In the annals of social etiquette, is there anything more politically fraught than a wedding guest list?
Before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle married each other this afternoon in England, necks craned eagerly to see just who would be getting out of the luxury vehicles—and the shuttle bus—outside of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, while millions tuned in from around the world to watch the red carpet-reminiscent procession.
The usual suspects were all accounted for—Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Kate Middleton and Prince William. Meghan’s mum, Doria Ragland. Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla. The groom’s royal first cousins, including Zara Tindall and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. All three of Princess Diana‘s siblings. Victoria and David Beckham (practically royalty at this point).
Then there were the less usual suspects.
Oprah Winfrey. George and Amal Clooney. Idris Elba. Priyanka Chopra. Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian. The cast of Suits.
But while the Hollywood contingent was out in fuller force today for Meghan and Harry—the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex—than it was for Will and Kate seven years ago, overall this was a much smaller affair.
Roughly 1,900 guests witnessed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge marry at Westminster Abbey—but St. George’s Chapel only seats 800, and Harry and Meghan economically whittled their ceremony list down to a reported 600. And only 200 were invited to the reception afterward at Frogmore House.
Meaning, simply, that hundreds of royal wedding guests in 2011 just wouldn’t be repeating the experience in 2018. But how does that final list come together?
Much was made, for instance, of whether or not former President Barack Obama would receive an invitation, as he and Michelle Obama are chummy with the groom and had a most memorable meeting with William and Kate and a bathrobe-sporting Prince Georgeat Kensington Palace a few years back. And if the Obamas were invited, would the current U.S. president and first lady be as well?
At the end of the day, none of the above were invited, nor was British Prime Minister Teresa May.
“It has been decided that an official list of political leaders—both U.K. and international—is not required for Prince Harry and Ms Markle’s wedding,” the Palace explained in a statement last month. “Her Majesty’s government was consulted on this decision, which was taken by the royal household.”
Perhaps Harry and Meghan decided it wasn’t worth the inevitable controversy. Then P.M. David Cameron attended Will and Kate’s wedding, as did Labor leader Ed Miliband, Sir John Major (who served as a formal guardian to William and Harry after their mother Princess Diana‘s death in 1997). Margaret Thatcher was invited, but was in poor health and could not attend. But the royals were then criticized for not inviting Cameron’s immediate predecessors Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, with some going so far as to call it a calculated move.
So who needs that?
As for the celebrities who were there: Chopra and Williams are longtime friends of the bride. Singer Joss Stone knows the princes from the U.K. society and charity world and was at Will and Kate’s wedding, after which she told E! News it indeed was “like being part of a fairytale.”
Patrick J. Adams, at the ceremony with his Pretty Little Liars star wife Troian Bellisario, and Gina Torres worked with Meghan for years on Suits, becoming a surrogate family in her adopted home of Toronto, where they shoot the USA drama.
One could have assumed that former dueling most eligible bachelors Harry and George Clooneymight have become fast friends on the international do-gooding circuit, but People reports that it’s actually Meghan and Amal who have struck up a friendship since the former actress moved to London.
Meanwhile, not only does Oprah Winfrey know everybody, but it’s been reported that Meghan’s mother met with the talk-show legend for hours at Winfrey’s California home earlier this month to discuss plans for what would be a hugely anticipated sit-down for sometime after the wedding.
As for Idris Elba…well, wouldn’t you want him at your wedding, given the chance? (Will and Kate also had a memorable meeting with the actor at the London premiere of his film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom in 2013.)
And though the list of invitations rumored to have been sent to Spice Girls quickly dwindled from five to three before the wedding, with Mel B and Mel C the ones left out, only Posh seems to have actually been invited. Or she’s the only one who showed up, anyway.
“Who else is ready for today?? #harryandmeghan #weddinghat#houseparty,” Emma Bunton shared a close-up of herself in a pink hat this morning, then a few hours later followed with a pic of herself in a wedding veil, an indicator she was not partaking in the royal affair.
While you’ve heard enough by now from Meghan’s half-brother and half-sister, neither of whom ever had much of a relationship with the bride and therefore were not included in today’s festivities, quite a few members of Harry’s sprawling family on the queen’s side didn’t make the cut, either.
Lady Amelia Windsor, a granddaughter of the queen’s cousin the Duke of Kent, led the “snubbed” headlines—mainly because she’s a model and makes for a most photogenic, glamorous main image. She joined her sister Lady Marina Windsor and their parents, as well as “lots of Kents and Gloucesters,” on the list of the uninvited.
“I can be quite last minute because I’m all over the place,” Amelia told the Telegraph earlier this month when asked about the wedding. “Sometimes you can be thinking ‘Oh my gosh, what am I wearing?’ on your way there. It’s a learning experience with each thing you go to.”
But just days later word got out that she and her immediate family weren’t invited, though they all attended Kate and William’s wedding. “They were a little surprised not to be invited as they were looking forward to going,” a source told The Sun. (However, a theory that Harry didn’t want Meghan upstaged by his cousin who’s been deemed the “hot royal” seems a little suspect, considering some of the celebs who were invited.)
Generally it would seem that if you’re a member of the family (or related to a close relative) and you weren’t invited to Kate and William’s wedding, then it would likely follow that you weren’t going to be a part of Harry and Meghan’s big day.
But the couple did do a reverse in one case—Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York (aka Fergie), attended the ceremony Saturday, years after a tabloid scandal was rumored to have cost her an invitation to the 2011 royal wedding. (Some viral hilarity also ensued when she was briefly mistaken for Geri Halliwell.)
Fergie and Harry’s uncle Prince Andrew divorced 22 years ago, but Harry is close to their daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie (whose fiancé Jack Brooksbank was also in attendance), and extended the invite. However, Andrew’s big brother Prince Charles is the one hosting the reception, and he reportedly left his ex-sister-in-law off that list.
“Numbers are limited to the evening party, she is not a member of the Royal Family any more and Prince Charles simply doesn’t have time for her,” an insider told the Mail Online. “He just can’t see why she is still such a big part of his brother’s life.”
But a source told E! News that Harry always planned to invite his aunt, that he has “always been fond of Ms. Ferguson and he would never want to exclude a family member.”
As for that very exclusive reception, the Suits actors were not going to be in attendance—and even Pippa Middleton, who’s celebrating her first anniversary Sunday and had Harry at her wedding to James Matthews(and, bucking tradition, Meghan at the reception), reportedly wasn’t going to the party. Neither were Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas—but as Harry’s ex-girlfriends, it’s a bit of an eyebrow-raiser that they were invited to the ceremony in the first place.
While poised to further modernize the monarchy no matter what, Meghan has also proved herself an open-minded wife already.