Thomas Markle Snr had been intending to travel from his Mexico home to the UK to meet his future son-in-law for the first time, as well as the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. But after disclosures about his alleged dealings with the paparazzi and reports he suffered a heart attack earlier this month, he has reportedly changed his plans.
Yet the wheels for the wedding are still in motion, with the couple promising a wedding focused on fun, joy and a chance to celebrate with the public.
The wedding is this weekend – Saturday, May 19 – at St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry was christened. It is said to have become a “very special place” for the couple in their relationship so far.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Office at Buckingham Palace is responsible for organising royal weddings, but the Prince and Ms Markle are leading the show. However, under the guidance of Harry’s private secretary, Edward Lane Fox, the Lord Chamberlain’s Office is dealing with the ceremonial aspects of the day.
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Invitations have been posted to 600 lucky guests, with a select 200 close friends invited to an after party at Frogmore House, in the grounds of Windsor Castle.
The couple do not have an official list of political leaders on the guest list, which means neither Prime Minister Theresa May or US President Donald Trump will be going, and former US President Barack Obama has also missed out.
Expect to see many members of the Royal family, Ms Markle’s family (apart from her father, Thomas Markle Snr), famous faces from the cast of Suits, conservationists, sportsmen and women and charity heads closest to the couple’s hearts.
Those invited include Dave Henson, the former Team GB captain at the Invictus Games, the head of a tiny overlooked Welsh charity and the Botswanan friends so discreet even they do not know which others in their set are going.
Some members of the public have received an invitation to wait in the grounds outside the chapel to watch the bride and groom and their wedding guests arrive and leave.
As well a dress code, the guest list also reportedly includes ‘critical guidance’for the big day.
The instructions ban cameras and bulky bags, adding that guests will be asked to “surrender mobile telephones and any devices used for image capture”. They further specify that guests should not wear medals, in a list of suggestions about accessories that includes: “No swords.”
The invitations were produced by Barnard & Westwood, which has held the “Royal Warrant for Printing & Bookbinding by Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen” since 1985.
Die-stamped in gold and then burnished, the invitation features The Three Feather Badge of The Prince of Wales. They also reveal that the dress code is Uniform, Morning Coat or Lounge Suit, or Day Dress with Hat.
Why is Thomas Markle Snr not coming?
Thomas Markle Snr is apparently not coming to the wedding after reports this weekend that he allegedly staged paparazzi photographs of himself in the run-up to the ceremony and has suffered a heart attack.
The Mail On Sunday newspaper reported the story at the weekend claiming the images were staged and published CCTV footage stills of the US actress’ father in the internet cafe with a photographer.
The pictures were published earlier this month in a number of newspapers and news websites showing Mr Markle in a series of royal wedding related activities, apparently unaware he was being snapped.
Mr Markle was pictured being measured for what was thought to be his wedding suit, looking at screen pictures of Ms Markle and Harry while in an internet cafe, and reading a picture book about Britain while having a coffee.
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Ms Markle’s half-sister Samantha Markle attempted to shoulder some of the blame when she earlier tweeted it was her idea for Mr Markle to pose for what she described as “positive photos” in a bid to combat his “bad” portrayal in the press, but stated it was not done for money.
The celebrity website TMZ first reported that Meghan’s father had pulled out of the wedding. The site stated that it had spoken to the US actress’ father, saying: “He’s now decided not to go because he doesn’t want to embarrass the Royal Family or his daughter.”
A Kensington Palace said it was a “deeply personal moment for Ms Markle in the days before her wedding” and called for “understand and respect” to be extended to Mr Markle. It would not comment further.
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The Duke of Cambridge will be Harry’s best man, missing the FA Cup final to be at his brother’s side.
The Duke, who has always been the front-runner for the supporting role at the May wedding, is “honoured” to have been asked, Kensington Palace said.
Prince George and Princess Charlotte look almost certain to be page boy and flower girl. The siblings already know the score – they performed those roles at the wedding of Pippa Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge’s younger sister, to James Matthews in May last year.
Kensington Palace has announced that Ms Markle will have no adult bridesmaids ‘because she’s unable to choose between her friends’, and will instead be surrounded by children as page boys, bridesmaids and flower girls.
Friends including Jessica Mulroney, Misha Noo Lindsay Roth, Benita Litt, Janina Gavankar and Priyanka Chopra are expected to be part of the congregation.
