It will be the most important day of their shared lives to date, imbued with centuries’-old tradition as they take vows before God, their families and the Queen.But not for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a day of too much solemnity, as they promise a wedding focused on fun, joy and a chance to celebrate with the public.The newly-engaged couple are to plan their own wedding, it has been confirmed, as they prioritise a celebration that “reflects the characters of the bride and groom”.
From flowers to seating plans, the happy couple will take charge of a ceremony designed to incorporate both families, their wide circle of friends, and welcome the public into their lives.The wedding will be in May, at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry was christened, which is said to have become a “very special place” for them in their 18-month relationship so far.
The Prince and Ms Markle, who said they are “extremely grateful for the warm response” to news of their betrothal, are currently considering ways for members of the public to “feel part of the celebrations”, in what is now expected to be a televised wedding.
Although the best man and wedding party have not yet been confirmed, it seems safe to assume there will be a role for Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who will be joined by a little brother or sister by May.
The American actress has already been introduced to the smallest members of the Cambridge family, spending time with them as their new neighbour at Kensington Palace.
But if planning a Royal wedding sounds time consuming, it appears the Prince and Ms Markle are confident they can fit it all around their newfound official duties.
In a surprise announcement, it was confirmed Ms Markle will take on her first public engagement this Friday, making a joint visit with the Prince to Nottingham to visit the AIDS charity so close to the heart of Diana, Princess of Wales.She will go on to spend the next six months visiting towns and villages around the UK, getting to know her new home.
After news of the engagement settled, the Prince’s communications secretary yesterday released key details of the couple’s forthcoming plans, from Ms Markle’s intention to take British citizenship to her forthcoming role as patron of the Royal Foundation, currently headed by the trio of the Prince and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Jason Knauf said: “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are extremely grateful for the warm public response following yesterday’s announcement of their engagement.
“In a happy moment in their lives, it means a great deal to them that so many people throughout the UK, the Commonwealth, and around the world are celebrating with them.
“Prince Harry and Ms. Markle are delighted that the beautiful grounds of Windsor Castle will be where they begin their lives together as a married couple.
“The couple of course want the day to be a special, celebratory moment for their friends and family
“They also want the day to be shaped so as to allow members of the public to feel part of the celebrations too and are currently working through ideas for how this might be achieved.
“This wedding, like all weddings, will be a moment of fun and joy that will reflect the characters of the bride and groom.”
Ms Markle, who attended a Catholic school in Los Angeles but is Protestant, will be baptised and confirmed before the Church of England wedding. Shortly before her wedding, the Duchess of Cambridge was also confirmed.
Asked how the Prince and Ms Markle were feeling after making news of their engagement public, Mr Knauf said they were “overwhelmed” by the support they had received on the “incredibly happy day”.
The May wedding, the exact date of which has not yet been confirmed, was chosen by the couple themselves, he said.
It is likely the result of scouring one of the most complicated social diaries on Earth, ensuring all senior members of the Royal Family will be present, as well as Ms Markle’s family and the Prince’s relations on his mother’s side.
The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting her third child in April, while the Queen and Prince of Wales are attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the middle of the month to take part in discussion close to their hearts.
While the Windsor wedding will not naturally provide the same grand Buckingham Palace “balcony moment” enjoyed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, it appears it will still put on a show for the public.
Mr Knauf said: “The wedding will reflect their characters and personalities as you would expect anyone’s wedding too.
“It’s a royal wedding and it will rise to that standard as well. But like the duke and duchess did, it will reflect who they are as a couple.
“It was important for them to signal after the response they’ve had in the last 24 hours that they will be keeping the public in mind as they put plans for the wedding in place.”
Ms Markle, whose favourite flowers peonies should be in bloom in May, will likely have plenty of ideas, previously running her own lifestyle blog and having been Maid of Honour for a friends’ wedding.
The couple have not yet settled on a honeymoon destination, with Botswana – where they first fell in love – the favourite.
Aside from the attendance of the Queen, the guestlist has not been confirmed.
While Ms Markle’s father Thomas has not yet met Prince Harry in person, he gave his blessing for the wedding and is expected to attend along with Doria Ragland, the future mother-in-law the Prince described as “amazing”.
The Prince has already asked his communications team to represent them, while Ms Markle is assisted by his Private Secretary Edward Lane-Fox and other courtiers.
Before the big day, Ms Markle will travel back to Canada and America to spend time with friends, family and the rescue dog she had to leave behind, as she gradually settles into life in Britain.
Beginning this week, she will join the Prince on official Royal engagements, leaving her ambassadorial roles with World Vision and UN women behind to learn more about British charities.
“She wants to spend this time learning about the UK,” said Mr Knauf. “This is the country that’s going to be her home now.”
That introduction will begin on Friday in Nottingham, with a “community that has become very special” to Prince Harry.
The couple will visit the Nottingham Contemporary which is hosting a Terrence Higgins Trust World Aids Day charity fair, and also visit Nottingham Academy to meet headteachers taking part in the Full Effect programme aimed at combating youth violence.
The away day will include a walkabout where they will be able to greet members of the public as a couple for the first time, before they are treated to a “Hip Hopera” performance from students.
“Ms Markle cannot wait to meet many of the young people Prince Harry has told her so much about,” Mr Knauf said.
Full interview: Harry and Meghan reveal engagement joy
Former Suits star Ms Markle told how she could not wait to say “yes” to the prince when Harry got down on one knee a few weeks ago as they cooked a roast chicken dinner at his home, Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace.
Indicating the depths of his feeling for his bride-to-be, the prince said: “The fact that I fell in love with Meghan so incredibly quickly was sort of confirmation to me that everything, all the stars were aligned, everything was just perfect.
“It was this beautiful woman just sort of literally tripped and fell into my life, I fell into her life.”
A few months into the relationship, Harry said he had to have “some pretty frank conversations” with his girlfriend about how her life may change when she entered the royal family.
He added: “But I know that at the end of the day she chooses me, and I choose her, and therefore whatever we have to tackle together or individually we’ll always be us together as a team, so I think she’s capable … she’s capable of anything.”
The couple told the BBC’s Mishal Husain how Ms Markle had met the Queen twice, an individual she described as an “incredible woman”.
Ms Markle was also a big hit with the Queen’s beloved corgis, with the prince joking: “I’ve spent the last 33 years being barked at; this one walks in, absolutely nothing …”
Harry praised the support of the pair’s families and said he believed his bride-to be and mother Diana, Princess of Wales would have been “thick as thieves, without question”.
Ms Markle’s engagement ring features diamonds from Diana’s personal collection, and a stone from one of their favourite places, Botswana.
Ms Markle will become an HRH and a senior royal after marrying Harry and joining the Windsors.
She is expected to become a duchess, as Kate Middleton did when she became the Duchess of Cambridge after saying her vows in 2011.