Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding is just two days away and the whole of Britain, if not the rest of the world, has gone into royal wedding overdrive.
The exact details of the wedding have been a source of considerable speculation since the couple announced their engagement last November, from the cake, photographer and venue to whether British workers will get a day off.
However, the last week has been dominated by reports that Meghan's father, Thomas, might pull out of the ceremony.
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Today the soon-to-be Duchess of Sussex released a statement confirming that her father would not be coming to the wedding to walk her down the aisle.
The father of the bride, who was due to fly to England and meet the Queen for the first time, has been caught up in controversy after staging photos with the paparazzi, and on Wednesday was reported to have undergone surgery after a heart attack.
With closure over his attendance, attention can finally turn back to Saturday’s celebrations.
Here is The Week’s comprehensive guide to the royal wedding:
When is the royal wedding 2018?
Harry and Meghan decided to set the date for 19 May, apparently so as not to clash with the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s third child, who was born on 23 April.
Kensington Palace confirmed the date in a tweet.
Where will it take place?
Prince Harry’s communications secretary, Jason Knauf, said Windsor was a “very special place” for the couple, because they had spent time there together during their 16-month romance.
Who will walk Meghan down the aisle?
Prince Charles will accompany Meghan Markle part of the way down the aisle at her wedding to Prince Harry on Saturday, but she will make her entrance at St George’s Chapel alone.
The Prince of Wales will be stationed at the rear of the Quire, the frontmost part of the historic church, and will then escort his future daughter-in-law from this halfway point, drawing back as she reaches the altar at which she and Harry will exchange vows.
Markle is said to have come up with the idea herself, after her father’s sudden decision to withdraw from the wedding threw Kensington Palace’s meticulous plans into uproar.
Following days of conflicting reports, on Thursday it was confirmed that the actor’s father, Thomas Markle, would not be walking her down the aisle.
The retired TV lighting director had initially said he would be at Markle’s side on Saturday, but pulled out earlier this week, citing scheduled heart surgery.
The change of plan followed reports that he had teamed up with paparazzi to stage photos of his preparations for the wedding.
There was then speculation that her mother, Doria Ragland - who met the Queen for the first time today - would give her daughter away instead, before Prince Charles’ role was confirmed today.
Markle's unprecedented decision to walk most of the aisle without a chaperone is a “striking feminist statement” by the 36-year-old American, says CNN. Even before her father’s abrupt withdrawal from the ceremony, Markle had apparently planned to enter the chapel accompanied only by her young bridesmaids and pageboys.
Who will design Meghan’s wedding dress?
Exact details of the dress remain a tightly guarded secret, although a number of sources have confirmed that Meghan has chosen her designer for the gown.
“She will have two dresses, one for the ceremony and another dress for the evening,” a source shared with Vanity Fair. “Meghan can’t wait to surprise everyone, especially Harry. The wedding dress itself will be traditional and elegant.”
The source added: “There is talk of some lace and sleeves and Meghan has been working very closely with the designer who has been sworn to secrecy.”
Who will be the best man and bridesmaids?
Harry’s brother Prince William is to be best man at the wedding.
“The Duke of Cambridge is honoured to have been asked and is very much looking forward to supporting his brother,” Kensington Palace said in a statement this week.
Prince Harry served as best man to William at his wedding in 2011.
There has been no announcement about who Meghan has chosen as her bridesmaids.
How many guests are invited and who is on the list?
In addition to family, friends and dignitaries from around the world, 2,640 members of the public are to get access to the castle grounds for the wedding, the BBC reports.
The guest list will be made up of 1,200 members of the public, chosen for their services to the community, 200 people from charities and associations connected to the couple, as well as pupils from two local schools, 610 Windsor locals and 530 royal staff.
How are Meghan and Prince Harry preparing for the wedding?
The couple have been out and about at events and ceremonies since their engagement, preparing Meghan for life in the public eye.
However, a number of questions have been raised over the prospect of Meghan, an American, becoming a UK citizen after marriage, and the logistics that entails.
Harry confirmed in a statement that Meghan “intends to become a UK citizen and will go through the process of that, which some of you may know takes a number of years”, and Meghan says she will be “compliant with immigration requirements at all times”.
LBC reports that the bride-to-be “will be treated like anyone else” applying for citizenship, including needing a family visa and ensuring she meets a range of “suitability” criteria, paying £1,464. She will need to renew that family visa, at a cost of just over £1,000 per renewal, before being eligible for citizenship after five years, the application for which costs a further £1,282.
What will the wedding cake look like?
American pastry chef Claire Ptak, who runs Violet Cakes in Hackney, east London, will make the couple’s lemon and elderflower wedding cake.
