An invitation to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has to be one of the most coveted of the year. But among the 2,640 people in the grounds of Windsor Castle on Saturday are 1,200 lucky members of the public—nominated by the couple for their community service and strong leadership.
“I was absolutely delighted to be invited to this historic event,” says 24-year-old Joshua McLeod from Cumbria in northeast England. Joshua, who is attending the wedding with his mom, Sue, was nominated for a royal wedding invite because of his work as a scout leader and assistant county commissioner for Cumbria Scouts; he is also a volunteer for the Newman Holiday Trust, which provides holidays for disadvantaged children nationwide.
“I don’t volunteer to get recognition, I do it because I love what I do. Scouting has prepared me with skills for life and I want to give that back to others,” says McLeod, adding that he brought his mother as a show of his gratitude toward her. She “is my backup in everything I do—she’s made me who I am.”
Members of the public attending the wedding receive a gift bag containing a commemorative chocolate coin, a fridge magnet, some shortbread, a bottle of water and a voucher for money off at the gift shop.
“Receiving the invite was a huge surprise and huge honor,” says Alexander Willis, 17, a youth politician from Newport, southeast Wales. He works to amplify the voices of young people in the local area, particularly in tackling hate crime (working with LGBT and local Muslim groups), addressing the stigma around mental health issues, and campaigning for lower transport fares. “I am a great fan of the royal family.”
Other Brits have flocked to Windsor even without invites, just excited to be part of the crowds.
Super fans Sandra Shaw, Loraine Raines and Trish Hodkinson from Warrington in northwest England, donned wedding dresses for the big day. “We want to be noticed and stand out in a crowd!” says Sandra.
And college finals on Monday haven’t got in the way of four psychology students, Elise, Shannon, Hope and Alice, attending the wedding. They are even trying to “multitask,” bringing their study notes with them to the Long Walk, the three mile long tree-lined avenue leading up to the castle.
“I think the royal family is the most interesting thing about England – we have the longest reigning monarch. Seeing them reminds you of our long history,” says 22-year-old Hope. Her friend Elise adds: ‘I am obsessed with Meghan, I love her. I’m a massive Suits fan. I like that the marriage symbolizes the royal family is not so rigid and is open to change.”
Windsor residents haven’t missed the opportunity to join the wedding crowds at the Long Walk on a beautifully sunny day. “Meghan is royalty for today,” says Caroline Wagstaff.
Her friend Rebecca Hilliard added: “She’s a strong intelligent woman and once she’s integrated into the family we’ll see how lovely the marriage is. She’s a great role model. Also it helps us build bonds back with America which have been lacking somewhat.”