In the span of a decade, the House of Windsor threw two historic fairytale weddings — with subtle differences. The celebrations for two very dissimilar couples reflected their own taste and style, within the scope of royal traditional, of course. But with one pair on the pathway to taking over the throne, and the other breaking off on their own, how do their big days reflect two sides of the royal coin?
First are the two women who signed up for the monarchy. A daunting prospect, no doubt, but it wasn’t entirely outside Kate Middleton’s realm. Coming from a wealthy upper-class British family with ties to the aristocracy, the future Duchess slipped seamlessly into the traditional atmosphere. But the reality of what royalty really means is something most outsiders could never fully understand.
So for Hollywood actress Meghan Markle, it might’ve seemed like experiencing some level of fame could prepare her for the juggernaut of royalty. Still, Meghan hadn’t grown up in extremely rich circles. Her father, who was well-off and worked in television, and her mother, a social worker and yoga instructor, divorced when she was six. Markle’s upbringing was more modest than others who’ve married royals.
In an iconic fashion moment, Kate Middleton emerged in her $450,000 classically elegant Alexander McQueen gown. With a nine-foot train and intricate lace, the dress was one to remember. While Meghan’s dress isn’t as lauded, it was just as elegant. Her boatneck silhouette and 16.5-foot long veil balanced simplicity with royal grandeur. Not to mention, she included something blue, a piece of the dress worn on her first date with Prince Harry.
For the rings, both Harry and William chose jewels that belonged to their mother. The Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring is set with a 12-carat blue sapphire, with a price tag of $400,000. As for Meghan Markle’s $350,000 ring, her framing diamonds were once Diana’s. However, the center was selected by Prince Harry in the country their romance kicked off, Botswana.
Which prince was the better groom? Well, we’ll let you judge. On their wedding days, both William and Harry donned their military regalia. William stood out in his red Irish Guard uniform, designating his rank as a colonel. Rather, Harry, who reached the rank of captain, wore the more common Blues and Royals uniform designated to the rank of major.
Just when you thought the royals couldn’t sneak symbolism into every single element of the wedding, they proved you wrong. The bouquets, for example, were designed with a specific intention. Kate’s was composed of all-white flowers, representing steady love and happiness. Meghan’s arrangement symbolized dedication and love. Plus, it included some flowers handpicked by Harry!
Always one to rock a bit of color, the Queen looked radiant in primrose yellow and pastel green at the weddings of both of her grandsons. Staying true to her signature style, she paired her looks with white gloves, bold hats, and her trademark handbag.
No, “waving” doesn’t refer to the fun activity crowds do in arenas, but the pressure put on the newlywed royals to gesture appropriately at the crowd and millions of viewers across the globe. One of the first duties after saying “I do” is waving to crowds appreciatively in the carriage after the ceremony. Kate opted for a close-fingered wave, while Meghan kept things casual and natural.
Carrying the train is an important job that comes with added pressure. For the first royal wedding of the decade, Pippa Middleton was in the hot seat as Kate’s Maid of Honor. The second couple did things differently. Meghan decided not to have a Maid of Honor and instead asked her close friend’s twin sons to be her page boys on the big day.
Not every bride wears a tiara, but in the royal family, that’s non-negotiable. Kate’s was borrowed from the Queen herself, gifted to the monarch on her 18th birthday. As she’s got quite the collection of tiaras, Meghan also showed off one of the Queen’s bejeweled pieces. Though, she personalized it by swapping in a diamond center stone. They weren’t the only ones who looked stunning.
Both Carole Middleton and Doria Ragland wore pastel shades with matching hats to witness their daughters marry into royalty. In Middleton’s case, her dress was designed by Catherine Walker. Ragland wore a mint Oscar de la Renta creation.
Prince Charles switched up his outfits for his son’s weddings. The first time around, he went for a military look, wearing his regalia-covered royal uniform. Then, he put on a dashing three-piece gray suit for Harry and Meghan’s wedding, complementing Camilla’s outfit.
When it was her time to attend another huge royal wedding, this time as a guest, the Duchess of Cambridge caused a bit of stir with her outfit choice. While the receipts say her Alexander McQueen coat was a shade of “primrose yellow,” some felt Middleton came awfully close to committing the ultimate taboo — wearing white to someone else’s wedding.
Headlines swirled about the absence of Meghan Markle’s father at her wedding and her partial solo walk down the aisle. But traditionalists were assuaged when Prince Charles met her halfway. Kate was escorted by her father Michael Middleton.
Every diehard royal fan anticipates the newlywed couple’s first public smooch. William and Kate shared their first liplock as husband and wife on the balcony at Buckingham Palace. Harry and Meghan chose to kiss right after their ceremony in front of the crowd gathered outside St. George’s Chapel.
Only a select group of those packed into the church pews for the ceremony were invited to the royal receptions. The closest to William and Kate celebrated in the lavishness of Buckingham Palace. Harry and Meghan’s guests popped bottles at Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Hall.
