it. Meghan was baptized and confirmed as a member of the Church of England in a private ceremony in March 2018. It had been widely reported before she converted that Meghan — who's never actually defined her religion — was Catholic (she attended a private Catholic high school). It's also been reported that her father is Episcopalian and her mother is Protestant. (Catholics have long been forbidden from ruling Britain — thank King Henry VIII for that one.) Considering that Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the Church of England, Meghan's decision to join the fold makes sense. Duchess Kate was also confirmed in the Anglican church (she'd already been baptized as a baby) prior to her nuptials in 2011.
They're not marrying in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is the church where 17 former monarchs are entombed and where every British king and queen's coronation has taken place since the 11th century. It also happens to be a highly popular royal wedding venue, hosting the marriage ceremonies for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Prince William and Duchess Kate Middleton, and even Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Prince Albert (who would later be crowned King George VI) and many, many more. But it won't be the place Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say their vows.
Instead, they're marrying at St. George's Chapel
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have decided to marry in the historic St. George's Chapel, which seats roughly 900 guests (in contrast to Westminster Abbey, which normally seats 2,000). The chapel is located on the Windsor Castle grounds and was first built in 1348. Harry and Meghan aren't the first royals to exchange vows in its ancient halls, however. Harry's uncle, Prince Edward (Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip's youngest son) wed Sophie Rhys-Jones there in 1999, and they're still happily married today.
Some of Meghan's family won't be invited
Typically, immediate family members of the bride and groom are invited to British royal weddings, but that's not the case for Meghan Markle, whose half-brother, Thomas Markle Jr. (seen here in his mug shot), and half-sister, Samantha Grant, are expected to be left off the guest list. Thomas, who shares the same father as Meghan, was arrested in January 2017 on a weapons-related charge that was later dismissed. And in early 2018, his fiancée, Darlene Blount, was arrested and later charged with fourth-degree assault after getting into a fight with Thomas on New Year's Day. Both Tom Jr. and Samantha have repeatedly criticized Meghan — from whom they've been estranged for years — in the press and at one point, Samantha was slated to write a tell-all book called "The Diary of Princess Pushy's Sister."
They won't kiss on the Buckingham Palace balcony on their wedding day
The formal wave and kiss on Buckingham Palace's balcony is a signature of many royal weddings (including Duchess Kate and Prince William's in 2011). However, there's little chance that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be participating in this long-standing (though not iron-clad) tradition. The reason? St. George's Chapel, where the couple will wed, is an hour's drive from the London palace.
There won't be a huge royal wedding procession
While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will ride in a carriage and make an approximately 2-mile loop around Windsor after their wedding ceremony, it won't compare to the grandeur of the traditional wedding procession from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace in the 1902 State Landau. (Royal newlyweds including Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York, and Prince William and Duchess Kate all used the vehicle to make the journey immediately after their wedding ceremonies.) Lucky for us, even though Harry (seen here during his brother and sister-in-law's wedding procession) is just sixth in line to the throne, he's so beloved that the palace has decided to allow a pool camera inside St. George's Chapel so that his wedding ceremony can be televised.
Meghan might give a speech at their wedding reception
It's been widely reported that Meghan Markle is breaking with royal tradition and plans to give a speech during her and Prince Harry's wedding reception (though brides at American weddings often give a speech, royal brides just don't). "She wants to have the chance to thank her husband and everyone who has supported them," a source told The Times. "Harry thinks it's a great idea."
They nixed a fruit cake wedding cake
Back in December, The Telegraph reported that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were planning to break tradition and forgo a fruitcake wedding cake. It made headlines because the top tier of a British royal wedding cake is almost always made of fruitcake, which is hardy enough to be saved and served at the christening of the couple's first child. The rumors were confirmed in March 2018 when the couple announced that they'd asked American pastry chef Claire Ptak, who runs Violet bakery in London, to create a lemon elderflower cake that will incorporate the flavors of spring. It will be topped with buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers. Seen here is cake designer Fiona Cairns with Prince William and Duchess Kate's eight-tiered traditional royal wedding cake — which took five weeks to create — consisting of 17 individual fruit cakes covered in cream and white icing and decorated with 900 delicate sugar-paste flowers.
Meghan might not carry white flowers
Since the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert in 1840, it's been a tradition for royal brides to carry an all-white bouquet that includes fragrant white myrtle from the queen's garden on palace grounds. Myrtle is believed to represent good luck in love and marriage. Although no one but the florist and immediate members of the bridal party know for certain what type of wedding bouquet Meghan Markle will carry when she marries Prince Harry, some have speculated that she'll forego the all-white tradition in favor of a more colorful bouquet. We suspect, however, that Meghan will still include white myrtle in whatever bouquet she chooses.
The bride herself will pitch in financially
The public will pick up the tab for the immense security presence that will be in place on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's big day, but "As was the case with the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Royal Family will pay for the core aspects of the wedding, such as the church service, the associated music, flowers, decorations and the reception afterwards," Kensington Palace announced following Harry and Meghan's engagement. Though the erstwhile Kate Middleton's parents — they're millionaires who own a party planning and decor business — did reportedly insist that they be allowed to kick in for some expenses when their daughter wed Prince William, this time around, the bride herself will likely be insisting that she pay some of her own wedding bills. "My sources tell me that Meghan wants to make a contribution to the wedding," royals expert Katie Nicholl, the author of Harry: Life, Loss and Love, told the Daily Beast, explaining that Meghan will at the very least pay for her designer dress. "She's a feminist and a wealthy and independent woman." Another report has claimed that Meghan is paying for a $200,000 honeymoon as a gift to Harry.
She's changing up how she walks down the aisle
In the wake of her father's health crisis — and following much speculation about who would get the gig — Meghan Markle has decided to walk herself down the aisle. She will then join Prince Charles to complete the procession with her soon-to-be father-in-law! "Ms. Meghan Markle has asked His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to accompany her down the aisle of the Quire of St George's Chapel on her Wedding Day," Kensington Palace said in a statement. "The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to The Royal Family in this way."