Meghan Markle is breaking barriers as the newest royal bride-to-be. She doesn’t exactly fit the mold of what people expect out of a duchess — which makes us love her even more. She isn’t British, she’s already made a name for herself as an American actress, and she’s an advocate for gender equality.
She’ll also be the first duchess ever with a half-black, half-white background, which unfortunately caused controversy in the media when she first started dating Prince Harry. Her then-boyfriend ensured a quick halt to the harassment by releasing a statement that insisted they stop berating her.
Markle has also previously been married, but as we’ve seen in the past, divorce isn’t exactly uncommon in the world of royals. After all, Queen Elizabeth II reportedly urged Princess Diana and Prince Charles to divorce. Despite all of Markle’s unconventional traits as a member of the royal family, she’ll still be expected to conform to specific wedding traditions.
Here’s a look at the royal wedding rules Markle and Harry will follow on their big day — including what her new royal title may be.
1. The queen’s permission is required
It is not only required that the queen approve of Harry’s choice of spouse — he needs it in writing. The Royal Marriages Act 1772 rules that “the monarch has the right to veto the marriage of a member of his or her family and is required to give formal consent to any family marriages in order to guard against those that could ‘diminish the status of the royal house.’”
It’s a good thing the queen doesn’t see Markle diminishing the royal house’s status, because this engagement very realistically could have never happened. The Royal Marriages Act originally required that all royal families must obtain the queen’s consent, but as of 2013, it only applies to the six people who are next in line for the throne. That currently includes Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Harry, and Prince Andrew.
Next: Relaxation on this rule has been a gradual process.
2. Royals can marry non-royals
Though many believe royals must marry into another royal bloodline, this isn’t at all the case. As long as the queen approves, essentially anyone can marry into the royal family.
While many royal wedding rules have been modernized, CNN notes that “high-profile members of the British royal family marrying who they want — and not who they should — has been a gradual process.”
Next: Royals really don’t like this religion.
3. You can follow any religion but Roman Catholicism
There is just one condition: “Royals may legally wed an atheist or someone of any faith other than Roman Catholicism.” That’s right — the 1701 Act of Settlement won’t let Catholics into the royal family. When Peter Phillips, the queen’s eldest grandchild and 11th in line for the throne, wanted to wed Autumn Kelly in 2008, Kelly converted from Roman Catholic to Anglican faith so her husband could keep his place in line.
Many have speculated Markle’s faith, with fingers pointed at Judaism. This is because Markle’s ex-husband, Trevor Engelson, is a Jewish producer. Even though Markle’s faith is unconfirmed, we do know she must be anything but Roman Catholic.
Next: Here’s what we can expect to call Markle.
4. Markle will become the Duchess of Sussex
The vacancy of the “Duke of Sussex” title indicates that Harry will likely be next to claim it. That means Markle will officially be deemed the Duchess of Sussex — and she’ll be the first woman to ever use the title.
According to The Telegraph, “The only previous Duke of Sussex was married twice, but neither of his marriages was approved by his father, George III, meaning they were considered unlawful.”
It seems quite symbolic that Markle, who has proven you don’t have to fit a certain “type” to be accepted into the royal family, will be the first to claim a title that was denied to two women prior.
Next: Wedding parties tend to be on the younger side.
5. The wedding party typically consists of children
Wedding parties in the UK have a unique tradition in employing children as the wedding party, rather than similarly-aged family members and close friends. Bridesmaids tend to range between the ages of 10 and 12. According to Brides, “The [queen] had eight bridesmaids, and Diana had five, ranging in age from 5 to 17.”
Kate Middleton chose some very young bridesmaids, two at the age of 3. She also broke tradition by not only choosing a maid of honor, but by choosing a “grown” one. Her sister, Pippa Middleton, was already a scandalous choice for her, being 27 years old at the time. However, Pippa took it one step further by wearing a curve-hugging dress and definitely stealing the show for a bit while following her sister into the church.
Similarly, while Prince William’s pageboys were all young, he chose none other than his brother, Harry, as his best man.
Next: The British way to say goodbye to single life
6. Saying goodbye to single life
In the UK, bachelor and bachelorette parties are referred to as stag and hen parties, respectively. However, instead of just one night of festivities, stag and hen parties are usually celebrated over an entire weekend to kiss the single life goodbye.
William’s stag party and Kate’s hen party were both kept well under wraps. We did, at least, get a little detail about William’s, in that it was hosted by Harry at a country estate around one month prior to the wedding. It definitely has us wondering if William will be returning the favor for Harry as his best man.
Next: The guest list has more importance than you’d think.
