11 Meaningful Royal Wedding Traditions (And Their Symbolism) To Watch For When Prince Harry Marries Meghan Markle On May 19

Photo: Chatelaine
British Royal Wedding Traditions And Symbolism To Watch For When Prince Harry Marries Meghan Markle On May 19

Keep this handy as you watch along!

The Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will take place at noon on Saturday, May 19, 2018 in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. 

Their marriage will be the 76th wedding among members of the United Kingdom's Royal Family in recorded history, and anyone watching in person or on televised or streaming broadcasts is sure to witness a fair share of deeply rooted British symbolism and traditions, whether they are aware of what's happening in front of them or not.


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The full Order of Service will be published on the Royal Family's website on Saturday morning, just prior to the wedding itself.

In the meantime, or in lieu of, here are full details about 11 significant Royal wedding traditions and their symbolism you can expect to see when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get married. 

1. The Instrument of Consent

While Queen Elizabeth II gave her official consent for the marriage on March 14, an image of the signed Instrument of Consent was released on the Royal Family's Instagram account with the following statement on May 13.

"Bearing The Queen's signature, the Instrument of Consent records Her Majesty's consent to the Marriage of Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle. The design to the left of the text incorporates a red dragon, the heraldic symbol of Wales, together with the UK's floral emblems — the rose, thistle & shamrock. It also features Prince Harry’s Label, including three tiny red escallops from the Spencer family Arms. To the right of the text is another rose, the national flower of the USA, and golden poppies — the state flower of California, where Ms Markle was born. Below the Welsh leek & Prince Harry's Label are olive branches, adopted from the Great Seal of the United States. The Instrument of Consent is sealed with the Great Seal of the Realm, which is attached to the foot of the document by woven cords sealed within the Great Seal itself."


2. St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle

Construction on St. George's chapel began in 1475 by Edward IV and was completed by Henry VIII in 1528.

It is one of the few remaining chapels known as a Royal Peculiar, "a Church of England parish or church exempt from the jurisdiction of the diocese and the archdiocese in which it lies and subject to the direct jurisdiction of the monarch."

This means the Most Revd. and Rt Hon. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury will officiate only with the permission of the Rt Revd. David Conner, the Dean of Windsor, who will be there as well.

Additionally, the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, will give the day's address (i.e., sermon). Based in Chicago, "Curry is the first African-American to have served as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, an offshoot of the Church of England in the United States [and] part of the worldwide Anglican Communion."

This will be the sixteenth Royal wedding held at Windsor, following in the footsteps of these:

  • The Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863
  • Princess Helena and Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein in 1866
  • Princess Louise and The Marquess of Lorne in 1871
  • Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia in 1879
  • Princess Frederica of Hanover and Luitbert, Von Pawel Rammingen in 1880
  • Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany and Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont in 1882
  • Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein and Prince Aribert of Anhalt in 1891
  • Princess Alice Mary of Albany and Prince Alexander of Teck in 1904
  • Princess Margaret of Connaught and Prince Gustaf Adolph of Sweden in 1905
  • Lady Helena Cambridge and Major John Gibbs in 1919
  • Anne Abel Smith and David Liddell-Grainger in 1957
  • Lady Helen Windsor and Timothy Taylor in 1992
  • Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999
  • The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (Prince Charles and Camilla) in 2005
  • Peter Philips and Autumn Kelly in 2008


3. The Order of the Garter

St. George's Chapel has additional significance as the "spiritual home" and/or "mother church" of the Order of the Garter.

Formerly known as the Most Noble Order of the Garter, it is "an order of chivalry founded by Edward III in 1348 and regarded as the most prestigious British order of chivalry ... Appointments are made at the Sovereign's sole discretion. Membership of the Order is limited to the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than 24 living members, or Companions."

In addition, "the Order can also include certain extra members (members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs), known as Supernumerary Knights and Ladies."

Prince William has been included in that category since 2008, while Prince Harry is not (yet) a member.


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4. Horses and carriages

It is expected that both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will arrive at the chapel by car, later departing via horse-drawn carriage.

If the weather is fair, one of the five carriages kept by the Royal Mews and known as an Ascot Landau will be used.

The Crown Equerry, Col. Toby Browne "describes the Ascot Landau as a 'wonderfully bright, small, lovely carriage, very easy for people to see — the passengers can sit up quite high. So there's lots of visibility for everybody.'"

If it is raining, the Scottish Stage Coach will be used.

Coachman Natalie Ozanne "describes the Coach as 'a big favourite as it has a glass ceiling, so crowds higher up, people positioned higher up — which there will be a lot of in Windsor — can see in, it’s very good for that.' The Coach is emblazoned with the Royal Arms of Scotland and the Insignia of the Order of the Thistle, unlike all the other carriages, which bear the Royal Arms for England and the Insignia of the Order of the Garter."

In either weather conditions, "The Carriage will be pulled by four Windsor Grey Horses, with a further two acting as outriders. The horses Plymouth and Londonderry will be the two outriders, and Milford Haven, Sir Basil, Tyrone and Storm will be the four pulling the carriage."


5. The music

An official announcement states that "a selection of choral groups, soloists, and musicians will perform at the Wedding Service of Prince Harry and Ms. Markle at St George's Chapel."

