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11 Ways Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Wedding Made History

Updated: Mar. 26, 2023

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex broke tradition in a number of ways when they became husband and wife.

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Britain Royal Wedding, Windsor, United Kingdom - 19 May 2018
Andrew Matthews/AP/Shutterstock

A wedding for the ages

The news in January 2020 that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were “stepping back” from their royal duties was a bittersweet and confusing piece of news for fans of the couple and of the royal family in general. But though the pair aren’t senior royals anymore, their show-stopping wedding on May 19, 2018, was as royal an affair as any. In addition to being beautiful and star-studded, the wedding also made history in a number of ways.

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Meghan Markle

Markle is an American

In November 2017, Meghan Markle became the first American to be officially engaged to a British royal. A few other firsts the Duchess checks off: She is a woman of color, divorced, a well-known actor, and was raised Catholic. Markle was baptized and confirmed in the Church of England in March 2018.

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Prince William the Duke of Cambridge and Catherine Middleton the Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey On April 29 2011 in London England
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It fell on a weekend

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry exchanged vows on May 19, 2018, which broke a couple royal traditions. To start, the wedding was on a Saturday. In the past, royal weddings have typically been held on a weekday. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip got married on a Thursday, Prince Charles and Princess Diana on a Wednesday, and Prince William and Kate Middleton on a Friday. Also, the wedding was held on the same day as Britain’s historic soccer cup competition, the Emirates FA Final Cup. Prince William is the president of the Football Association and usually makes an appearance at the Final Cup. But in 2018, we guess he had other events to attend!

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's royal wedding cake

The cake was untraditional

Harry and Meghan’s choice of cake—a lemon elderflower-flavored concoction with buttercream frosting—broke royal tradition in more ways than one. Multi-tiered fruitcake has typically been the wedding cake choice of royal couples before them. The tiers of the cake, baked by East London baker Claire Ptak, were on their own separate stands, rather than the traditional stacked tiers of royal wedding cakes past.

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Dated, Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle pose for photographers in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, following the announcement of their engagement. Speculation is mounting over who will be invited to the May 19, 2018, royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, with pundits guessing about the wedding guest list
Matt Dunham/Shutterstock

It wasn’t a holiday

When Prince Harry and Markle announced their engagement, the British government told the public that there “isn’t a precedent in this area” for a bank holiday to be declared for the royal wedding. The date, however, fell on a Saturday, so crowds were still able to gather to celebrate the royal nuptials.

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WINDSOR, ENGLAND, UK - JULY 7: St George’s Chapel, built in the 14th century a place of worship for Queen Elizabeth II and the burial place of her mother, Queen Elizabeth as seen on July 7, 2017.
Jillian Cain Photography/Shutterstock

It didn’t have the same grandeur 

Yes, in comparison to your average wedding, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding was still grand. But compared to other royal weddings, it was much more low-key. Since Prince Harry is sixth in line to the throne, there was less pressure for him to have a particularly traditional wedding. It was held in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle just outside of London, which is a little quainter than Westminster Abbey, where Prince William and Kate Middeton were wed. Don’t miss these secrets about Windsor Castle you never knew.

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On the balcony of Buckingham Palace Prince Charles and Princess Diana kiss on their wedding day
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There was no balcony kiss         

Many recently married royal couples have kissed on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. However, because their ceremony took place in Windsor, England, the couple did not make the hourlong trip back to London and Buckingham Palace to capture this classic royal moment. Instead, the two shared their first kiss as a married couple just outside St. George’s Chapel.

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The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, Buckingham Palace, London, Britain - 29 Apr 2011
James Morgan/Shutterstock

There was no procession through London

You probably noticed this iconic royal event didn’t happen either. Because the couple did not return to London after the ceremony, there was no procession through the U.K. capital for the public to congratulate them—instead, there was a procession through Windsor directly after the ceremony at 1 p.m. local time. Find out the special flower that must be included in every royal wedding bouquet.

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Crowds gather ahead of a visit by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to Edinburgh Castle.

Members of the public were invited

Harry and Meghan wanted the public to feel as though they were a part of the celebration as much as possible—so they invited 2,640 members of the public to watch them arrive and depart from St. George’s Chapel. Those lucky enough to be chosen to attend the royal wedding were allowed onto the grounds of the castle for the nuptials but not in the chapel itself.

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Marriage Of Prince William To Catherine Duchess of Cambridge At Westminster Abbey London. Pic Shows: Tim Laurence Prince Edward Countess Of Wessex Princess Eugenie Prince Andrew And Princess Beatrice. The Royal Wedding Of Prince William Of Wales To Catherine Duchess of Cambridge (kate Middleton) On 29th April 2011. Now Duke And Catherine Duchess of Cambridge. Pic Bruce Adams / Copy English - 29.4.11
Bruce Adams/Shutterstock

There weren’t many dignitaries as guests

According to royal sources speaking to Vanity Fair, the wedding was planned to be a family affair, not an official state occasion. Because of this, the royal couple did not feel as much pressure to invite global dignitaries, members of foreign royal families, or politicians. There were still a lot of important and well-known people in attendance but definitely not as many as William and Kate’s wedding. Don’t miss these bizarre perks of the royal family.

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There were many more celebrities in attendance

Given Markle’s career, she chose to invite many of her celebrity friends to the royal wedding. She is very close with stars such as Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Serena Williams, and her Suits co-star Patrick J. Adams, all of whom attended her nuptials. Oprah Winfrey, George and Amal Clooney, and David and Victoria Beckham also made appearances. And despite speculation that he hadn’t received an invitation, Sir Elton John was in the crowd, accompanied by his husband, David Furnish. Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and Elton John happen to be close friends. Find out the reason Harry and Meghan had to return most of their wedding gifts.

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Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall visit to Athens, Greece - 09 May 2018
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Meghan’s father did not escort her down the aisle       

Meghan Markle was certainly not afraid to do her wedding her own way. She had every intention of having her father, Thomas Markle, walk her down the aisle, but because of poor health, he was unable to attend the royal wedding. Instead, Prince Charles—Harry’s father—escorted Meghan to the altar. She walked down the aisle unescorted until she reached the Quire (where the main royal guests were seated), and Prince Charles joined her there. In the past, royal brides have sometimes chosen someone other than their fathers to walk them down the aisle, but walking the first part solo is definitely a first. Don’t miss these other tiny details you probably missed at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.