Slipping into some staggeringly expensive gowns for the reception, Kate and Meghan both chose beautiful dresses that reflected their personal style. The Duchess of Cambridge wore a classic and conservative Alexander McQueen number. While the Duchess of Sussex donned a sleek $157,000 Stella McCartney crisp-white halter gown.
When it came to the cake, William and Kate went all out. Their eight-tier fruitcake cost a whopping $160,000 dollars! But don’t worry, there was a chocolate cake on standby, given the controversial choice of fruitcake In contrast, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex ordered a smaller lemon sponge with elderflower syrup and Almalfi lemon curd, with an estimated price between 60-75k.
As old-school British elites, Michael and Carole Middleton were well prepared when it came to their royal wedding fashions. To watch their daughter marry, he wore a traditional suit and top hat, and she wore a light blue tailored dress with a matching hat. And since it worked the first time, they wore nearly the same thing to the next wedding!
What’s the budget for a royal wedding? Well, a lot. In 2011, the monarchy shelled out $34 million for the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Upping the ante, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex threw a $55 million bash, even though they had 600 fewer guests than Will and Kate.
When William and Kate married, it was considered the wedding of the century, so a lot more people flocked to witness history. A crowd of about 2,000 turned up at Westminster Abbey. Far fewer people showed up to see Harry and Meghan wed, but they also had a much smaller venue. Numbers aside, the world watched as they became official members of the royal family, and there was no going back.
From then on, Meghan and Kate were beholden to the slew of unwritten rules that accompany life in the monarch. For instance, royals aren’t allowed to sign autographs, due to the risk that a member of the public will forge their signature. Before Prince Harry and Meghan married, she found a clever way to connect with the public: she simply wrote, “Hi Kaitlin,” in a young fan’s notebook.
When they gather for Christmas dinner, the royals have a weird tradition: they weigh themselves before, and after, eating. We imagine it turns into a competition to see who gained the most, but the habit goes back to the early 20th century, when King Edward was worried his family wasn’t eating enough.
Normal parents don’t typically take their newborns on impromptu trips around the globe, but life is different when you’re a royal. Royal babies must be prepared to travel at any given moment, which is why they’re issued a passport nearly the second they leave the womb!
Because the royal family hops around so many engagements every day, they have to eat often to keep their stamina up. Queen Elizabeth in particular eats four small meals a day: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea — usually a selection of light sandwiches — and dinner.
Look, when you’ve been ruling a country as long as Queen Elizabeth has, you’re allowed to party. She has a glass of champagne or a dry martini in the evenings, and her favorite cocktail is a gin and Dubonnet.
Before Princess Diana was beloved by the whole world, she was beloved by children. She had a number of jobs before becoming engaged to Prince Charles, one of which was kindergarten teaching, and another of which was nannying.
The Queen always wears neon colors when she’s out and about, but it’s not just a fashion statement. The monochrome outfits serve two purposes: one, to stand out so people can see her among a crowd, and two, so her security team is able to spot her in an instant.
Having gotten up years, it’s vital that Queen Elizabeth never goes abroad without a Royal Navy doctor present. She even carries her own supply of blood with her, in the event that she needs an emergency transfusion.
Though they dine on some of the finest cuisine in the world, the royals are never allowed to have one food: garlic. Though it’s a supremely tasty spice, it also tends to seep out of the pores, and the family meets so many people that they can’t risk smelling bad.
Though Prince George is ahead in line to the throne, Princess Charlotte has more of an impact on the British economy. She’s brought in an estimated $5 billion for the nation, while George has secured $3.6 billion. The reason? Parents rush to buy anything Charlotte is seen wearing.
Another thing you can do when you’re a ruler is celebrate your birthday twice. The Queen’s real birthday is April 21, when she celebrates privately with family. Her public celebration happens every year on the second Saturday in June. The tradition was started by King George II in 1748.
Though they have the option to be chauffeured wherever they please, the adult royals often drive themselves. According to royal correspondent Duncan Larcombe, it gives them a break from feeling pampered and lets them feel a little bit more normal and independent.
Prince Charles has his routine honed to a fine point, and he’s incredibly specific about it. His pajamas, and even shoelaces, get ironed every day, and his attendants are expected to squeeze exactly one inch of toothpaste onto his toothbrush every morning. Apparently he’s never heard that you only need a pea-sized amount!
You’re never fully dressed without a smile — or without Essie’s Ballet Slippers shade of nail polish, in Queen Elizabeth’s case. It’s been her favorite since 1989, and it’s so popular that 30 bottles of it are sold every hour in the United States.
Princess Diana went for maximum ’80s drama at her wedding. Her dress train was an astounding 25 feet long, and the dress itself was embellished with over 10,000 pearls. It looked gorgeous, but it sounds…heavy.
The royals have a long history of military service, and Queen Elizabeth was no exception. During WWII, while still a princess, she signed up to be a military mechanic with the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. They even assigned her a rank-and-file personnel number — No230873.
