From the speeches to the after party, scholars of the British royal family break down how the newly married Duke and Duchess of Sussex kept it modern and compare the festivities to Prince William’s 2011 nuptials.
The Walk Down The Aisle
There were few subjects more drama-laden in the days before the wedding than who would walk the bride down the aisle. A week prior, her father, Thomas Markle, bowed out of the duty after admitting having arranged paparazzi shots of himself and reportedly suffering a heart attack.
Some speculated that Meghan would walk herself down the aisle at St. George’s Chapel while others wondered if her mother, Doria Ragland, would do the honors. In the end, Kensington Palace announced that Prince Charles would meet the bride halfway down the aisle and accompany her to the altar.
The decision was a savvy one, as it resulted in one of the most endearing moments of the royal wedding:
There is royal precedent for close relatives stepping in to handle escort duty. Queen Victoria, whose father died when she was an infant, was walked down the aisle by one of her uncles when she married Prince Albert, said Carolyn Harris, the author of Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette .
“Then, later, the widowed Queen Victoria escorted her daughters Helena and Beatrice down the aisle at their weddings,” Harris told HuffPost.
Meghan opted for a thoroughly modern, understated design by Clare Waight Keller of Givenchy and a dramatically long veil. At her wedding, the Duchess of Cambridge wore a timeless, Grace Kelly-esque gown designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen and a much shorter veil.
“How would you contrast Meghan’s dress with Kate’s? Meghan’s was much more simple, but so elegant,” Koenig said. “The veil included embroidered flowers from all 53 Commonwealth countries and California, where Meghan is from.”
The Guest List
Because of Harry’s place in the royal family’s line of succession ― now that Prince Louis is around, he’s sixth in line for the throne ― he and his bride-to-be were able to create a guest list that was a little less royal- and dignitary-heavy.
“Since William is second in line to the throne, his guest list included political figures such as Commonwealth prime ministers and Commonwealth governors-general. William and Kate’s wedding also included a large contingent of foreign royalty,” Harris said.
Those lucky enough to be included among the 600 guests this time around included friends and family members as well as people the couple had met through their charity work and Meghan’s years as an actress.
“Prince Harry only invited foreign royalty who are his personal friends such as Seeiso of Lesotho, who co-founded the Sentebale charity with Harry,” Harris said.
The Wedding Service
Harry and Meghan’s ceremony catered more to their distinct personalities, experts said, and was a little more informal as a result.
While William and Kate’s musical selections had a strong traditional focus, Harry and Meghan mixed in some more modern music, with Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir performing “Stand By Me” by American soul singer Ben E. King. The performance followed a stirring sermon delivered by Bishop Michael Curry, the head of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.
“The address was longer than the usual address, more passionate, inclusive, which speaks to Meghan’s cultural heritage. An address like this is more American in style than British,” Koenig said.
The late Princess Diana’s family also took on a larger role in the ceremony. Prior to the wedding, Kensington Palace said that Harry was “keen to involve his mother’s family in his wedding” ― a wish that was fulfilled by having one of Diana’s older sisters, Lady Jane Fellowes, give the sole reading at the ceremony.
“Diana’s family assumed a more prominent role here,” said Myka Meier, a royal etiquette expert and the founder of Beaumont Etiquette. “At the wedding of William and Kate, the bride’s family, the Middletons, assumed a prominent role, with Kate’s brother, James Middleton, giving a reading and Kate’s sister, Pippa Middleton, carrying the bride’s train as maid-of-honor.”
The After-Party Dress and Evening Reception
After their 2011 wedding, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge held a party at Buckingham Palace, which at least some of the 300 guests described as “magical.” Both William and Harry reportedly gave speeches that paid tribute to Princess Diana.
The newly minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex enjoyed a party at Frogmore House with 200 close friends and family. William reportedly gave a “naughty” best man speech and Meghan thanked the royal family for welcoming her into the fold.
“That was something that was different,” Meier said. “At the reception, Meghan gave a speech whereas Kate did not. It’s untraditional of a British royal wedding but shows her American side, as many American brides now give speeches at their receptions.”
Both brides changed into something a little more chic for the evening parties. Kate slipped into a white satin strapless evening gown and sweater in 2011, while Meghan donned a high-neck Stella McCartney gown made of lily-white silk crepe last Saturday.
The Official Portrait
No royal wedding is complete without a big family portrait to commemorate the occasion. Here’s the one taken for Will and Kate’s big day, which includes the duchess’ immediate family: