An estimated 1.9 billion people tuned in to watch the pair say their “I dos,” making it one of the biggest televised events in history. A wedding ceremony of such scale required a great deal of careful planning and hard work from everyone involved, from the wedding cake baker, Claire Ptak, who spent five days perfecting the couple’s lemon sponge confection with her team, to the dressmakers, who worked for “hundreds of hours” sewing fabric and washing their hands every 30 minutes to keep the veil immaculate.
“A great level of detail went into the planning of our wedding day,” Meghan acknowledged in an audio clip from the couple’s “A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex” exhibit in Windsor. “We knew how large the scale of the event would be, so in making choices that were really personal and meaningful, it could make the whole experience feel intimate.”
It was a fitting goal for the couple, who also got engaged in an über-intimate manner. ”It was a cozy night,” Meghan told the BBC. “We were roasting chicken. It was just an amazing surprise. It was so sweet and natural and very romantic. He got down on one knee.”
Harry and Meghan were introduced by a mutual friend in 2016 and became betrothed just one year later. “The fact that I fell in love with Meghan so incredibly quickly was a confirmation to me that all the stars were aligned. Everything was just perfect,” Harry said in the couple’s engagement interview.
Though the pair’s big day was highly publicized and televised for the world to see, there were some details that the public didn’t learn until much later — including the fact that Harry and Meghan secretly exchanged vows in a backyard ceremony three days before their wedding, as they told Oprah Winfrey. In their Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan, the couple shared several more special moments from their nuptials, offering viewers an intimate peek at their first dance, among other revelations.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Wedding Details
Harry and Meghan got married on a weekend
The couple’s wedding date of May 19, 2018, was unusual because it fell on a Saturday. Historically, British royals have chosen to hold their ceremonies on weekdays. Prince William and Kate Middleton got married on a Friday, while Prince Charles and Princess Diana tied the knot on a Wednesday. As for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, they exchanged vows on a Thursday.
Their wedding invitations were traditional
A tweet from Kensington Palace revealed that the pair’s invitations, like the invitations of many royals before them, came from Barnard Westwood and featured the three-feathered badge of Prince Charles in gold ink. In episode three of Harry & Meghan, viewers got to see a peek at the couple’s formal ceremony invitations as well as their more modern invites for their intimate evening celebration.
Their wedding venue had tons of royal history
Unlike his brother Prince William, who married Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London, Prince Harry said “I do” to Meghan at St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle. “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,” Kensington Palace Communications Secretary Jason Knauf said in a statement at the time.
As PEOPLE reported in 2018, the chapel is at least 500 years old and has served as the site of numerous royal weddings, including those of Queen Victoria’s children. It is also the final resting place of several monarchs, including with King George VI, the Queen Mother Elizabeth, Henry VIII, Charles I, King Edward IV, King Edward VII, King George III, King William IV and King George V. When Prince Harry‘s grandparents died — Prince Philip in 2021 and Queen Elizabeth II in 2022 — they were also buried in the chapel.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Wedding Guests
Their guest list included several A-listers
The British royals weren’t the only VIPs attending Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding. In addition to Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II, there were plenty of American A-listers in the pews. The bride’s pals Serena Williams and Priyanka Chopra showed up for the ceremony, as did her Suits costars Abigail Spencer, Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams (with his wife, Troian Bellisario).
Prince Harry’s ex-girlfriends Cressida Bonas and Chelsea Davy were also there, along with several famous couples like George and Amal Clooney, Carey Mulligan and Marcus Mumford and Victoria and David Beckham. Idris Elba served as the couple’s DJ and Elton John performed at their daytime luncheon. Even Oprah Winfrey was there!
“James Corden came in last, arriving in a Henry VIII costume, saying he didn’t know what to wear to a royal wedding,” a guest told PEOPLE about the evening reception. The talk show host later explained, telling PEOPLE, “Harry asked if I would do, like, a performance of some kind. And so I did it, yeah. I wasn’t really dressed as Henry VIII, it was just dressed in a kind of Tudor outfit. But I guess I look a bit like Henry VIII, so that’s probably why.”
A seat next to Prince William was left empty
While many believed the empty chair next to Prince William was meant to honor his and Prince Harry‘s late mother, Princess Diana, PEOPLE reported that it was actually kept clear to give Queen Elizabeth, who was seated in the second row, a better view of the couple’s nuptials.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Wedding Party
Harry and Meghan had 10 children in their wedding
While Prince George and Princess Charlotte undoubtedly stole the show at their uncle’s wedding, they were in good company with five other bridesmaids and three other page boys. “We had 10 bridesmaids and page boys under the age of 7, which everybody says is impossible to have them behaving, but they did it!” Harry said in his recording for the “Royal Wedding” exhibit. Agreed Meghan: “It was a miracle!”
