It’s at noon U.K. time, or 7 a.m. EST. on Saturday May 19th, that Spice Girl turned fashion designer Victoria Beckham, along with stylist to the the bride to be Jessica Mulroney and 598 other guests, but no heads of state, will witness the royal marriage of American actress Meaghan Markle to Harry Mountbatten-Windsor, Prince Henry of Wales.
In 2011, When Will and Kate got married their 1900 guests received a 22-page etiquette guide from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Since such booklet has not yet been mentioned for Harry and Meaghan’s guests, if you are a future bride, groom or are a soon to be wedding guest, here are the dos and don’ts of traditional and contemporary wedding etiquette, including the royal couple’s choices.
1) The invitation
Although Barack Obama is said to be a close friend of Prince Harry, he and his wife Michelle are not on the guest list. In fact, no political leader has received this coveted invitation, not even British Prime Minister Teresa May and you guessed it, nor did Donald Trump, the current American President.
Future bride and groom: Invite by categories. Do not invite the cousin that you love and leave out her sister, your other cousin; unless you are willing to accept all the possible consequences of this exclusion… Make sure that each invitation clearly indicates whom is invited or left out. Write all names in full. Nicknames are acceptable as are formulas like “and guest” or “and children”.
Guest: RSVP within the deadline and in the requested manner. Your punctuality will avoid painstaking and time taking follow-ups by the couple. If you will not be attending you must send your regrets as soon as possible. Your invitation could be passed on to another guest, that will be delighted to attend. Warning: if your children and your new flame’s names are not on the invitation, they are not invited. Showing up with them will not only increase the couple’s bill, but will induce further stress to the already complex seating arrangement puzzle.
2) Dress codes
As is customary, the dress code for the royal wedding of Meaghan and Harry, is indicated in the right corner of their invitation.
For men: Uniform, morning coat or lounge suit. Acceptable colours are black, navy or dark grey. To be avoided are suit colours in the pastel palette, any à la P.K. Subban outfits, as well as brown shoes and belts.
For women: Day dress and hat. A mid-length skirt with a jacket or pantsuit are also acceptable alternatives. There should be no cleavage or bare shoulders. The hem of the skirt or dress, should not be shorter than the longest finger of the hand, when it rests along the body. English tradition dictates that straw, not fabric, hats should be worn after Easter. To avoid obstructing other guests’ views, rims are minimal. No to Kentucky Derby hats and no to nude legs. Nylons are to be worn. Shoes must be closed; no peek-a-boo, platform or stiletto heels. The latter could get caught in the ancient cobble stoned pavement outside of Windsor Castle. Seating being tight, small clutch bags are best.
Future bride and groom: To avoid any “Oh my God!”, or to be disappointed with certain guests’ outfits, write the dress code in the right corner of the invitations.
Guest: Respect the requested code. In its’ absence, the look and feel of the invitation, the time of day, the location of the ceremony and that of the reception, are all clues as to what is appropriate to wear or not. Dressing for a church wedding followed by an evening reception at a five-star hotel, is different than dressing for a ceremony officiated on the beach and celebrated pool side. Even if Pippa wore white when her sister Kate married Harry’s older brother Will, and Victoria Beckham wore black, in most cultures, these two colours are to be avoided. As my maternal grandmother Florina said “When in doubt, find out”. Notice to all those, usually aunties, who are getting excited by the idea of getting dressed up: it’s a wedding and you are not, nor should you be, the star of the party.
3) The gifts
This is Meghan Markle’s second marriage and the couple probably has everything they need for their married life. Imitating older brother William and sister-in-law Kate, Harry and Meaghan have asked those who wish to offer them a gift to choose from this list of seven charities. They informed the public on the Royal Family’s website and not on the wedding invitation.
Future bride and groom: It is in bad taste to have any mention of a gift on an invitation. Even the clever phrase “Your presence is our present” puts the emphasis on receiving a gift instead of the presence of your guests. Inform of your wishes, including the details of your bridal registry, on your Facebook page, your wedding’s website if you have one, or by traditional word of mouth with the support of your wedding party and family members. The rule is simple: when you invite you pay. Never ask your guests to pay. You will insult them and create conflicts. If you cannot afford to have Michael Bublé sing at your wedding, show his concert on a screen. The choice of the gift along with its price is always the prerogatives of the guest. Remember each gift deserves a handwritten thank you note.
Guest: All wedding invitations, even if you do not attend, have a gift obligation. Contrary to popular belief, there is no magic rule or formula for the appropriate amount to spend. A wedding gift should not be considered an exchange or a reciprocation of the amount the couple will be spending on each guest. Offer with your heart: according to your relationship with the couple, your feelings for them as well as their desires. Then, respect your budget. Whether your BFF gets married at the Ritz or at a sugar shack, should not impact your gift. Offer it after you accept the invitation, along with a card. The one-year allowance is a myth. It should also be noted that traditionally in England and in Canada, a second marriage does not have a gift obligation.
4) Food choices
The wedding menu of the sixth heir to the British throne to Ms. Markle is known. But as with all official meals, no raw food especially crustaceans, will be served. This precaution avoids severe food poisoning possibilities.
Future bride and groom: Offer a vegetarian option. It facilitates the choice of those who have philosophical restrictions and many sensitivities.
Guest: Don’t be a picky princess. The bride and groom took great care in choosing their menu. It’s only one meal and you can eat before and after. If you have a food allergy, it’s your responsibility. Take your precautions and inform as necessary.
5) Photos and Social Media
It was earlier this year that Meghan closed all her social media accounts. Her fans can now follow her and see official photos on the Royal Family’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagramand YouTubeaccounts. To ensure the safety of all and the solemnity of the ceremony, cell phones will probably be prohibited inside St. George’s Chapel. At a minimum, no photos will be allowed by guests. The hashtag #RoyalWedding will certainly be at the top of the charts on May 19th.
Future bride and groom: Inform your guests of your photo and social media with an announcement from your officiant, the mention of an unplugged (techno-less) wedding on your Facebook page or with signs in the washrooms and not on the tables. It’s more discreet and does not distract from your tables’ decorations.
Guest: As soon as you arrive, place your phone in “polite” mode that is silent without vibration. If the couple has a #HashTag, use it while being aware of the pics you post. Do not obstruct the work of professional photographers and videographers. If the couple has chosen a no techno wedding, respect their wishes. When taking pics say “Please” before “Cheese”, ask before clicking and posting.
Like the majority of brides and grooms, this couple wants to sprinkle the celebration of their union by honouring traditions and innovating according to their love story. Rumours have it that Meghan will join all other royal brides since Queen Victoria in 1840, by adding a few strands of Osborne House myrtle in her bouquet. Far from the inevitable fruit cake of this future groom’s parents, this royal couple chose a lemon and elderflower cake decorated in fresh flowers.
Whether you will be like me, getting up at dawn, or that you will be waiting for the release of the official photos, one thing is for sure this royal wedding will be dream making material. Their love and joy will be contagiously exponential. Let’s enjoy it.
Long live the royal newlyweds and all brides and grooms!