Royal Wedding Traditions (and Two Major Departures) to Expect on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Big Day

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As the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle nears, anticipation is at a fever pitch over what the May 19 ceremony will look like. Fortunately for royal wedding lovers, a long history of tradition -- some from as far back as 1840 -- plays a huge role in what will take place, giving royal fans and casual observers an idea of what to expect.

From the attire to the rings, there are four royal wedding traditions that Harry and Meghan will undoubtedly keep alive when they tie the knot at Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel, a venue for many royal weddings since 1863. However, since their relationship has been anything but traditional, there are a few expected departures to be made on the big day.

Attire: It’s no surprise that the design of Meghan’s dress is top secret, but there are a few things we can extrapolate from past royal weddings: it will be white, will include a tiara and will be somewhat conservative -- no matter who designs it. As his brother did on his wedding day, Prince Harry is expected to wear his military uniform, of the Irish Guards, during the ceremony. And remember those crazy hats -- notably donned by Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie -- you saw during Prince William and Catherine’s 2011 wedding? Expect to see more of the same, as formal hats are a requirement for church weddings.

Hugo Burnand/AFP/Getty Images/Clarence House

Rings: The Windsor family tradition has been to use Clogau gold from the Clogau St. David’s Mine in Wales -- a custom that dates to the early 1900s. “[The royals] tend to go for a very deep 18-karat look, usually very plain. So, it’s usually very gold and very plain,” Clogau Managing Director Ben Roberts told ET. The gold can be found in nearly every royal ring of recent time, including Kate Middleton's ring, shown below. Prince William, however, does not wear a wedding ring. Will Prince Harry follow suit?

Kate Middleton's wedding ring
Getty Images

Bouquet: When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she carried myrtle, a.k.a. the herb of love, in her bouquet. Every royal bride since has maintained the tradition, including a sprig of myrtle taken from the same shrub Victoria planted shortly after her wedding. Kate left her bouquet in Westminster Abbey at the grave of the Unknown Warrior, per tradition, and Markle is expected to do so as well. Floral designer Philippa Craddock will create the church flowers for the duo's service.

Departure: To put a cherry on top of the whole “fairy tale” aspect of a royal wedding, the newly married couple will take a carriage ride to Windsor Castle after the ceremony, where they will be cheered on by throngs of people eager to get a glimpse of the newlyweds. Queen Elizabeth II gets to choose the carriage from her collection, but odds are it will be an Ascot Landau, an open-air, horse-drawn vehicle. Will and Kate used the Imperial Landau for their wedding, but that carriage is housed in London.

Cake: Gasp! Here is one spot where we actually may see a break from royal ritual. Normally, the royal cake is a fruitcake, and while most of us have bad Christmas memories of that particular dessert, it is preferred by both British royalty and commoners. However, the couple have selected American pastry chef Claire Ptak to create “a lemon elderflower cake that will incorporate the bright flavours of spring. It will be covered with buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers,” according to Kensington Palace.

Reception: Most British weddings are held at noon in the U.K. and are followed by a pair of receptions -- a “wedding breakfast” hosted by the Queen and an evening reception, hosted in this case by Prince Charles. Usually, the best man (Prince William) would make some remarks, but according to the Sunday Times, Markle is planning a “striking departure” from royal tradition by making an affectionate speech to her new husband and family during the reception, especially if her reclusive father does not speak.

Watch the video below for more sneak peeks at the upcoming royal wedding:


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