Counted among them were bag designer Benita Litt’s daughters, Rylan and Remi, who call Meghan their godmother, and her son, Darren Litt, as well as Jessica Mulroney’s twin boys, Brian and John, and daughter, Ivy.
According to the Kensington Royal website, the bridesmaids wore Givenchy dresses made of ivory silk radzimir with short puff sleeves, pockets and pleated skirts. They also wore flower crowns that matched Meghan’s bouquet.
As for the page boys, they wore mini versions of the Blues and Royals frock coat with their initials embroidered into the shoulder straps.
Meghan’s best friend was given a special seat — and role
Toronto-based stylist Jessica Mulroney, Meghan’s good friend, was given a special seat. “[Meghan] made sure that Jessica was sitting in that first seat closest to where Harry and Meghan were standing,” Birks Vice-President Eva Hartling told PEOPLE.
According to Hartling, Mulroney also served as the bride’s unofficial maid of honor.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Wedding Looks
Meghan went for a natural makeup look
Meghan’s makeup, which was applied by her longtime friend and makeup artist Daniel Martin, was on the natural side — something Martin said Harry greatly appreciated. “After the ceremony Harry kept saying thank you,” he told InStyle. “He was thanking me for making her look like herself.”
Martin reasoned, “The last thing you want [is] to look at your wedding pictures and go, ‘Remember when highlighting was the rage?’ At the end of the day, you want to look like your best self.”
Her gown was reportedly inspired by Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy
Such a special day required an equally special dress, and Givenchy artistic director Clare Waight Keller was up to the task. As Kensington Palace said in a statement on its website, in addition to her British roots, Waight Keller was selected by Meghan for her “timeless and elegant aesthetic, impeccable tailoring and relaxed demeanor.”
According to the statement, Meghan, who was reportedly inspired by a gown Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy wore shortly before her death in 1999, was heavily involved in the design of her own garment. It featured six delicately placed seams that flowed to the back of the gown into a 9-foot-long train. The three-quarter-length sleeves and open bateau neckline, meanwhile, served as the dress’s focal point.
“I had about seven or eight meetings with her, actually,” Waight Keller said of the royal. “From the very start, we had a few variations on the design but then very quickly it involved holding to the final creation that you saw.”
As the designer explained, the pair began with several sketches she presented, at which point the two women would talk through the dress’s lines, proportions and scale. “We quickly got to a point where [Meghan] knew exactly what she wanted, having tried some of mock-ups that I had shown her,” she told reporters, adding, “She knows what she wants.”
Made of exclusive double-bonded silk cady material, the gown’s pure white hue and delicate fabric required extra-special care, with hand-washing required of the embroiderers every 30 minutes. “Over a period of time, you build up oils on your hand and when you work on something of such purity — absolute pure white — you need to keep it immaculately clean,” Waight Keller later explained to reporters. “There were many people involved in the workmanship, and obviously, it took an enormous amount of hours to do it.”
The finished product, however, which Meghan paired with matching shoes Waight Keller made in a silk duchess satin, was a true thing of beauty.
Meghan’s “something blue” was hidden in her veil
Meghan revealed in the HBO documentary Queen of the World that her something blue was a piece of fabric from her very first date with Prince Harry. “Somewhere in here, there’s a piece of blue fabric that’s stitched inside,” she said of her 16-foot-long veil.
In addition to the hidden material, the actress’s silk tulle headpiece had a special trim that was embroidered with flowers from all 53 countries in the Commonwealth, plus Wintersweet from Kensington Palace and the California poppy to represent her home state.
Embroidered crops of wheat, which symbolize love and charity, were placed at the front of the veil.
Waight Keller explained the inspiration behind the special accessory. “I came up with the idea of maybe representing each of the countries, the 53 countries of the Commonwealth, through their flora and fauna. [Meghan and I] both loved the story of that. It also meant that [every] single one of those countries also journeyed up the aisle with her. It was a really poetic moment.”
Her tiara was both her “something old” and “something borrowed”
Meghan’s Queen Mary Diamond Bandeau tiara was not only gorgeous, with large and small brilliant diamonds and a detachable center brooch with 10 more diamonds surrounding it, but it also served as her “something old” and “something borrowed,” too.
The Kensington Palace website gave a bit of history on the royal piece, which was borrowed from the Queen’s jewelry vault. While the tiara was crafted in 1931, its center brooch dates back to 1893, when it was given to Princess Mary as a wedding gift by the County of Lincoln. She later bequeathed the headpiece to Queen Elizabeth in 1953.
