WINDSOR, England — Prince Harry and Meghan Markle became husband and wife, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and the new reigning king and queen of romance on Saturday. Is that an official title? It should be, because the royal wedding, so hotly anticipated and debated, was full of sweet, inspiring, groundbreaking moments that spoke to the couple’s unique character.
Where to begin? Is it with the heavenly music selections that perfectly melded British and American traditions? The fresh array of blush pink and gentle green hats and outfits that lit up St. George’s Chapel?
Or how about when Prince Harry raised his bride-to-be’s veil, and for one brief moment, even the most hardened of cynics swooned a little inside?
Before the ceremony, a rainbow of color and celebrity
While Meghan, Prince Harry and their closest family and attendants waited out the final hours before their big moment, Britain and America’s finest put on a characteristically colorful display. Among the best dressed was Amal Clooney, an international human rights lawyer and the wife of George Clooney, who wore a stunning deep yellow outfit that CNN’s fashion expert Caryn Franklin called a “masterclass” and “a wonderful tonal choice for her complexion.”
Of course, the Stars and Stripes were represented almost as much as the Union Jack, and tennis star Serena Williams made one of the strongest showings from the other side of the pond. Her asymmetrical look played up two of the biggest trends of the day: blush pink and architectural headpieces.
READ MORE: Royal wedding guests, in pictures
Of course, all eyes were on the Queen and the mother of the bride, Doria Ragland. They probably didn’t coordinate their outfits beforehand, but they could have: Both were sporting shades of light green, with the Queen adding pops of yellow and purple to her outfit. (Why does the Queen love bright colors so much? CNN’s cadre of royal correspondents on the scene surmised that, since she stands at a diminutive 5ft 4in, bright colors help her stand out.)
Meaningful moments from the royal family
There were also some meaningful appearances that had nothing to do with fashion: Prince Harry’s aunt, Sarah Ferguson, was in attendance, smiling and waving as she walked into the chapel. The Duchess of York is divorced from her husband, Prince Andrew, and has been somewhat of a pariah in the royal family. She wasn’t invited to Prince William and Catherine’s wedding, and her presence was one indication of Prince Harry’s reputation as a peacemaker in the family.
And, in case you needed more evidence that the royals are a hardy bunch, Queen Elizabeth’s husband Prince Philip arrived and walked to his place at the front of the chapel unassisted, despite having hip surgery just a month ago.
It is reported that the Queen loves a wedding, and as CNN’s royal correspondents pointed out, this is likely her last royal union. The Queen is 92 years old, and the next person in her direct line to get married would be one of Prince William’s children, who are all under five.
Harry and William arrive; as princes, brothers and friends
Of course, everyone is always waiting for what the bride is going to wear, but Prince Harry and Prince William, acting as his best man, cut quite a figure in their black Household Cavalry Uniforms. There was some playful speculation over whether Harry would keep his jaunty beard, and it turns out he did! It’s not exactly a huge break with tradition, but a little scruff on the Prince on his wedding day was certainly a modern touch.
It was an emotional moment to watch the two brothers, bonded not only by blood but the tragic loss of their mother when they were both children, walk through the nave together. The memory of Princess Diana was strongly felt throughout the day. Diana’s brother, Earl Charles Spencer, was in attendance, and her sister Lady Jane Fellowes gave a reading. One of the many hymns played before the ceremony was “Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Redeemer,” which was not only played at Diana’s funeral, but at William and Catherine’s wedding seven years ago.
The dress is revealed
Is there ever a dress more anticipated than that of a royal bride-to-be?
From the second Meghan set off from her hotel in a royal Rolls-Royce, people were squinting and screen-shotting, trying to get a glimpse of her outfit.
No surprise, it turned out to be a stunner: A simple boat-neck, all-white number that was conservative, yet bold in its simplicity. It was designed by acclaimed British designer, Clare Waight Keller, who last year became became the first female Artistic Director at the historic French fashion house Givenchy. Another feminist choice from the unconventional royal bride? Perhaps. Walking yourself partway down the aisle and wearing the creation of a groundbreaking female designer certainly makes a statement.
READ MORE: Details of Meghan’s Givenchy dress
In case you were wondering whether the Queen approves of her new granddaughter-in-law, she reportedly invited Meghan to choose her tiara from a selection of historic pieces. She ended up wearing a low-profile diamond bandeau tiara owned by Queen Mary.
Harry and Meghan prove love is real
With the guests in order, the mystery of the dress solved, and the screaming crowds of wedding-watchers quieted down (a little), Meghan began the long walk to the altar, over the iconic black-and-white tiles of St. George’s Chapel. It was the first observed time that a royal bride-to-be walked herself down the aisle (Meghan’s father Thomas was supposed to do the honors, but could not attend due to health issues).
About halfway through, Prince Harry’s father Prince Charles joined her. Once she came to stand next to her future husband, the romance factor rocketed up and stayed there at an almost unbearable level throughout the ceremony. The nuptial couple couldn’t stop being sweet to each other. When he saw Meghan, the first thing Harry said to her was, “You look amazing.” When he lifted her veil, she gave him a radiant smile that will live on in GIFs and photos from now until the end of time. They HELD HANDS almost the entire service. Stiff upper lip? This royal couple would never.
The ceremony inspires and unites
From the outset, we knew the ceremony was going to be something different — a union of British Royal traditions and American spirituality. The officiant was David Conner, Dean of Windsor, who did the usual honors.
But one of the highlights of the ceremony was an address given by Michael Curry, an American preacher who is also the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
During his engaging (and lengthy!) speech, Curry repeatedly quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., and mentioned slavery and the healing power of love.
“Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up,” he quipped, one of the many laughs that was drawn from the typically buttoned-up crowd.
READ MORE: The full text of Bishop Curry’s speech
Other than Meghan’s dress, and Harry’s smile, the real star of the ceremony was the MUSIC.
An array of gorgeous, traditional hymns and instrumental pieces by British composers was complemented by a truly majestic version of “Stand By Me” performed by the Kingdom Choir, a Christian gospel group based in southeast England. (Oh, and the choir members carried on that blush-pink trend, singing in coordinated shades of rose gold, pink, and blue.) Will the addition of a gospel choir be a big talking point over the next few days? Definitely. Did they sound great? Also definitely.
After Harry and Meghan said “I do,” (or rather, “I will,”) the crowd was treated to a performance by Sheku Kanneh-Mason, a 19-year-old cellistwho won the BBC Young Musician of the Year Award in 2016 and, with his royal appearance, instantly became social media’s new favorite musician.
The music continued even as the newly married Harry and Meghan emerged into the sunlight under an arch of white roses and peonies. They climbed into the royal carriage as the strains of “This Little Light of Mine” rung in the air. It was an emotional end to an emotional service, and a joyous beginning for a joyous new Royal couple.