7. The impressive guest list
Having a notable (and long) guest list is potentially the most important aspect of a royal wedding — other than, you know, the getting married part. The guest list is expected to be filled with many of the most powerful “fellow royals, foreign leaders, church officials, diplomats, and celebrities,” according to Brides. Only then can you start thinking about all of your friends and family you’d like to invite.
The queen undoubtedly has a say in the guest list. She commanded that 1,900 invites be sent out for William and Kate’s wedding, although Harry’s long-anticipated ceremony will reportedly be a bit smaller.
Next: The massive guest list probably wouldn’t fit in this original wedding location.
8. The location tends to stay traditional
For over 200 years, royal weddings took place at the Chapel Royal at St. James Palace. The most notable weddings held at the traditional venue include those of Queen Anne in 1683, George III in 1761, George IV in 1795, Queen Victoria in 1840, and George V in 1893.
The chapel only seats 100 guests, so once the guest lists began growing longer, they were in need of a bigger space for royal weddings to come. In 1919, Princess Patricia of Connaught wed in Westminster Abbey — the first time it had been used as a ceremony location in 605 years. It then became the site for the weddings of King George V’s daughter in 1922, the queen’s parents in 1923, the queen’s wedding in 1947, and most recently, William and Kate’s wedding in 2011.
Though the church did confirm that Markle’s previous divorce wouldn’t have been an issue if she and Harry wanted to get married at Westminster Abbey, the two have opted for a smaller location: St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Next: Here’s where you can expect the royal family to sit.
9. The ceremonial seating arrangements
Expect to see the royal family sitting on the right side of the church for Harry and Markle’s wedding. Tradition rules that if the groom is royal, his family takes the right side. However, if the groom isn’t royal, they would then sit on the left.
Next: Men have a much stricter dress code than the women.
10. The dress code
Male guests, according to Bride, are expected to wear “military uniforms, morning dress (single-breasted coats with tails), or lounge suits (what we consider a business suit).” Harry will likely be following suit in wearing traditional military dress, which will honor his military service.
Females have much more freedom in their dress policy, but one accessory is required: a stylish hat.
Next: This sweet tradition is still carried on from the 19th century.
11. The royal bouquet tradition
When Queen Victoria carried myrtle in her bouquet at her wedding, we doubt she knew the tradition would be continued into the 21st century. Following her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, she planted a myrtle shrub, otherwise known as the herb of love, in her garden at the Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
Since then, the same shrub has provided a sprig of myrtle for every British royal bride on their wedding day. Though Markle may not be British herself, we’re hoping she carries on this sweet tradition.
Next: English brides walk down the aisle a bit differently.
12. Walking down the aisle
Royal weddings follow the traditional British order in which the bride walks down the aisle. According to Brides, “English brides lead the processional down the aisle, with her bridesmaids in tow unescorted by ushers, who stand at the front of the church with the groom.”
There is no set rule that a bride must walk down the aisle to a specific processional song, but a few popular royal choices include Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” “The Lord’s My Shepherd,” and “Widor’s Toccata” from Organ Symphony No. 5.
Next: Royals weddings begin early enough to enjoy brunch.
13. An afternoon affair
British weddings tend to take place in the afternoon, rather than in the evening. Noon is the most common time, and the ceremony is often followed up with a brunch called “wedding breakfast.”
William and Kate got their wedding started a little earlier at 11 a.m., but with all the festivities that followed, they clearly needed all that extra time. The queen hosted their buffet-style wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace, which 600 guests attended. The number of guests dwindled down as the day went on, with 300 close friends and family in tow for a dinner dance at the Palace.
Next: William wasn’t a fan of the fruitcake tradition.
14. Fruitcake is the traditional cake flavor
Fruitcake may be the traditional royal wedding choice of cake, but William’s love for chocolate couldn’t be waived. Instead of switching out the traditional choice for a chocolate flavor, William and Kate’s reception included two cakes: one multi-tiered fruitcake and a chocolate biscuit cake.
We’ll have to see what flavored cake Harry and Markle go with.
Next: Very few men actually wear a wedding band.
15. Royal men don’t usually wear wedding rings
Aristocratic men traditionally don’t wear wedding rings. William opted to follow tradition, as he’s claimed he isn’t keen on wearing jewelry. However, Charles did choose to wear a ring on his pinky finger during his marriage to Diana, so the choice is completely up to the groom.
Charles even wore his ring following his divorce and Diana’s death, up until his second wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles. He switched out for a new pinky ring to commemorate their marriage in 2005.
Considering Harry and Markle’s wedding is set to take place in spring 2018, it won’t be long until we see what rules they follow, and where they might decide to forge their own path.
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