A wedding in the British royal family is always a major event and cause for celebration — no matter where in the world you live. If you’ve been feeling some “wedding fever” after Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle announced their engagement in November, you’re certainly not alone. British royal weddings are some of the most extravagant, yet tasteful, affairs. Although some traditions in a royal wedding might be familiar to you, there are quite a few centuries-old traditions for these weddings that are truly unique. Here are some of the most interesting facts about British royal weddings over the years:
- The engaged couple must seek the permission of the ruling King or Queen before getting engaged.
That’s right, Prince William and Prince Harry had to ask their grandmother, the Queen, for permission to get married! The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 requires that all royal descendants ask for permission from the ruling sovereign. If the Queen had chosen not to give her blessing for either marriage, these royals might have been required to abdicate their places in the royal succession.
- The church rules are way more complex than you might think.
It should come as no surprise that the typical royal wedding has a mile-long guest list and that it’s chock-full of celebrities, foreign leaders, and other royals. Regardless of who they are, they must follow specific rules when they attend. The Royal Family traditionally sits on the right side of the church, unless the groom is not part of the Royal Family, in which case the Family sits on the left side. Men are expected to wear military uniforms, coats with tails, or business suits; women are expected to wear hats.
- Most British weddings are usually followed by a “breakfast” (even when the wedding starts at noon).
This is a tradition that many Brits follow, but it’s no surprise that the British Royal Family sets the bar high for a post-wedding brunch. Prince Charles and Princess Diana had a small wedding breakfast with around 120 guests, while Prince William and Kate Middleton had a slightly larger breakfast with 600 of their closest friends and relatives.
- Women who marry into the Royal Family typically take on their husband’s official titles.
For Princess Diana, this meant becoming the Princess of Wales when she married Charles, the Prince of Wales. Charles’ son, William, is officially known as the Duke of Cambridge, so Kate Middleton in turn became the Duchess of Cambridge. The one major exception in recent history is Camilla Parker Bowles, who took the title Duchess of Cornwall (out of respect for Princess Diana) when she married Charles.
- Queen Victoria is responsible for starting the “modern” trend of wearing a white dress.
When the late Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she chose to wear a white wedding gown. This was very different from the normal wedding dress designs at the time, which tended to be colorful or entirely black.
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