The dress – all bets are off
Bookmakers suspended betting on the designer of Ms Markle’s wedding dress in March when British couture company Ralph & Russo pulled ahead to become 1/3 favourites.
The label, helmed by Australians Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo (a couple in real life) have shot to prominence after a string of celebrity endorsements.
In 2014, Angelina Jolie wore the label to Buckingham Palace to receive an honorary damehood, in 2016 Gwyneth Paltrow to the Oscars. Add to that list of fans Beyonce, Rihanna and, finally, Meghan Markle herself, who chose a £56,000 embellished couture gown for the official photos taken to mark her engagement to Prince Harry.
Before betting was suspended, London-based designer Erdem was at 3/1.
Ms Markle’s stylist and close friend Ms Mulroney runs a bridal store in Toronto was said to have helped the bride choose her gown.
A very traditional ceremony
The couple will be make their vows at St George’s Chapel, which last hosted a royal wedding in May 2008 when Peter Phillips – son of The Princess Royal – married Autumn Kelly.
The traditional ceremony will be conducted by The Dean of Windsor, The Rt Revd. David Conner while the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will officiate as the couple make their marriage vows.
Pioneering American bishop, the Most Rev Bishop Michael Curry, from Chicago, Illinois, has been invited to deliver the address as the couple strive to reflect their transatlantic relationship amid the tradition of St George’s Chapel.
Bishop Curry, who has been praised for his “infectious laughter and self-deprecating humour”, is the first African-American bishop to have served as the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, a role he has held since November 2015.
The music will also have an American influence according to Christopher Warren-Green, who will conduct musicians on the day.
Miss Markle, who was a UN women’s advocate, is unlikely to opt to obey the prince. The couple will probably choose the Series One (1966) Book of Common Prayer ceremony, just as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge did, which allows the bride to drop “obey him” and “serve him” from the religious proceedings.
The regiments Prince Harry served with in Afghanistan will a have a “special place” during the ceremony.
The 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, where the prince served as an Apache Pilot in Helmand Province will be represented, as well as The Royal Gurkha Rifles, his comrades in Afghanistan in 2007, and RAF Honington, where he is Honorary Air Commandant.
Household Cavalry troopers will line the staircase at St George’s Chapel, while streets within the precincts of the castle will be lined by members of the Windsor Castle Guard from 1st Battalion Irish Guards, and by Armed Forces personnel from the Royal Navy Small Ships and Diving, which has the Prince as Commodore-in-Chief, and the Royal Marines, where he is Captain General.
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Don’t miss the procession
After the ceremony, among the first people to congratulate the couple will be some of the 2,640 charity workers, community champions and local school children who are being invited to watch the wedding from inside the walls of Windsor Castle.
Then at 1pm, the newlyweds will undertake a two mile tour of Windsor in an Ascot Landau carriage, greeting well-wishers, which is expected to take 25 minutes.
It’s the same carriage the prince used in the procession at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton,when he was surrounded by small bridesmaids and page boys.
The couple will leave Windsor Castle by carriage via Castle Hill, travelling along the High Street and through Windsor Town before returning along the Long Walk for the first reception at St George’s Hall.
Wedding at Windsor Castle
Not one, but two receptions
Following the carriage ride, the congregation will await the happy couple in St George’s Hall, for the first of two receptions.
The first, more formal afternoon reception for some 600 guests, will be hosted by the Queen. The 180-ft long room, traditionally used for state banquets, seats up to 162 people and was redesigned in a modern Gothic style – with walls lined with suits of armour – following the fire at the castle in 1992.
Fashionable ‘bowl food’ will be served at the standing-only reception. Made with seasonal ingredients grown on the Crown Estates, the food is intended to be eaten standing up, allowing guests to mingle freely in St George’s Hall.
The food is likely to be accompanied by champagne and wine from the extensive Royal cellars, and soft drinks.
The second evening reception, for 200 close friends and family, will be thrown at Frogmore House by the Prince of Wales. Standing about half a mile south of Windsor Castle in Windsor Home Park, Frogmore House has been a Royal Residence since 1792. It is where Harry and Ms Markle posed for their official engagement photos in November.
The location of the venue – away from the Castle – will offer the pair privacy as they celebrate with friends and family.
The couple have asked Claire Ptak, an east London pastry chef, to make an organic lemon and elderflower wedding cake incorporating “the bright flavours of spring”, according to Kensington Palace. It will be covered with buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers.
