After the announcement that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are engaged, speculation is already mounting as to what the wedding will look like. Here, we round up what could be in store.
Permission to Marry
Before he officially proposed, the prince first had to receive permission from the Queen. According to the Successions to the Crown Act, the first six in line to the throne need the monarch's authorisation (Harry is currently fifth in line). It is also widely believed that a special license from the Archbishop of Canterbury would be needed, given the fact Markle was previously married to film and TV producer Trevor Engelson.
In 2005, the Queen granted her son Prince Charles permission to marry Camilla Parker Bowles, despite the fact that Camilla had been divorced and was also Charles' mistress. Today, it was less of a worry for Markle, which is welcome news to those who recall Princess Margaret's heartbreaking decision in 1955, when she broke off her relationship with the divorced Captain Peter Townsend in the name of duty.
There has been some question as to whether or not Harry would be allowed to marry divorcée Markle in Westminster Abbey, the venue for his brother Prince William's 2011 ceremony. However, a spokesman for the Abbey recently confirmed that their marriage could take place in one of the world's most famous churches thanks to a recent ruling by the Church of England. "The Abbey follows the General Synod Ruling of 2002," the spokesperson said. "Since then it has been possible for divorced people to be married in the Church of England."
The spokesman also confirmed that the fact that Markle's father is Jewish would not in any way prevent her marrying there. (Although a royal is free to marry someone of the Jewish, Buddhist, or Muslim faith, it was outlawed for a royal to marry a Catholic and still "keep their right to the throne" until a change was made in 2015.)
While the prince might be welcome to hold his nuptials at the Abbey, he could also follow in his father's footsteps. When Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005, they had a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall. This was said to be a way of avoiding controversy about the future head of the Church of England marrying divorced person, and according to one royal expert, Harry could do the same.
"Meghan is, after all, a divorcée, so it would probably be a registry office ceremony with a church blessing afterwards," royal biographer Penny Junor told Town & Country. "If it was to be in the U.K., then I would guess that all senior members of the royal family would be there, but I don't think the Queen would go to the registry office."
It's worth noting that the Queen did not attend her eldest son's civil ceremony. Instead, she attended the later service of dedication conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and hosted a wedding reception for hundreds of guests at Windsor Castle.
It's likely that Harry and Meghan will have their choice of royal venues in which to party, but we shouldn't expect their nuptials to be a repeat of what we've recently seen from the royal family.
After their Westminster Abbey ceremony, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge greeted the thousands of well-wishers who waited to see catch a glimpse of the carriage procession back to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen hosted a lunch for 650 guests. They later enjoyed an evening reception for their most trusted friends and family inside the Palace. And while Pippa didn't celebrate in a royal location, her wedding celebration in the grounds of her parents' Berkshire home was reported to have cost around £240,000.
From castles to palaces, Harry and Markle will have a number of options to choose from. The wedding could even be abroad. "Will it even be in the U.K.?" Junor asks. "My guess is it would be way less extravagant than Pippa Middleton's and much lower-key than William and Kate's wedding."
With around 1,900 guests invited to the Westminster Abbey service and a global television audience estimated at two billion people, Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding was a major production. Yet history shows that the weddings of second siblings in the royal family aren't always understated either.
Both Princess Anne, the Queen's second child, and her younger brother Prince Andrew got married in Westminster Abbey. Anne's marriage to Mark Phillips in 1973 was declared a public holiday and both occasions attracted a global television audience of an estimated 500 million. The royals also followed the tradition of having a carriage procession after the ceremony, which is a chance for the newlyweds to wave to the crowds before they appear on the balcony at Buckingham Palace for the moment everyone is waiting for—the first public kiss.
But could Harry follow Prince Edward's example of a more private wedding day? Edward was the only one of Charles' siblings not to follow the pattern of previous royal weddings when he married Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999. The couple chose to have the ceremony at St. George's Chapel in Windsor and according to the BBC, their reception St. George's Hall was primarily for family and friends.
Whether Harry and Meghan follow the tradition of a grand royal wedding or not, one thing is for sure, it will be the society event of the year.