We might think of a traditional wedding dress as being white, but royal brides during the last century have typically worn ivory – The Queen, Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge all chose ivory silk.
The shape and style are still up for debate – might Meghan Markle opt for the corset bodice and elegant lace sleeves favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge, or a dramatic, extra-long train like Princess Diana? The only element about which we can be fairly confident are that her shoulders will be covered, as is traditional for formal church ceremonies in the UK.
Another tradition upheld by successive royal brides is to have a charm sewn into the lining of the wedding dress for good luck. The Queen chose a clover leaf, Princess Diana a horseshoe, and the Duchess of Cambridge a blue ribbon (“something blue”).
Striking tiaras have been worn by royal brides throughout the last century, and often represent ‘something borrowed’: The Queen wore the Fringe Tiara, which had been created from a necklace given to her grandmother Queen Mary by Queen Victoria. She, in turn, lent it to her daughter Princess Anne to wear for her marriage to Mark Phillips.
Both on her wedding day and on a number of other formal occasions, Princess Diana wore a tiara owned by her family, known as the Spencer Tiara. The piece has not been worn in public since Princess Diana’s death, but there are rumours that the Spencer family may lend it to their nephew’s bride for the occasion of their wedding in May.
The hair and make-up
On her wedding day in 1947, with Britain still suffering the economic after-effects of the war, the Queen sensibly chose to do her own make-up. Her granddaughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, followed suit decades later, although her ‘demi-chignon’ hairstyle was created by celebrity stylist Richard Ward.
Brides like Meghan Markle who usually favour a natural look may make an exception for their wedding day and opt for a more striking and dramatic style. After all, royal bridal make-up has to endure not just a long day on show, but also the scrutiny of thousands of camera lenses.
While it’s still more usual for brides to wear their hair up in keeping with the formality of the occasion, this decision will largely depend on the style of the dress and the veil.
Like his father, grandfather and older brother, Prince Harry may well choose to wear dress uniform on his wedding day. Though he no longer serves with his former regiment the Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry, his military ties are understandably important to him: the Invictus Games founder also took over from the Duke of Edinburgh as Captain General Royal Marines last year.