Royal wedding 2018 countdown: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are marrying tomorrow

What's the big Harry deal about an American marrying into the British royal family? Here's everything you need to know before this Saturday's wedding.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, and generational studies Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
6 min read
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The countdown has begun! The royal wedding is tomorrow at 7 a.m. ET or 4 a.m. PT. (Here are some helpful coffee brewing tips, just in case you need to up your caffeine game tomorrow.) And YouTube has joined the growing list of places you can stream the wedding.

Here comes the bride, and her redheaded prince. We've already offered up a guide to watching Saturday's royal wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle, but maybe you need a "Who Are These People?" primer. Crack open a Royal Crown cola and something from Burger King to put you in the regal mood, and read on.

Harry who, now?

Prince Henry Charles Albert David, 33, is the second son of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and the late beloved Princess Diana, whose fairy-tale-turned-tragedy started off with a different royal wedding, in 1981. Harry's the redheaded prince, the spare to Prince William's heir, the one who always carried less responsibility and a bigger tendency toward mischief than big bro Wills (naked billiards, dressing up as a Nazi, you know, the usual). 

Meet Meghan Markle

The other half of the royal couple is Rachel Meghan Markle, 36, who was born in Los Angeles, graduated from Northwestern University, and most recently starred as Rachel Zane (yes, another Rachel) in the USA Network's legal drama Suits. You also might've seen her as an amorous partygoer in Russell Brand's 2010 film Get Him to the Greek, or as one of the models who displayed prize-filled briefcases on the game show Deal or No Deal

U-S-A! U-S-A! 

Markle is as American as a Hollywood movie, which is novel for the British royal family, though not completely new. American Wallis Simpson wed Queen Elizabeth II's uncle King Edward VIII in 1937 after he abdicated the throne to marry her. (The establishment didn't like that she was a divorcee -- you probably saw The King's Speech.) That was a royal mess indeed. 

This is Markle's second marriage, as she was wed to fellow actor Trevor Engelson from 2011-2013. That isn't such a big deal these days, as Prince Charles (and two of his siblings) are divorced.

Markle is also biracial, a meaningful issue to many in 87-percent-white Britain. Her mom, Doria Ragland, is African-American, and her dad, Thomas Markle Sr., is Caucasian. 

Will they ever rule?

Not happening, barring some tragedy that takes out a giant chunk of the royal family. 

At birth, Harry was third in line to the throne behind his dad and brother, but he's fallen to sixth after William's three children. By George (and Charlotte, and Louis), he's unlikely to ever have to worry about taking the throne. But Meghan will acquire a batch of titles once they wed, including Princess Henry of Wales, which is a bit weird and unlikely to be used. 

The queen will probably dub them Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their wedding day, much as William and Kate are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Any kids they have could be given the titles of prince and princess, but it's up to the queen -- they might also be just lords and ladies.

Give me some wedding dish!

The basics: It'll happen Saturday, May 19 at 12 p.m. UK time (7 a.m. ET, 4 a.m. PT) in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, the queen's weekend place just outside London. While we commoners can't attend, you can watch the pomp and circumstance unfold on TV.

The dress: Markle's gown is a closely kept secret, though we'll hazard a guess it won't be quite as conservative as Kate Middleton's gown from when she wed Prince William in 2011. Though some US fashionistas were hoping Markle would showcase togs by an American designer, the Daily Mail is reporting she's chosen a hand-stitched, beaded gown by Ralph & Russo, a London-based couture house founded by Australian designers Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo. Rumors are that the dress will cost the royals £100,000 ($134,000 or AU$179,000). 

Harry's garb: Fewer people care about what Harry wears. It could be a simple suit, tuxedo or morning dress, but he has numerous military uniforms to choose from, including that of the British Army's Household Cavalry's Blues and Royals regiment. But it's frowned upon to wear that uniform with a beard, and the prince is unlikely to shave before the big day.

The tiara: Tiara watchers will be craning to see which diamond diadem rests on Markle's head. Some are hoping for the Spencer tiara worn by her late mother-in-law to-be, Diana, but that seems unlikely. The Cambridge Lover's Knot is a favorite, but seems to have been scooped up by Kate -- who is the Duchess of Cambridge, after all. The queen may simply have bought Markle a new tiara, as she did with Sarah Ferguson when Fergie married Prince Andrew in 1986, or have one created from already owned jewels, as was done with Sophie Rhys-Jones when Rhys-Jones wed Prince Edward in 1999.

The rings: Prince Harry designed his bride-to-be's ring to include two diamonds from his mother Diana's collection. The stone at the center is a three-carat, cushion-cut diamond from Botswana, a special destination for the couple. Her wedding ring is reportedly made from the same nugget of gold used for many royal brides in the past, including Diana and Kate. And Harry himself reportedly will wear a wedding ring, something his brother chooses not to do.

The flowers: According to British Vogue, the floral arrangements will include "branches of beech, birch and hornbeam, and white garden roses, peonies and foxgloves from the gardens and parkland of the Crown Estate and Windsor Park."

The bridesmaids and pageboys: British royals like to have very small children as their attendants. (Pippa Middleton walking up the aisle with sister Kate in 2011 was fairly unusual, though Diana did have two older bridesmaids to help out.) On Wednesday, Kensington Palace announced the list of little ones, but the only two that most people care about are William's son Prince George, age 4, and his daughter Princess Charlotte, age 3. It remains to be seen whether any memes will be spawned.

The cake: It'll be a lemon elderflower creation covered with buttercream and fresh flowers, made by pastry chef Claire Ptak, owner of the London-based bakery Violet. Like Markle, Ptak was raised in California.

And so it begins 🍋

A post shared by Violet By Claire Ptak (@violetcakeslondon) on

The receptions: There are two. After the ceremony, there'll be a reception held at St. George's Hall that includes all the guests. But later that night, Prince Charles will give a smaller, private reception that'll include only close friends and family. (This one made the news because his ex-sister-in-law, Sarah Ferguson, was reportedly not invited.) Twitter has some fantastic recommendations for #RoyalWeddingBands.

The guests: There'll be around 600, far fewer than the 1,900 who attended William's wedding. (The venue for Harry's wedding is much smaller, plus as the spare and not the heir, he didn't have to invite world leaders he doesn't even know.) Diana's three siblings will be there, and her sister Jane will deliver a reading. (No way will the royal family let her brother Charles speak again after he blasted them at her funeral.) Plus, the Spice Girls might be there! They wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah. If you really, really, really wanna know who's there, check out this Royal Wedding Who's Who Live app from Sky News, which will use special software to ID the guests as they enter, and explain who they are.

Meghan's family: Hoo boy. This is the news story that's blown up the week of the wedding. Her father Thomas apparently faked some photos of himself doing simple things, like reading a book about Britain in a public cafe, and that became embarrassing news for the royals. (The Daily Beast has a great explanation of how the palace lost control of the narrative.) Now it looks like Thomas Markle won't be attending the wedding at all, and he's reportedly having heart surgery just days before the ceremony. Some say Markle's mother will be the one to walk her down the aisle. It wouldn't be a wedding without some form of last-minute family drama.