The couple asked Ptak to incorporate the “bright flavours of spring” to the cake, Sky News says.
Ptak said: “I can’t tell you how delighted I am to be chosen to make Prince Harry and Ms Markle’s wedding cake. Knowing that they really share the same values as I do about food provenance, sustainability, seasonality and most importantly flavour, makes this the most exciting event to be a part of.”
What kinds of flowers will they have?
The couple have chosen white garden roses, peonies and foxgloves for their wedding day, the BBC reports.
London-based florist Philippa Craddock will create the floral displays for the chapel, Kensington Palace said, which will be created using locally sourced foliage, including from the gardens of the Crown Estate and Windsor Great Park.
Meghan said on her now-deleted Instagram account that peonies make her “endlessly happy”.
Who is the wedding photographer?
English photographer Alexi Lubomirski has been chosen as the official photographer for the royal wedding.
The appointment was announced in early April after the well-known fashion and portrait photographer took Harry and Meghan’s engagement pictures at Frogmore House at Windsor in November.
In response, the photographer said he “could not be more thrilled and honoured” to be a part of the big day.
By contrast the invitation list for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011 included foreign royals and politicians from home and abroad, the BBC reports.
Prince Harry and Markle have instead chosen to invite more than 1,000 members of the public to the grounds of Windsor Castle to witness the wedding procession and enjoy a celebratory picnic.
They include Amelia Thompson, 12-year-old schoolgirl who was caught up in the Manchester Arena suicide bombing last year and Pamela Anomneze, a mental health support worker from London.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle set wedding date
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have set the date of their wedding for 19 May.
Kensington Palace confirmed the news in a tweet today.
The couple confirmed their engagement last month and said the ceremony would take place in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.
The Royal Family “will pay for the wedding, including the service, music, flowers and reception”, says the BBC. Markle will be baptised into the Church of England and confirmed before she marries.
The 36-year-old American actor will spend Christmas at Sandringham with the Royal Family, and will live with Harry at his two-bedroom Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace once they are wed. Markle has already moved out of her Toronto home, which she has rented for the past six years while filming the hit legal TV drama Suits.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to marry at Windsor Castle in May
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry in May at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace said in a statement today.
The BBC says that the Royal Family will pay for the wedding, “including the service, music, flowers and the reception”, and that Markle, who is a Protestant, “will be baptised and confirmed before the wedding”.
The American actor, best known for her role in US legal drama Suits, also intends to become a British citizen.
The couple want a “fun” wedding, The Daily Telegraph reports, “to make the public feel involved in a ceremony that is likely to be televised”.
Prince Harry’s communications secretary Jason Knauf said Windsor was a “very special place” for the couple, because they had spent time there together during their 16-month romance.
The month of May was chosen in order to avoid a clash with the birth of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s third child, due in April.
Prince Harry and his fiancee will carry out their first official joint public engagement together in Nottingham on Friday.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to marry
Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle today announced they are getting married and that the wedding will take place in spring.
“His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle,” Clarence House said in a statement.
“His Royal Highness and Ms Markle became engaged in London earlier this month. Prince Harry has also sought and received the blessing of Ms Markle’s parents.”
The couple will live in Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace.
Prince Harry tweeted his thanks to well-wishers around the world, providing one of the first photos of the engaged couple.
The photos were part of a series taken in the pair’s first appearance as an engaged couple this afternoon in the Sunken Gardens of Kensington Palace.
Only the Queen and “other close members of his family” initially knew of the engagement, which took place in London, says the BBC.
The news of another royal wedding on the horizon was greeted with predicatable excitement on Twitter:
And a bit of sadness as women across the world finally laid to rest their dream of becoming a princess:
Prince Harry - fifth in line to the throne - has been dating the 36-year-old star, who found fame in the US legal drama Suits, since the summer of 2016.
Their relationship began when they met through mutual friends in London, and the “pair have been particularly close in recent months, with Markle reported to be staying regularly at the Prince’s home at Kensington Palace”, says The Independent.
Markle spoke publicly about her relationship with 33-year-old Harry for the first time in September, telling Vanity Fair magazine they were “really happy and in love”. The pair have attracted a huge amount of media attention - leading Kensington Palace to take the unusual step last year of asking reporters and photographers to leave them alone.
Markle has her own lifestyle website and brand and is also a keen calligrapher, but perhaps her most intriguing former role was on the US version of Deal or No Deal.
In a statement, Markle’s parents said they were “incredibly happy” about the couple’s engagement, adding: “We wish them a lifetime of happiness.”
“Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person,” they said. “To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents.
“We wish them a lifetime of happiness and are very excited for their future together.”
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh “are delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness”, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said.
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