When Harry weds Meghan: 9 things about the royal wedding

Souvenirs featuring Britain's Prince Harry and his fiance US actress Meghan Markle are pictured in a gift shop in Windsor, London, on April 1, 2018.
Souvenirs featuring Britain's Prince Harry and his fiance US actress Meghan Markle are pictured in a gift shop in Windsor, London, on April 1, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

Britain's Prince Harry is set to marry American actress Meghan Markle on Saturday (May 19) at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

The royal wedding, which comes seven years after Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton in 2011, has been followed closely by the media.

Here are nine things about the wedding.

1. They dated quietly before being forced to go public

Prince Charles on Nov 27 announced the engagement of his son Prince Harry, the younger of two sons with the late Princess Diana, to Markle.

The pair began dating in 2016, with Prince Harry, 33, forced to release a statement to stop the "wave of abuse and harassment" Markle, 36, was facing.

The prince proposed in London in early November, after receiving a blessing from Markle's parents.

The pair are set to live in Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace, a 20-minute drive from Buckingham Palace.

2. Harry designed the ring, with two stones from Princess Diana's collection


Britain's Prince Harry stands with his fiancée US actress Meghan Markle as she shows off her engagement ring at Kensington Palace in west London on Nov 27, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

The couple made a media appearance at Kensington Palace Gardens to pose for photos, with press cameras zooming in on the Suits actress' ring - a three-stone diamond ring Prince Harry designed.

The centre stone was from Botswana, a place special to them, while the stones flanking it were from his mother's personal collection.

When asked how he thought his mother would have reacted to the engagement, he said: "I think they'd be thick as thieves. She would be over the moon, jumping up and down, so excited for me... It's days like today when I really miss having her around and miss being able to share the happy news. With the ring, I'm sure she's with us, jumping up and down somewhere else."

3. What will the bride wear?

The Kensington Palace has been tight-lipped about who will be designing - or has already designed - Markle's wedding dress. 

Speculation in the media has been rifle, and photos of potential gown designs were even leaked to celebrity gossip news site TMZ in the early stages of the wedding planning. 

The photos, published by TMZ last December, showed three potential designs by Israeli designer Inbal Dror, who confirmed that she was contacted by the royal family about the possibility of dressing the American actress for her big day. 

While two of the sketches showed a body-hugging design with a mermaid tail, one featured an A-line silhouette. However, all three designs have one thing in common: long sleeves, which is a tradition for royal brides, reported TMZ. 

But there are also other designers Markle is likely to go with for her gown. According to observers, the other contenders  include Ralph & Russo, which dress she wore in her engagement photos with Prince Harry; Roland Mouret, a long-time friend of Markle; Burberry, whose company executives have reportedly been holding meetings to discuss a "high-profile" dress; and Alexander McQueen, who designed Kate Middleton's gown.

Regardless of what she wears on May 19, the dress ultimately has to be approved by the Queen, who must give her consent "on the gown's suitability for a royal wedding", according to the fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar. 

4. Markle's estranged half-brother wrote to Harry asking him to call off the wedding


People browsing through a selection of royal wedding merchandise at Ye Olde Kings Head gift shop in Santa Monica, California, on May 14, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

Markle's estranged half-brother Thomas Markle Jr. wrote a letter by hand to Prince Harry, appealing to him to call it off.

In a letter dated April 26, he wrote that marrying his sister would be the "biggest mistake in royal wedding history".

"I'm confused why you don't see the real Meghan that the whole world now sees," wrote Thomas. "Meghan's attempt to act the part of a princess like a below C average Hollywood actress is getting old."

He also called his sister a "jaded, shallow, conceited woman" and criticised her for not inviting her family to the royal wedding on May 19.

"Her own father didn't get an invite, who should be walking down the aisle," said Thomas.

He added that it was his father who helped to pay off the American actress' old debt, and that he will never recover financially nor emotionally.

5. Markle's father will not attend wedding, after causing confusion

Markle's father Thomas, 73, was due to walk his daughter down the aisle in front of 600 guests including all the senior Britain's royals and smattering of celebrities, despite claims from her half-brother that she had snubbed her family.

However, the TMZ website reported on Monday (May 14) that he had decided not to attend the glittering wedding. He told TMZ he did not want to embarrass his daughter or the royal family after reports he had staged pictures with a paparazzi photographer for a fee. He also said he had suffered a heart attack a week ago.

The bride-to-be's parents are divorced and while Prince Harry has been pictured with her mother Doria Ragland, 61, there had been speculation about how Mr Markle, a former lighting director for TV soaps and sitcoms, would feature.

