It was a bright and sunny day on May 19 when Prince Harry married US actress Meghan Markle in a fairytale ceremony at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, and the couple was bestowed the titles Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Unlike his brother Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton, which was a day of pomp and show at Westminster Abbey, Prince Harry’s wedding was a more intimate, simpler affair. The couple exchanged vows and rings in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II and 600 other guests, including a fair share of celebrities.
The wedding service was led by the Dean of Windsor and solemnised by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who joined the couple’s right hands and declared them husband and wife, while the address was given by the Episcopal Church’s Bishop Curry. Made by Cleave and Company, Meghan’s wedding ring was fashioned from a piece of Welsh gold that was gifted by the Queen, whereas Harry’s was a platinum band with a textured finish.
Diana’s sister, Lady Jane Fellowes, gave a reading at the ceremony, while Karen Gibson and The KingdomChoir performed to Ben E. King's soul classic ‘Stand by Me’ during the service, winning the hearts of many. Another one whose voice was much appreciated was Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the winner of 2016’s BBC's Young Musician, who sang while the bride and groom signed the register.
The Majestic Venue
An exceptional example of Gothic architecture, St. George’s Chapel has hosted several royal weddings in the past, including a blessing ceremony following the civil wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla. It was also where Prince Harry was baptised in 1984. The decision to choose this chapel as their wedding venue caused quite a stir, leaving many to wonder why they didn’t choose Westminster Abbey like his brother, Prince William. “It’s a signal to people that they’re not going to be full-on attention-seeking royals,” said royal biographer Andrew Morton. On the other hand, it is known that Windsor is a very special place for Prince Harry, and he and Meghan have spent a lot of time there during the last year.
Although the chapel doesn’t need much decor to beautify its already stunning interiors, Harry and Meghan’s wedding transformed the space into something straight out of a fairytale. Local flowers were sourced by florist Philippa Craddock to adorn the chapel, and the choice of flowers were a subtle yet moving tribute to the late Princess Diana, who loved white garden roses and peonies.
The floral arrangement, which also included foxgloves and branches of beech, birch and hornbeam, extended outside the chapel, lining the West Steps and surrounding the West Door from where Prince Harry entered. Two grand vases overflowing with flowers and twigs were placed at the altar, giving it a more regal look.
Elegance and Understated
The Duke of Sussex was accompanied by his brother and best man, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge. They both looked stately in the frockcoat uniform of the Blues and Royals, while Meghan entered in an elegant white silk gown designed by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy. Her 15-foot veil was made from silk tulle and featured beautiful embellishments representing all 53 Commonwealth countries in the form of the distinctive flora of each country. Her hair was styled in an up-do and her veil was held in place by Queen Mary’s scintillating diamond bandeau tiara, which was lent to Meghan by the Queen. Everybody, including Prince Harry himself, was in awe of the beautiful bride as she made her entrance.
The Walk Down the Aisle
Meghan was the first royal bride to walk herself down the aisle. Her decision suggests her willingness to assert herself as a strong and independent woman. Prince Charles, the Duke of Cornwall, met her halfway and walked her down the aisle of the Quire of the chapel, as her father Thomas Markle was unable to attend due to health issues.
Prince George and Princess Charlotte were joined by eight other children who acted as the couple’s bridesmaids and page boys. Some of the other kids who were part of the wedding brigade were Harry and Meghan's godchildren.
The Empty Chair
Although there were plenty of famous faces in attendance, there was one person whose absence was acutely felt: Prince Harry’s mother, the late Princess Diana. Several moving tributes were made to her on this big day, including the flowers used to decorate the chapel. On social media, many people assumed that the chair that was left empty next to Prince William was placed there in memory of the late Princess Diana. In truth, however, the chair was left empty because no one is permitted to sit in front of the Queen, who sat in her favourite chair in the chapel.
Star-Studded Guest List
Unlike any other royal wedding, this one was attended by Hollywood royaltyas well as actual royalty. Amongst the 600 guests invited to attend the wedding were over 30 royals, Oprah Winfrey, David and Victoria Beckham, Tom Hardy, Serena Williams, Johny Wilkinson, James Corden, James Blunt, and Carey Mulligan, among others. One of Hollywood’s most handsome and most bankable movie stars, George Clooney, arrived at the wedding with his wife Amal. Several of Markle’s Suits co-stars also flew in for the big day. The two Indians to have made it to the guest list were internationally acclaimed actress Priyanka Chopra, a close friend of Markle’s, and activist Suhani Jalota, who runs the Myna Mahila Foundation in India.
On Harry’s list were ushers Tom Inskip and Guy Pelly, and Army comrades who he served alongside in Afghanistan. All three of Princess Diana's siblings – Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Lady Jane Fellowes, and Earl Spencer – were on hand, as were long-time friend Sir Elton John, with his husband David Furnish. Sir Elton is also said to have performed a mini concert for the happy couple at their reception.
Apart from this, 2,640 people were invited to watch the royal wedding from inside the castle grounds. Many in this group are associated with charities close to the couple, as well as some who were nominated by their Lord Lieutenants.
Two Extravagant Receptions
Following the emotional wedding service, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex left the chapel, exchanging their first kiss as a married couple, in front of the multitude of fans and guests who had been waiting to get a glimpse of the newlyweds. Their Royal Highnesses then embarked on a carriage procession in an Ascot Landaus around Windsor town.
The couple then headed for a wedding reception at St. George’s Hall in Windsor Castle, hosted by the Queen. Dressed in a white halter Stella McCartney number, Markle was accompanied by her dashing husband in a formal black suit. A ceremonial, intimate lunch saw guests indulge in Pol Roger Champagne along with canapés and other traditional food. The elaborate wedding cake that featured elderflower syrup made at the Queen’s residence from the estate’s own elderflower trees, as well as a light sponge cake, were designed by Claire Ptak. The gorgeous eight-tier cake was surely a sight to behold. It was here that Prince Charles gave an emotional speech about the way he felt watching his youngest son, whom he still remembers as a baby, marrying the love of his life.
The second reception, hosted by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, was a private evening event for around 200 guests. It took place at Frogmore House, a royal residence in Windsor. This one saw, for the very first time in a royal wedding, a speech from the bride. Following the formal event, DJ Sam Totolee got everyone to put their dancing shoes on, as he churned out many of Harry's favourite house tracks. The evening concluded with a fireworks display.
Beyond Royal Norms
We all know that this royal wedding has broken many norms; the fact that Prince Harry married a commoner, who also happens to be part African-American, is perhaps the most significant of these. But apart from this, there are several other notable differences in this wedding. A big break of protocol was that the couple held hands during the ceremony, which is typically a no-no in royal weddings. Next up was the elaborate guest list! Traditionally, wedding invitations for royal weddings are only given to people attending the ceremony inside the chapel, as opposed to the 2,640 guests who were within the castle. And of course, Meghan Markle walked the aisle unchaperoned for the first time ever in a royal wedding.
Another thing that caught the attention of many to be unusual was the cake. The couple chose a lemon elderflower cake with bright flower of spring, covered with buttercream instead of the typical fruitcake that royals usually select.
Pic Courtsey: PTI