It is believed to be the first time a Royal couple have eschewed tradition by not serving a fruit cake to their wedding guests.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose Fiona Cairns to make their 2011 wedding cake, a traditional multi-layered fruit cake with a floral design.
The couple have chosen high society florist Philippa Craddock to design their day, using seasonal plants and flowers from the Crown Estates and Royal Parks chosen particularly for their pollinator-friendly properties.
Aisles, pews, tables and halls will be lined with plants from wildflower meadows, picked to “provide a great habitat for bees and help to nurture and sustain entire ecosystems by promoting a healthy and biodiverse environment”, Kensington Palace said.
Ms Craddock has been named “Queen of London florists” by British Vogue and “a floral mastermind” by Tatler.
Peonies are one of Ms Markle’s favourite flowers, so it is likely her floral bouquet will include these fragrant blooms, which are in season in May.
The prince will be putting pen to paper to write his speech for their reception. But Ms Markle, who is an accomplished public speaker, is expected to break with tradition and deliver her own as well, offering “affectionate” praise of her new husband, thanks to the Queen and a few suitable jokes.
The former actress, is “ready” to speak at the reception, should her father choose to avoid the limelight, the Sunday Times reported earlier this year.
Mr Markle, an award-winning Hollywood writing director who now lives a quiet life in Mexico, was expected to walk Ms Markle down the aisle before changing his plans to attend.
At the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, reception speeches included words from best man Prince Harry, the groom’s father the Prince of Wales and Michael Middleton, who affectionately described how he knew his daughter’s relationship was serious when her boyfriend landed a helicopter in his garden.
The new Duke and Duchess of Sussex?
Ms Markle will become an HRH and a senior royal after marrying Prince Harry. She is also expected to become a duchess, as Kate Middleton did when she became the Duchess of Cambridge after saying her vows in 2011.
By tradition, male members of the Royal family receive a title from the monarch on their wedding day, and the vacant title Duke of Sussex is regarded as the most likely choice for the Prince, meaning Ms Markle would become HRH The Duchess of Sussex.
Like Prince Harry, the previous Duke of Sussex lived at Kensington Palace, and he also married for love, rather than choosing brides who fitted the traditional royal mould.
Will there be a bank holiday?
The wedding is on a Saturday, so there will be no new bank holiday. Although the public were given a day off to celebrate the weddings of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer in 1981, Prince William to Catherine Middleton in 2011, and Princess Anne to Mark Phillips in 1973, no such national holidays were awarded for Prince Andrew or Prince Edward.
However, it’s not all bad news because pubs and bars will be allowed to do away with the usual curbs on opening hours on the wedding weekend.
Ministers have extended licensing hours across Britain to allow venues to remain open until 1am on Friday and Saturday – which is also the day of the FA Cup final.
There will also be lots of street parties planned across the UK.
Souvenirs and wedding china
The royal bride and groom-to-be have approved a range of commemorative china to celebrate their nuptials.
The exclusive design in white and cornflower blue has a monogram of the couple’s initials at its centre, tied together with white ribbons and surmounted by the coronet of Prince Harry. The decorative border of each piece is inspired by the ironwork of the 13th-century Gilebertus door of St George’s Chapel and each is finished with 22-carat gold.
The Royal Collection Trust range, which is made in Stoke-on-Trent, includes a decorative miniature coffee mug, coffee mug, pillbox, tankard and plate.
The Royal wedding souvenir phenomenon dates back to Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, linked to the rise of mass production in Victorian Britain. It remains a thriving industry today, with an estimated £222 million spent on memorabilia in the run-up to the 2011 royal wedding, according to the Centre for Retail Research.
And finally… the honeymoon
Prince Harry and Ms Markle will delay their honeymoon to go straight back to work in the week after their wedding, scheduling their first public engagement as a married couple just days later.
The couple will go on honeymoon privately later this year, before a “busy” autumn including a trip to Sydney for the Invictus Games. But where will they go?
Namibia has pulled ahead as the odds-on favourite. The southern African nation is best known among travellers for the enormous Sossusvlei sand dunes of the the Namib Desert, but reports suggest that the couple are looking instead at a safari trip to Hoanib Valley Camp in the country’s north west.
Botswana, where they holidayed in the early days of their whirlwind relationship, is also a good bet, (Ms Markle’s engagement ring features diamonds from Diana’s personal collection, and a stone from Botswana), but wherever they go, the newlyweds will be looking for seclusion away from the limelight as they start their married life together.
Other possible destinations could include Tuscany, Hawaii, Turkey and the Philippines.
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