If you haven’t managed to snag an invite to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding — perhaps the most exclusive and exciting party of the year — then don’t be too jealous of those who have (Elton John, we’re looking at you).
While Prince Harry and Markle’s royal wedding on May 19 will doubtlessly be star-studded, lavish and history-making, one thing it won’t be is relaxing.
In fact, Harry and Meghan’s guests need to keep on top of some important royal wedding etiquette rules. Here are six things it’s important for friends and family of the royal couple to remember on the big day:
1. You can’t sit wherever you want during the royal wedding ceremony
At an ordinary wedding, friends of the groom sit on one side of the room during the ceremony and friends of the bride sit on the other side.
However, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding day is no ordinary occasion. When it comes to a royal wedding, the royal family tends to sit on the right-hand-side of the church, with the friends and family of the non-royal partner (in this case, Meghan) on the left.
2. Don’t even think about trying to catch Meghan Markle’s bouquet
Catching the bride’s bouquet at a typical wedding usually symbolizes that you’re the next person in the room who will get married, and is thought to be a token of good luck. However, bouquet traditions at royal weddings are a bit different.
In a tradition started by the late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, at her marriage to King George VI in 1923, royal wedding brides leave their bouquets at the grave of the Unknown Warrior in London’s Westminster Abbey. The Queen Mother left her royal wedding bouquet at the grave in memory of her brother Fergus, who was killed at the 1915 Battle of Loos during the World War, according to the Westminster Abbey website.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, sent her bouquet to rest on the same grave, following her 2011 marriage to Prince William. It is likely that Markle will follow in Middleton’s footsteps and do the same after her May 19 royal wedding.
3. If you’re a woman, consider wearing a hat to the royal wedding
Although wearing a hat is not essential, female guests — royal and otherwise — at British royal weddings tend to cover their heads at ceremonies, especially when the nuptial is taking place in the spring.
A royal wedding hat doesn’t need to be a subtle accessory, designed to blend in with the rest of an outfit; at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding, Princess Beatrice of York (the daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson) donned a hat that immediately spawned its own Facebook page with thousands of fans.
4. Follow the Queen’s lead
Approaching the Queen is against royal protocol; guests at Harry and Meghan’s wedding who want to wish the monarch their congratulations should wait for her to come up to them.
As a rule, guests should follow the Queen’s protocol: if she speaks to you, reply. If she sits down, you should too. If she begins eating, follow her lead. The only circumstance in which guests should touch her Royal Highness is if the Queen offers her hand for a handshake.
5. But if you do meet the Queen, make sure you don’t look like a fool
Royal protocol dictates that guests should curtsey or bow their head to Queen Elizabeth, but a combination of the two is also acceptable, according to the BBC. The Queen should be addressed as ‘Your Majesty’ and then ‘Ma’am,’ if there is further conversation.
6. And don’t wear white to the royal wedding
It’s traditional for royal brides to wear white; the white wedding dress trend is attributed to Queen Victoria, who donned a white dress for her royal wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, and Meghan is expected to follow royal protocol in this instance.
If a guest chose to wear white they could upstage the bride, meaning fully white or majority white outfits should be avoided, in keeping with both regular and royal wedding etiquette.
That said, there are exceptions. Pippa Middleton famously wore a plain white satin bridesmaid gown at the wedding of her older sister, Kate Middleton, and Prince William, in 2011. Years later, the younger Middleton said that she was surprised by the amount of attention her white dress received. “I think the plan was not really for it to be a significant dress,” she said. “Really just to sort of blend in with [Kate’s] train.”