Preparing for the big day - royal wedding traditions and etiquette

Thursday 08 March 2018

A huge amount of time and effort goes into planning a wedding. So spare a thought for Meghan Markle, who also has centuries of traditions and royal etiquette to learn before tying the knot with Prince Harry this spring.


A Royal Convert

Firstly, Meghan will be baptised and confirmed into the Church of England, in a private ceremony at Kensington Palace, in London. This is a mark of respect to the head of the church, Queen Elizabeth II. It is also a way for Meghan to publicly declare her religion.


Floral Homage

When Victoria, the Princess Royal, married in 1858 her bouquet contained myrtle from her mother Queen Victoria’s own garden. Since then every royal bride – including the Duchess of Cambridge has included a sprig from the exact same plant – which still grows in the grounds of Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, the former private home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. This as-yet-unbroken tradition suggests Meghan will do the same.


Golden Gifts

In 1923 The Queen Mother started another royal tradition by using rare Welsh gold. Tucked into the lush green landscape of the stunning Snowdonia National Park in Wales, is the Clogau St David mine, from which the finest quality gold was extracted and used to create her wedding band. Though the gold veins have since run dry Clogau, now a family-run jewellery company, has a small, carefully rationed supply. Queen Elizabeth II also has her own modest reserves, so we imagine there would be enough for at least two more bands.

Whether Prince Harry would wear his ring after the big day, however, would also remain to be seen, as it’s also traditional for upper-class men to eschew all jewellery – including wedding bands.


A Royal Feast

After the ceremony, Meghan and Prince Harry will treat their guests to a lavish feast, known as a ‘wedding breakfast’, regardless of the time of day it’s eaten. Queen Elizabeth II and The Queen Mother both opted for menus with a formal French influence, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose to champion locally grown cuisine.

If Meghan and Prince Harry follow suit, perhaps they'll also serve Jersey Royal potatoes and Hebridean langoustines. They could choose to serve flavoursome Gressingham duck, from family-run farms in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Otherwise, the Windsor Farm Shop conveniently sells beef, pork and lamb reared on the Royal Farms. Mimic the monarch by visiting the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, where the farm shop is also open to the public. Or trace the procession route Megan and Prince Harry will take on their wedding day, ending with the picturesque Long Walk and a visit to Windsor Castle.

To complete the fine-dining experience, Megan and Prince Harry may turn to iconic cheesemongers Paxton & Whitfield for a selection of British cheeses. Pick up a hamper from their original Jermyn Street store in London - opened in 1797 - and you could enjoy a picnic in one of the nearby Royal Parks, such as St James’ Park or Green Park, while live-streaming their televised wedding day. 


Playing By The Rules

In addition, Meghan will need to learn the rules surrounding a traditional Royal wedding. “As the newly-married couple begins to walk down the aisle at St George’s Chapel, in the grounds of Windsor Castle, they will pause so Prince Harry can bow and Meghan will curtsy in front of Her Majesty the Queen,” explained former royal butler and etiquette expert, Grant Harrold.

Normally, the bride and groom are first to eat at a wedding reception. However, royal etiquette insists nobody starts eating before Her Majesty the Queen. Similarly, when she finishes, everyone else stops eating too. “The Queen, being an excellent hostess, will, of course, make sure guests within her eyesight are finished before she stops eating,” added Mr Harrold.

With news that members of the public will also be invited to join the wedding celebrations, there may well be a rush of bookings at Mr Harrold’s Royal Etiquette workshop, where participants are taught appropriate protocols when interacting with royals, aristocrats and VIP families.  

We’re sure like all brides, Meghan will be radiant on the day, and fully immersed in royal traditions as she marries her prince. 

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VisitBritain Media Team

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Paxton & Whitfield exterior
Jersey Royals dug from ground
Exterior Clogau jeweller
Historical Clogau mine
Paxton&Whitfield interior
A view of Osborne House from the driveway