In addition to the diamond-laden tiara and the stunning engagement ring placed on her finger, the bride was decked out in a pair of diamond stud Cartier earrings and a diamond-studded Reflection de Cartier bracelet.
Prince Harry wore a military uniform
Prince Harry explained his wedding ensemble choice of a Blues and Royals frock coat uniform in an audio clip from the “A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex” exhibit in Windsor. “I chose the frock coat as a uniform, with permission from my grandmother, because I think it’s one of the smartest household cavalry uniforms,” he can be heard saying in the clip. “It’s one of my favorites, and I was very fortunate to be able to wear that on the day.”
Meghan’s wedding bouquet featured a tribute to Princess Diana
Prince Harry and Meghan honored his late mother by including her favorite flower, forget-me-nots, in Meghan’s wedding bouquet. In addition, Harry plucked several flowers from the couple’s own garden at Kensington Palace for the arrangement, which included sprigs of myrtle from the Osborne House gardens (first planted by Queen Victoria in 1845 and used in Queen Elizabeth‘s wedding bouquet in 1947), scented sweet peas, lily of the valley, astilbe, jasmine and astrantia. The grouping, which was created by florist Philippa Craddock, was tied with a raw silk ribbon.
Following the nuptials, Meghan followed the royal tradition of placing her bouquet on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior — a practice Queen Mother Elizabeth started in 1923 as a way to honor her brother, Fergus Bowes-Lyon, who died in World War I.
Harry and Meghan’s wedding bands were mismatched
While Meghan wears a Cleave and Company wedding band made from a piece of Welsh gold that was gifted by Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry‘s band, which is platinum with a textured finish, broke with royal tradition. Welsh gold wedding bands have been used by the royal family since 1923, when King George VI married Queen Mother Elizabeth.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Wedding Ceremony
Prince Charles walked Meghan halfway down the aisle
In the absence of Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, whom a source told PEOPLE was unable to attend the ceremony due to “medical reasons,” Prince Charles took a significant role in the ceremony, meeting Meghan halfway down the aisle to walk her the rest of the way on his arm. “It was Meghan’s wish, and she is grateful for the Prince of Wales to be doing it,” a royal source told PEOPLE.
The bishop quoted Martin Luther King Jr.
Rather than having a senior member of the Church of England speak at their wedding, Harry and Meghan chose American Bishop Michael Bruce Curry to deliver a special sermon.
According to an insider, Curry was chosen to speak for his role as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and his talent as a wonderful orator. “[As a wonderful speaker and preacher, it would be highly appropriate for him to be invited to speak,” the insider said of the choice.
In his speech, Curry quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1957 “Love Your Enemies” speech, saying, “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.”
Meghan omitted the word “obey” from her vows
Prince Harry and Meghan chose to recite a standard set of vows at their church ceremony, in which they promised to “have and to hold” each other from their wedding day forward, “for better, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Meghan did not promise to “obey” Harry, however — something her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana, and sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, also forwent at their ceremonies.
A gospel choir sang “Stand By Me” — and the couple walked out to Etta James
Just ahead of their vows, the royals were privy to a lovely rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” from gospel choir Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir.
Near the end of the wedding, guests were also treated to a performance from an orchestra, with 19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason playing a solo — a request from Meghan herself, who personally called to ask the musician to play.
As the couple made their way to their carriage after the ceremony, their walk was made all the more special by the addition of Etta James’s song, “This Little Light of Mine” — a tune symbolic of American civil rights in the 1950 and 1960s.
Harry and Meghan shared their first married kiss on the steps of St. George’s Chapel
While most American couples share their first kiss after saying “I do,” Harry and Meghan followed in the footsteps of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and Prince William and Kate Middleton, who shared their first kiss after the wedding. With no royal balcony at their wedding venue of St. George’s Chapel, however, they locked lips for the first time on its steps instead.
Following their vow exchange, Harry and Meghan hopped into an open-top Ascot Landeau horse-drawn carriage, which carried them through the streets of London.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Lunch Reception
The Queen hosted a lunchtime reception for Harry and Meghan
Following the church ceremony, all 600 of the bride and groom’s guests were invited to join the happy couple at St. George’s Hall for a luncheon reception hosted by the Queen.
Once there, they were treated to a variety of canapés, including salmon, asparagus and panna cotta with quail egg (to name a few), plus larger bowl canapés (fricassee of free range chicken with morel mushrooms and young leeks, pea and mint risotto with pea shoots, truffle oil and parmesan crisps and ten-hour slow-roasted Windsor pork belly with apple compote and crackling) and dessert canapés, including champagne and pistachio macaroons, orange crème brûlée tartlets and miniature rhubarb crumble tartlets.
