The nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are coming up on May 19 and we’ve gathered all the need-to-know facts about their big day—plus many more on the totally extravagant royal weddings that came first.
We’re kind of obsessed with the royals… what they wear, where they travel, whom they marry. And since Meghan Markle is basically one of us (which means she holds double the interest, if that’s possible), we’ll be springing out of bed early on May 19 to catch a glimpse of her dress and all the other pretty details of her wedding to Prince Harry. But until then, we’ll tide ourselves over with these fun facts from the biggest royal weddings since 1840—and we hope they sustain your curiosity just a little bit, too!
Queen Victoria: The trendsetter
1. Queen Victoria, who wore a white satin gown to marry Prince Albert in 1840, popularized the tradition of wearing a white wedding dress.
2. The couple’s two-tier wedding cake (which was a massive nine feet in diameter and weighed 300 pounds) was reportedly the first ever to be topped with figures of a bride and groom.
3. The royal bride carried myrtle in her bouquet, then planted a myrtle shrub in her garden at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight after the wedding festivities. Every royal bride since has carried a sprig of myrtle—a symbol of love—in her bridal bouquet.
All about that dress (and those jewels)
4. For her 1947 wedding ceremony to Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II had Norman Hartnell design and make a dress with fabric bought using ration stamps.
5. The day of her wedding, Elizabeth’s tiara snapped and a police escort had to rush the court jeweller to his workroom to repair the crown before the bride left for Westminster Abbey.
6. For her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles, Lady Diana’s dress had a 25-foot train—the longest ever worn by a royal bride.
7. There was so much curiosity surrounding Diana’s dress that the designers, Elizabeth and David Emanuel, threw out scraps of white fabric each night as decoys to mislead the press. The actual frock was ivory in colour.
8. Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge, wears Diana’s engagement ring—a 12-carat sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds set in white gold. Though the ring is an iconic piece of royal jewellery, it wasn’t custom made. Instead, it was picked out of a House of Garrard catalogue.
9. Elizabeth and Philip received 2,500 wedding presents and 10,000 telegrams wishing them heartfelt congratulations. Not too shabby!
10. Photos of Kate and William with their adorable black cocker spaniel, Lugo, have been posted all over the Internet. The pup was actually a wedding present from Kate’s brother, James Middleton.
The media frenzy
11. Royal weddings are huge affairs. Case in point: 200 million tuned in via radio to the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, while 750 million in 74 countries watched the marriage of Lady Diana and Prince Charles.
12. Since the reign of Queen Victoria, most royal weddings have featured a traditional fruitcake. “A fruitcake was originally a symbol of wealth and prosperity because of its precious ingredients such as dried fruits, alcohol and spices,” London pastry chef Chris Dodd told Vogue. “Furthermore, the cake, in a way, represented the vastness of the British empire, using ingredients from far-flung corners of the globe.”
13. William and Kate had two wedding cakes: a traditional eight-tier fruitcake covered in white fondant icing (that reportedly cost $80,000) and a non-traditional cake made from Prince William’s favorite chocolate biscuits.
Breaking with tradition
14. Diana was the first royal bride to omit “obey” from her wedding vows. Kate Middleton followed her mother-in-law’s lead, pledging to “love, honour, comfort and keep” her husband, and Meghan Markle will certainly do the same.
The Meg and Harry Way
15. Prince Harry and his American bride-to-be, Meghan Markle, will have a small wedding by royal standards. Approximately 600 guests will be in attendance, whereas Will and Kate wed in front of 1,900 guests and Elizabeth and Philip invited 2,000.
16. In lieu of gifts, Harry and Meghan have asked for donations to charities that are close to their hearts such as CHIVA (Children’s HIV Association), Crisis (a charity working to end homelessness) and The Wilderness Foundation UK (which aims to preserve nature and help youth experience the power of wild spaces).
17. The couple chose pastry chef and owner of Violet Bakery Claire Ptak to create their lemon, elderflower and buttercream wedding cake. Meghan once interviewed Ptak for her former lifestyle blog, The Tig.
18. Harry and Meghan are getting married on a Saturday (instead of the more traditional weekday), and it will not be a bank holiday as is usually the case for important royal weddings. Strangely, May 19 is the also the date that Ann Boleyn, wife of King Henry the 8th, was executed in 1536.
19. Meghan will become Her Royal Highness, Princess Henry of Wales, after the nuptials. Harry will also likely be given the title of Duke of Sussex, making Ms. Markle the Duchess of Sussex.