Princess Diana was fascinated by dance and wanted to be a ballerina as a child. Fate had other plans for her, but she never grew out of the love for ballet. According to a former teacher, she “had dance in her soul,” and it “helped to alleviate her emotional life.”
Prior to Diana’s labor with William, male royals were customarily not present during the birth of their children. Prince Philip was notoriously out playing squash while Queen Elizabeth delivered Charles — who later took it upon himself to set a new precedent by being present for Diana.
Though Camilla Parker-Bowles was at one point a controversial figure in the British media, and apparently with the royal family, the Queen warmed up to her. She even gave Camilla the highest rank in the Royal Victorian Order — the title of Dame Grand Cross.
When Kate Middleton married Prince William, she became the first royal bride with a college degree — a master’s degree, no less. Meghan Markle soon followed, with double degrees in theater and international studies that serve her well on the global stage. The two leaders set educated examples for young women to look up to.
Most royals don’t work, instead spending their time helping charities, but Princess Eugenie really wanted to earn her keep. She works as the associate director at contemporary London gallery Hauser & Wirth, having been passionate about art from a young age.
The royals kids are forbidden to eat any kind of shellfish, as it commonly causes food poisoning. Considering children don’t typically gravitate to food that’s locked in a hard shell and smells like the ocean… we’re sure they don’t mind.
Queen Elizabeth II insists all members of her family get baptized. Even Meghan Markle was required to be christened before she wed Prince Harry in 2018. The Archbishop of Canterbury leads the ceremonies and uses holy water from the Jordan River.
When they’re baptized as wee babies, royals must don this gown, which was first worn by Queen Victoria’s first child back in the 1800s. Because that ancient gown is now fragile, royal babies wear a replica.
We’re sure you remember being dragged to boring family events as a child. Well, the royal kids are required to do the same. They’re taught to act appropriately at weddings, christenings, and public events, like the Queen’s birthday ceremony.
According to etiquette expert Myka Meier, the royal children all take etiquette classes “as soon as they’re old enough to sit at a table.” Teaching 5-year-olds how to curtsy and use “inside voices” sounds like a headache and a half!
The royal kiddies often grow up learning a second language. The Queen, Prince Charles, and Prince William all speak French, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is teaching little Prince George and Princess Charlotte how to speak Spanish.
Boys are required to wear shorts in public. While you’d think a pair of snazzy trousers would be more formal, it stems from the fact that pants on young boys used to be viewed as… middle class. Heaven forbid!
And as for the little royal ladies, it’s dresses all the time. “They tend to wear smocked dresses as little girls when they are in public with their parents,” royal expert Marlene Koenig explained to Harper’s Bazaar.
The strict protocol for these British Royal juveniles literally begins at birth. In fact, it’s tradition that their arrival is immediately announced to the public. A notice with the baby’s sex and delivery time is posted outside of the Buckingham Palace gates.
Even the royal children must remain impartial when it comes to politics and cultural affairs. When Prince George donned an England Lioness jersey in 2019, it riled up the media, as it was thought that he favored one UK soccer team over another.
The royal children are expected to act as the page boy and flower girl at royal weddings, and those cuties always steal the show. Prince George and Princess Charlotte entranced nearly everyone at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s 2018 wedding (sorry Meg!).
Security guidelines are tight. Safety is an everyday priority, and each royal child has security with them at all times, even while attending Thomas’ Battersea London Day School.
The public loves gifting the royal children with flowers and toys, but royal protocol declares that the Queen decides what they can keep after accepting.
As per centuries-old tradition, the highest-ranked royal boys are expected to one day serve in the military. Prince Charles served in the Navy, Prince William served in the Air Force (eventually becoming a civilian air ambulance pilot), and Prince Harry joined the Army (eventually becoming a helicopter pilot).
When you imagine a princess, you likely picture her in a fluffy cupcake gown with a sparkly tiara on her head. Scratch the tiara, as those sparkly head pieces are reserved for married royal women! Sorry, Princess Charlotte.
Families always have bizarre nicknames for each other, as Prince Philip allegedly (and hilariously) calls the Queen “Cabbage,” but they’re not allowed to use them publicly. Sadly, no one is uttering the words “Prince Georgie” or “Princess Charlie” out in the open.
Believe it or not, royal children aren’t permitted to call Queen Elizabeth II grandma! While they don’t call her Your Royal Highness, she’s either known as “Granny” or “Gan-Gan.” According to the Daily Mail, Prince William used to address her as “Gary!”
Queen Elizabeth II is famously the only person in the UK permitted to drive an automobile without a license (which is questionable). As for the royal kids, they’re required to earn a driver’s license once they’re of age. Hmm, can we really trust mischievous Prince George on the roads?
Ever heard of the British Royal “Windsor wave?” It’s their go-to move when greeting the public, and all the royal children have to learn the suave, photogenic wave. They look pretty darn cute waving their little hands at all of the adoring peasants, er, fans.