Harry also gave an impromptu speech at the event. “It was very off-the-cuff, which was lovely,” a guest told PEOPLE.
Elton John performed at the lunch reception
The “I’m Still Standing” singer, who performed a revised version of “Candle in the Wind” at Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997, was asked by Prince Harry to sing at the couple’s lunch reception. “Sir Elton performed for the newly married couple in recognition of the close connection he has with Prince Harry and his family,” the palace said in a statement at the time.
According to a guest of the newlyweds, John played several songs for the pair, including “Tiny Dancer,” which he dedicated to Meghan.
Elton later spoke to CNN about his attendance at the pair’s nuptials, saying, “It was very, very wonderful to be there. To have a black gospel choir, a multiracial bride, a black cellist, who was wonderful, a preacher — it felt like a party, and it felt like progress had been made. Thank God, thank God.”
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Evening Reception
Harry and Meghan had an outfit change
Following their daytime luncheon, Prince Charles hosted a more private, intimate affair for the couple and their 200 closest pals at Frogmore house. The bride and groom had a sleek ride to their evening reception, hopping into a vintage blue Jaguar E-type convertible, which was adorned with a special license plate bearing the date of their nuptials.
For the evening affair, Meghan changed out of her Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy gown and chose a custom halter gown with an open back by Stella McCartney. Made of silk crepe, it also featured a small train that she carried while walking to her vehicle.
The bride topped the look off with a pair of 18-karat white gold Cartier drop earrings and a giant aquamarine cocktail ring that once belonged to Princess Diana. On her feet, she wore a pair of Aquazurra heels with light blue bottoms.
As for Prince Harry, he changed out of his formal military attire and into something a little more dance-friendly: a black tuxedo.
Their wedding cake broke from royal tradition
Rather than serving the traditional fruitcake of royal weddings past, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex switched things up with their lemon sponge cake with elderflower syrup, Almafi lemon curd and a Swiss meringue buttercream topping infused with elderflower. Created by Claire Ptak of London’s Violet Cakes to “[incorporate] the bright flavors of spring,” it was also aesthetically springy, featuring 150 fresh flowers — peonies and roses among them.
”The texture is really lovely and the flavor is quintessentially spring and British,” Ptak said of her masterpiece, which took her and a team of six bakers five days to bake and ice.
Idris Elba served as a DJ
When it came to the music for their reception, the couple wanted only the best to get their friends and family members on the dance floor — Golden Globe-winning actor Idris Elba. Elba later admitted to being nervous about the gig, telling the Daily Mail, This wasn’t like my cousin’s wedding. This [reception] wasn’t at the community hall,” he later said. “This was a big, big deal.”
Adding to his jitters was his close, personal relationship with the couple. “[Harry and Meghan are] good friends and I wanted to make sure they had a great time, so there was a lot of pressure,” he said.
Ultimately, however, Elba nailed the gig with a little help from the bride. “Meghan had sent me a playlist, so I knew what she wanted already,” he explained.
A source told PEOPLE that Elba had the A-list guests busting a groove. “It was a huge dance party, everyone was letting loose and had a blast,” the source revealed.
George Clooney served up cocktails — and Serena Williams played some games
The Casamigos tequila founder acted as a bartender during the evening, serving up cocktails to Prince Harry and Meghan’s nearest and dearest. “George Clooney hopped behind the bar and was mixing drinks for guests,” a source told PEOPLE.
In addition to Clooney’s concoctions, reception-goers were treated to ginger beverages — a nod to Harry’s famous red locks.
Food included baked potato, pork belly and meringue for dessert, according to a royal wedding insider, who spoke to PEOPLE.
Williams also got in on the fun at the reception. “Serena did play beer pong,” a source told PEOPLE. “She’s super old-school like that.”
Harry and Meghan had a fun first dance
Years after the wedding, the pair revealed that the tune they chose for their first dance was Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances.”
“I just really wanted the music to be fun. Even our first dance,” Meghan said in a clip from their Harry and Meghan docuseries.
“Just spinning like a whirlwind. It was so great,” she recalled of the special moment.
They both gave touching reception speeches
Both the bride and groom had some sweet words to share with their guests on their big day.
Harry’s big moment was light-hearted, with him playing guessing games with his guests about his media-given nicknames and warmly thanking his father for hosting the couple’s special night.
As for Meghan’s speech, which broke royal protocol in her father’s absence, it was “very well-crafted … brilliant,” according to one wedding-goer. The guest told PEOPLE, “She’s a very warm person.”
“There is no doubt how in love they are,” the guest added after witnessing their exchanges.