As Meghan Markle and Prince Harry prepare to tie the knot, we preview the ceremony, the dress, the celeb guests, and more

On May 19, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will throw caution to superstition and exchange vows at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where Harry was christened in 1984. In the 1800s, Queen Victoria banned May weddings for her children, saying the month was bad luck, but these two lovebirds have clearly overcome enough hurdles in their lives to make this their lucky day.

Princess Di© PA/Wire/PA Photos/Keystone PressWhile theirs seems like a fairy tale, this story has its roots in tragedy. Who can forget the little boy who lost his mother, Princess Diana, at a young age, then rebelled against his heritage as the “Party Prince” until the military finally gave him purpose.

“There have been very dark moments for Harry,” says Nick Bullen, producer of the documentary Meghan Markle: An American Princess. “The first part of his life was played out against the backdrop of his parents’ marriage falling apart, and then the boy goes, unsurprisingly, slightly off the rails until he finds solace in the army. By Kate and William’s wedding, he’s this handsome, war-hero prince.”

After much speculation about who Harry would marry, he found his soulmate in the 36-year-old Californian actress, best known for her recently wrapped seven-year stint on American TV show Suits. They tripped into each other’s lives, set up by a mutual friend, and spent months out of the limelight getting to know each other, bonding over their shared passion for philanthropy. Since their relationship became public, Markle has handled the media scrutiny with grace. “What you get when she arrives is, ‘This girl is going to revolutionize the Royal Family.’ She’s incredibly beautiful and she’s incredibly media-savvy. She’s lived much of her life in that showbiz world, and so she knows how to operate in front of the cameras,” says Bullen. “But the level of fame she is going to reach over the next few years is way beyond anything she can imagine. Can Harry protect her? His mother, he couldn’t protect. I think now the story for him is protecting Meghan as he moves forward.”meghan and harry© PA/Wire/PA Photos/Keystone PressMeghan Markle and Prince Harry make for an unlikely couple—a big part of their charm.

Life will no doubt be an adjustment for Harry’s bride-to-be, who is giving up her acting career to become the Duchess of Sussex. “There is still, for all of the talk about revolutionizing the Royal Family, a level of expectation of how royal wives operate, and I just don’t think the establishment is ready for [a working actress],” says Bullen. “But you know what? I may be wrong. It may be that she can find the balance for the two. She and Harry talked about changing the world together, didn’t they? So maybe she sees a whole new stage for her to play on.”

 

ANATOMY OF A ROYAL WEDDING

The Invitations

Invitations have been mailed to 600 lucky guests, with another select 200 invited to the after party at Frogmore House. The invitations were produced by Barnard & Westwood, die-stamped in gold and then burnished, the edges bevelled and gilded. They feature the Three Feather Badge of the Prince of Wales and reveal the dress code as Uniform, Morning Coat or Lounge Suit, or Day Dress With Hat.

The Cake

One of few confirmed wedding details is that the couple is breaking tradition when it comes to the conventional fruitcake, usually chosen because it lasts long enough to be enjoyed at the christening of the couple’s first child. Instead, Meghan and Harry have asked California-raised pastry chef Claire Ptak, owner of London-based Violet Bakery, to create a lemon elderflower cake that will be covered with buttercream and decorated with fresh, bright flowers of spring.

the dressThe Canadian PressMeghan has her pick of several world-renowned bridal designers.

The Dress

By tradition, until the bride steps out of her vehicle, no one (except a small group of people who have signed ironclad non-disclosure agreements) will know what she is wearing. That does not mean there isn’t plenty of speculation. After Meghan chose to wear their dress in her engagement portraits, Australian designer duo Ralph & Russo is a strong candidate. She also has a longstanding relationship with London-based Erdem, who counts both Kate and Pippa Middleton among his fans. But Kate has also had a soft spot for Brit Jenny Packham, who is more than qualified for the job. And of course, the Duchess of Cambridge wore Alexander McQueen to her own nuptials, which is not a fashion house that is out of the running—unless Meghan wants to make her own mark. If she really seeks to stand out, the dress could be made closer to home, even possibly by her close friend and designer Misha Nonoo, whose “Husband shirt” Meghan made a bestseller after her appearance at the Invictus Games.

The Officiant

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been tasked with officiating the ceremony between Harry and Meghan. Welby, who recently revealed he is most nervous about dropping the ring and messing up the order of the vows, was also the one responsible for baptizing Meghan into the Church of England in March.royal wedding venueNBC/REX/ShutterstockHarry and Meghan will be married in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, U.K.

The Flowers

The couple has chosen Philippa Craddock to design the church flowers for both the ceremony at St. George’s Chapel and the following luncheon hosted by Queen Elizabeth. Craddock is said to be using foliage from the gardens and parklands of the Crown Estate and Windsor Great Park, which includes birch, beech and hornbeam, according to the palace. The arrangements will also pay a sweet tribute to Prince Harry’s late mother, by utilizing white garden roses, which were Princess Diana’s favourite flower.