Those slated to be on hand include:

  • The Choir of St George’s Chapel, conducted by James Vivian
  • Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the 19-year-old cellist who won BBC Young Musician 2016 and recently released his debut album, "Inspiration"
  • Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir, a Christian gospel group based in the South-East of England
  • The Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Warren-Green, and made up of musicians from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Philharmonia
  • ​Elin Manahan Thomas, a Welsh soprano
  • David Blackadder, the principal trumpet with both the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Academy of Ancient Music
  • Luke Bond, organist and Assistant Director of Music for St George’s Chapel
  • State Trumpeters drawn from all ranks of the Band of the Household Cavalry, including Lance Corporal Kate Sandford, who will make history as the first female trumpeter at a Royal Wedding.


6. Prince Harry's attire

The great likelihood seems to be that Prince Harry will wear one of his dress uniforms on his day as bridegroom.As stated in the Independent, "Since Prince Harry has spent 10 years serving in the military as part of the Army’s Household Cavalry’s Blues and Royals — formerly known as the Royal Horse Guards and the Royal Dragoons until 2015 — it is expected that he will wear one of his dress uniforms."

These options include the uniform of the Captain General of the Royal Marines, a position he took over from his grandfather, Prince Philip, last year.

As well as his Household Cavalry uniform, which he wore as best man to his brother, Prince William.

That said, there is one hairy issue that could potentially make doing so impossible.

"According to historian Hugo Vickers," the article continues, "the groom is unlikely to be able to wear it unless he shaves his beard."

If Prince Harry remains intent on not being clean-shaven for the wedding, morning dress or a morning suit would be the most likely alternative choice.


7. The Military

The Royal Family has announced that "Regiments and units that hold a special relationship with Prince Harry will provide ceremonial support at the wedding and during the carriage procession at the request of Kensington Palace. More than 250 members of the Armed Forces will perform ceremonial duties at the wedding. Members of the Household Cavalry will form a staircase party at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle as part of the wedding. The State Trumpeters and a Captain’s Escort from the Household Cavalry will also provide ceremonial support."


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8. Wedding rings of Welsh gold

As stated on the Royal Family's website, "The wedding rings of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, The Queen, Princess Margaret, Princess Anne, and Diana, Princess of Wales were all made from the same nugget of Welsh gold, which came from a Welsh mine, Clogau St David's at Bontddu. There is still a minute sliver (one gramme) of this original piece of gold left, which is in the custody of the Privy Purse Office. In November 1981, however the Royal British Legion presented The Queen with a 36-gramme piece of 21 carat Welsh gold, which is held by the Crown Jewellers to be used for the Royal Wedding rings of today."

Prince William followed tradition, placing a ring of Welsh gold on the finger of Catherine Middleton at their 2011 wedding.

It is expected Prince Harry will do the same, although this is likely to be confirmed by the Palace only after the wedding's conclusion.


9. A sprig of myrtle and orange blossoms

The tradition of placing a sprig of myrtle in the bridal bouquet has been followed by generations of Royal brides, including the Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge, since it first began during the wedding of Queen Victoria and Albert’s eldest daughter, also Victoria.

"Myrtle, which represents love, fertility and innocence, has been grown at Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s holiday home on the Isle of Wight, for about 170 years. It was first given to Queen Victoria in a posey by Prince Albert’s grandmother in 1845. The descendants of this plant are still in the grounds of the house today."

Prior to the onset of that tradition, during her own wedding to Prince Albert on April 10, 1840, Queen Victoria choose to wear a wreath of orange blossoms — a symbol of chastity — rather than a tiara.

"Queen Victoria's choice of floral emblem and white silk wedding dress became the standard wedding attire for generations of Victorian brides [who included] orange blossom as part of the design of their wedding dresses. When The Queen married The Duke of Edinburgh in 1947, orange blossom was again part of the design. Round the hem of The Queen's dress, a border of orange blossom was appliqued with transparent tulle outlined in seed pearls and crystal."

Reports say Philippa Craddock, the florist selected by Prince William and Markle, "will use white garden roses (Princess Diana's favorite), peonies (Meghan Markle's favorite), foxgloves, and branches of beech, birch, and hornbeam for the wedding."

Is it unknown whether or not myrtle will appear in the mix, but given that this will be Markle's second marriage, orange blossoms should not be expected.


10. Flowers laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

"Almost 100 years ago, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (known as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) established a long-held Royal Wedding tradition. As Lady Elizabeth entered Westminster Abbey on her wedding day, the Royal bride stopped to lay her flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The gesture was in remembrance of her own brother, Fergus, who died at the Battle of Loos in 1915 and to pay tribute to the millions of others killed and injured in World War I."

Many Royal brides since have followed this tradition, including the Duchess of Cambridge.

While Markle's wedding will not take place at Westminster Abbey, her bouquet may, indeed, be sent to rest there once the ceremony is done and formal photographs have all been taken.

11. The public procession

There will be no balcony appearance made by the Royal Family following the service, as there are no balconies throughout all of Windsor Castle. Rather, the public's first glimpse of the newly married couple and their family will take place as they exit the chapel via the West Steps.

As is Royal tradition, following the ceremony, "the couple will travel around Windsor in a horse-drawn carriage, providing an opportunity for members of the public to see them and join in with the celebrations ... [Their] carriage will leave Windsor Castle via Castle Hill and process along the High Street and through Windsor Town, returning to Windsor Castle via the Long Walk. The carriage will be escorted by a travelling Escort of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment."


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Senior Editor and happily-former divorce coach/mediator Arianna Jeret is a recognized expert on love and relationships (except when it comes to her own life, of course) who has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Style, Fox News, Bustle, Parents and more. Join her Sundays at 10:15 PM EST when she answers questions on Facebook Live on YourTango. For more, follow her on Twitter (@ariannajeret) and Instagram (@ariannajer).