Royal wedding: How will Meghan and Harry embrace African American and British traditions?


Kensington Palace released new juicy details about the special date, some keeping with tradition others not so much. Susana Victoria Perez (@susana_vp) has more.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry aren’t the most traditional royal couple.

She’s a divorced, biracial American actress. He’s a ginger-haired British prince.

 But as Markle has helped plan her wedding, she’s been embracing the British royal culture while simultaneously maintaining her sense of self, experts say.  

“I think [the palace has] been careful that Meghan feels that her American heritage has not been swept under the carpet,” says royal commentator Victoria Arbiter.

MORE:When is the royal wedding? Your complete guide to the big day

What can guests and onlookers look forward to at the royal wedding? Experts say the the duo will likely both embrace and subvert traditions. 

They’ll embrace American and British royal traditions

The royal wedding will not only unite two people, but two cultures as well, as evidenced by the invites.

“When they did the invitations, they printed the invitations on English cardstock but they used American ink,” Arbiter says. “To Meghan that would have been significant that including her country, her heritage is a nod to where she’s from.”

While most American grooms wear tuxedos, Prince Harry will likely stick to tradition as his brother Prince William did and wear his military regalia from his time in the British Army Air Corps. 

The male wedding guests might also look different to American viewers, as most men will likely wear morning suits and tail coats to the festivities, different from a typical business suit. The female guests will also don bright colors and their most extravagant hats for the occasion.

Among the American traditions that the couple may consider: personalized vows and cutting the cake together. WeddingWire trend and royal expert Anne Chertoff explains that sharing the dessert is “a traditional American moment that Meghan may want to share with her groom as it’s both meaningful and makes for a great photo.”

Don’t count out the fruit cake

While fruit cake is the standard at royal weddings, Harry and Meghan will feature a lemon elderflower cake. The choice melds the couple’s backgrounds.  Pastry chef Claire Ptak hails from Markle’s home state of California but runs her bakery in London. 

 There’s still a chance the fruit cake will make an appearance. “I expect that there will still be a traditional fruit cake,” Gemmill says. “Like it or not the Brits like their fruit cake.”

Prince William and Duchess Kate presented fruit cake in commemorative tins as thank you gifts to guests. So it’s possible guests could dine on sponge cake at the reception and walk away with a tin of fruit cake after the festivities. 

Princess Diana will there in spirit

The presence of parents during a wedding is customary in both American and English royal wedding traditions, and both Prince Harry and Markle’s parents will be represented during the nuptials.

Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, will walk her down the aisle, and her mother is set to accompany her to the church.

Although Princess Diana died in 1997, her presence will still be strong at the wedding. The palace announced that Prince Harry’s late mother’s two sisters and brother are invited and one of her elder sisters, Lady Jane Fellowes, 61, will give a reading at the ceremony. The couple also continued her philanthropic legacy by asking for donations to a list of charities in lieu of gifts


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The bridal fashion will mix traditional and personal touches

What dress will Markle wear? That’s the million dollar question , but the answers likely won’t come until spectators see her arrive at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on May 19. 

Although the designer and the style are not yet known, the dress “will be very traditional with modernized elements,” says Esther Lee, senior news editor for wedding website The Knot.

“Typically royal brides always wear lace,” says royal fashion and etiquette expert Jo Gemmill. “I think within her dress there will be quite a lot of symbolism and it wouldn’t be blatant because it will be perhaps all in the lace.”

In the past, Gemmill says the British Isles, the English rose, the Scottish thistle and the Irish shamrock have been depicted in lace detailing on royal gowns. Gemmill said that Markle’s dress will likely include “some symbolism to her roots and her heritage.” While not the norm for royal weddings, Markle is expected to change gowns for the second reception.

Because the ceremony is not a state affair, “they can make their wedding more private and personal,” Chertoff says. “We saw that in the choice of venues for the ceremony and reception, in the choice of cake and in the choice of music at the ceremony.”

The couple probably won’t jump the broom, but there will be a gospel choir

While the royal wedding traditions probably won’t leave much room for African-American wedding traditions like jumping the broom, tgospel group The Kingdom Choir will perform at the wedding.

“They’ve included a Christian gospel group, which I don’t remember ever being at a royal wedding,” Arbiter says.


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Chertoff suggests that Meghan could select a reading or music by an African American author, poet or composer “as a nod to her heritage.”

One African-American tradition that would make for a special moment would be tying the knot, during which “the bride and groom have their wrists tied together with cloth or braided grass to represent their marriage,” according to The Knot.

However, Lee predicts these traditions “will not be a part of the wedding ceremony especially since the itinerary is strictly dictated by the palace and the timeline has already been secured.”

“Kensington Palace was keen to point out that it’s going to be a traditional royal wedding, but it’s going to be one that very much reflects the personalities of these two people,” Arbiter says.

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