However, Prince Harry's communications secretary had told reporters last week Mr Markle would have an important role and would give away his daughter on the couple's big day. He had also been expected to meet the queen, her husband and the other senior members of the Windsor family this week.

The debacle was finally put to rest on Thursday (May 17), after the bride released a definitive statement saying her father will not be attending the wedding. 

In it, she said she hopes her father will be given the privacy he needs to "focus on his health" instead. 

British newspapers have previously suggested that in the event that her father does not attend the wedding, Markle's mother, with whom she is spending the night before the ceremony at a nearby luxury hotel, would walk her daughter down the aisle.

However, in a statement on Friday, Kensington Palace said Prince Charles would walk Markle down the aisle instead, on her request.

6. Who's invited and who's not?


People walking up to Windsor Castle in London on May 8, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

On March 2, Kensington Palace announced that 2,640 people would be invited to the grounds of Windsor Castle to watch the royal couple arrive on their wedding day.

The group includes 1,200 members of the public, 200 people from the pair's charities, 100 students, 610 Windsor Castle community members and 530 members of the royal households and crown estate.

Key figures gracing the wedding include the groom's grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, 92, who has reigned since 1952.

Her husband Prince Philip, 96, may not be at the wedding, as he is still recovering from hip surgery.

Prince William, 35, will be his brother's best man, and the pair's father Prince Charles, 69, will also attend.

He will be there with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry's stepmother, 70.

The Anglican Communion's most senior bishop, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will officiate the wedding vows.

Markle's half-brother and half-sister Thomas and Samantha are not invited.

7. Media access to the wedding severely curtailed


A television reporter British newspapers opposite the Henry VII Gate of Windsor Castle in Windsor, west London, on May 15, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

Kensington Palace has announced that there will be limited media access to the wedding ceremony.

One reporter will be allowed into St George's Chapel for the wedding, a palace spokesman said earlier this month.

Four photojournalists will get spots outside the chapel, while others will be stationed along the carriage route and on the castle grounds.

Mr Arthur Edwards, a photographer for The Sun who has spent four decades tagging along after members of Britain's royal family, told The New York Times that he assumed the decision was Prince Harry's.

"I can't imagine the press officer advising that to the prince," said the 77-year-old. "He and Meghan have seen what's been written and said, 'We don't want anyone near the wedding.' That's a clear message."

Prince Harry's wedding seems to mark a turning point, as a younger generation with a bone-deep mistrust of the news media takes centre stage, NYTimes reported.

Prince Harry and his brother, Prince William, were 12 and 15 when their mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car crash, as her driver careened through a Paris tunnel trying to escape paparazzi on motorcycles.

Prince Harry, in particular, has made no secret of his loathing for those photographers, who he said in an interview last year, "instead of helping, were taking photographs of her dying on the backseat".

8. The wedding has spawned some... creative ways of celebrating the affair


A box of Royal Wedding-themed condoms photographed in London on May 10, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

Businesses are cashing in on the royal wedding, with some pretty creative spins.

British Airways, for example, will have a special flight celebrating the wedding by flying to Canada with crew members who are all named either Harry, Meghan or Megan.

BA also said any passengers with those names will be allowed to use its first-class lounge on the wedding day.

In Los Angeles, where Markle was born and raised, plates, mugs and anything emblazoned with pictures of the royal couple are flying off the shelves.

The Royal Mint has unveiled a special coin, while Crown Jewels of London is selling "royal wedding souvenir condoms", presented in a box playing "an exclusive musical arrangement of God Save the Queen and The Star Spangled Banner".

There has even been a TV movie made called Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance, by American cable channel Lifetime, which The Guardian called "a brain-numbing charmer best consumed in a group, or guiltily alone".

British retailer Marks & Spencer announced a day before the wedding that it would be rebranded as "Markle and Sparkle" for the weekend in celebration of the occasion.

9. Two-thirds of Britons surveyed don't care much about the wedding


Royal wedding merchandise is displayed at a store in Windsor, London, on May 14, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

A YouGov poll commissioned by anti-monarchist pressure group Republic found that 66 per cent of Britons are not interested in the event, with 60 per cent of Britons planning to have a normal weekend.

The poll by polling firm YouGov showed that 57 per cent of respondents believed the royal family should pay not only for the wedding, but also for the costs of police.

An opinion poll published last week showed that most Britons are in favour of the monarchy continuing in Britain.

Another poll by polling firm ComRes found 58 per cent of respondents thought the royal wedding and the recent birth of Prince Louis to Prince William and his wife Kate were events of which Britain could be proud, although support was more pronounced among older people.

SOURCES: AFP, NYTimes, Reuters