The Photographer

Alexi Lubomirski, who took the couple’s engagement photos last year, has been chosen as the official photographer of the big event. The fashion photographer, who got his start working under Mario Testino, is the Prince of the Polish House of Lubomirski but spent much of his childhood in Botswana, the country where the couple celebrated Meghan’s 36th birthday and Harry sourced the diamond for her engagement ring. Guess they have lots to talk about while snapping away!

The Guest List

With Harry not being in direct line of succession to the throne, the more intimate wedding than his brother’s will not include political leaders. Do not expect to see U.S. President Donald Trump nor the Obamas in the pews of St. George’s. Not even British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to attend. Instead, the guest list will be restricted to those who have a direct relationship with the couple, which could well include bold-faced names like Elton John, who cancelled two Vegas concerts originally slated for the weekend of the wedding, tennis star Serena Williams, actress Priyanka Chopra and Meghan’s former Suits co-stars Patrick J. Adams, Sarah Rafferty and Gabriel Macht. But the most eyebrow-raising guests are rumoured to be Harry’s ex-girlfriends Ellie Goulding, Cressida Bonas and Chelsy Davy. Who doesn’t love a little wedding-day drama?

The Walk Down the Aisle

After nailing their performance at auntie Pippa Middleton’s wedding last year, Prince George and Princess Charlotte will almost certainly be page boy and flower girl at Harry and Meghan’s wedding as well. The greater debate has been who will walk Meghan down the aisle. Initial reports indicated that rather than dad Tom Markle, who has tended to shy away from the spotlight, the former actress would have her mother, Doria Ragland, walk her down the aisle. But not long before we went to press, it was announced that Tom Markle will indeed be by his daughter’s side for the big walk, with Ms. Ragland accompanying Meghan on the car ride to the chapel.

the royal familyThe Canadian PressThe Royal Family will once again gather to welcome a new Royal into the ranks.

The Reception

Foo Fighters! Spice Girls! Ed Sheeran! Who will have the honour of performing for the 200 guests that night? Mel B seemed to confirm some kind of Spice Girls reunion while appearing on U.S. talk show The Real this spring but has kept mum since. Sheeran told press he hadn’t been asked yet, but would not decline the invite, and the Foo Fighters have been dropping hints that they’re available to accompany the tiramisu with some tunes. With both Ellie Goulding and Elton John among the rumoured guests, and Goulding performing Elton John’s “This Is Your Song” for William and Kate at their wedding in 2011, maybe it’s finally time for a duet?

The Speeches

According to Britain’s Sunday Times, Meghan plans to make a toast at the reception. While it is customary for the bride’s father to make a speech, the paper suggests that Tom Markle will likely not be manning the mic, and his daughter may fill that gap and thank those who have supported the couple.

harry and williamThe Canadian PressThe Best Man and Maid of Honour

As expected, Harry locked in his brother William for the role of best man, but Meghan’s maid of honour has remained quite the mystery for royalists. Would it be What Pretty Girls Are Made of author Lindsay Roth—her best friend from their days at Northwestern University—for whom Meghan served as bridesmaid last August? Or perhaps her stylist and close pal Jessica Mulroney? As it turns out, neither, as the palace has announced Meghan does not wish to single out any one of the “close-knit group of friends” who have been helping her with the wedding.


The Gifts

Not unlike other Royals, Harry and Meghan are forgoing the wedding registry, asking that the guests instead donate to charities close to their hearts: Children’s HIV Association; Crisis, which is England’s national charity helping homeless people rebuild their lives; Myna Mahila, which helps women in Mumbai slums grow personally and professionally. The couple also picked Scotty’s Little Soldiers, which helps children who have lost a parent that served in the British Armed Forces; StreetGames, which uses sports to help people make lifelong changes; Surfers Against Sewage, a national marine conservation group and The Wilderness Foundation, which helps vulnerable teenagers via outdoor activities.

royal wedding chinaThe Canadian PressLegally Ever After

The couple in love are reportedly not signing a prenup, but the decision isn’t made purely in the name of romance. A prenuptial agreement is unusual in royal circles and to a degree unnecessary since most assets belong to the Queen. Although we will forever know her as Meghan Markle, she will likely take the name Mountbatten-Windsor to reflect the descendants of the Queen and Prince Philip. The Queen is also expected to bestow Harry a dukedom on his wedding day, making Harry and Meghan Duke and Duchess, likely of Sussex.

When to watch the Royal Wedding: Saturday, May 19th

  • 1 a.m., CBC, CNN & News Network
  • 1:15 a.m., WTVS
  • 1:30 a.m., CTV
  • 1:35 a.m., NBC
  • 1:38 a.m., CBS
  • 2 a.m., ABC; 2:30 a.m., Global