How Meghan Markle and Prince Harry reinvented the royal wedding menu

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Kayleigh Dray
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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

Is this why Meghan Markle and Prince Harry decided against a traditional sit-down royal wedding breakfast?

It’s become increasingly apparent that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s nuptials will be unlike any other royal wedding to date.

Their royal wedding invitations break tradition by acknowledging Markle’s “Ms” status, and Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, has been given a uniquely important role to play on the big day.

The couple have also requested that all wedding gifts be made in the form of a donation to a selection of charities, and decided against inviting any political leaders to the event. Instead, only personal friends of the couple will be inside Windsor Castle for the event on 19 May – along with 1,200 members of the public, young and old, who have shown examples of strong leadership, or particularly served their communities.

So it makes sense that they’ve made some changes to the royal wedding breakfast, too.

We already know that Markle and her groom-to-be have swapped out the traditional fruit wedding cake in favour of an “unconventional” organic lemon elderflower number.

Now, it has been confirmed that the couple have decided against a traditional sit-down wedding breakfast, instead opting for “two-bite” canapes and trendy “bowl food” which can be eaten standing up.

That’s right: the Queen’s kitchen staff will serve classic dishes made from seasonal British produce to the 600 guests attending the St George’s Hall reception.

And almost all of the ingredients used in the dishes will be sourced from the Queen’s own estates.

Royal chef Mark Flanagan, who is leading the team on Saturday, explains: “The day of the wedding has fallen very kindly for us. All the British vegetables are just coming into season,” he said, “and that’s been a point of focus for us.

“We know the couple wanted us to make sure we used all of the local seasonal produce as much as possible throughout their menu, and this recent good weather is really helping us to achieve that.”

Flanagan added that he and his team “purely made suggestions” when it came to the menu: all the decisions have been made by Markle and Prince Harry.

“They’ve tasted everything,” he says, “and they’ve been involved in every detail.”

Pastry Chef Selwyn Stoby, who will be working on the day of the wedding, adds that the dishes he specialises in making are “a kind of science”.

“You have to know a bit about chemistry but it’s also very creative, with a lot of attention to detail,” he says, going on to reveal that “you approach every Royal event with the same care and attention to detail, but you don’t get many opportunities to do a Royal Wedding in your lifetime”.

“This is very special,” he insists.

Buffets are becoming increasingly popular at weddings, as they allow couples the chance to provide a plethora of options for guests and accommodate different food allergies.

And buffet-style receptions, while usually more expensive than sit-down meals, also give guests more time to mingle with each other and more opportunities to talk to the bride and groom. It feels decidedly more laidback, nixing rigidly formal schedules in favour of a more fluid event: guests can eat whenever they want and enjoy the band all night long before waving goodbye to the bride and groom.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that “finger food” allows for much more creativity, too.

As recent Pinterest trends have shown, modern brides are less prepared to feel restricted by tradition, instead preferring to think outside the box. There was the summer of cupcakes. The increase in taco parties. A plethora of cheese towers. A profound emphasis on brunch-time treats. Pizza upon pizza upon pizza. Several seasons of pick’n’mix stations, a good few whisky bars, many a naked cake and a strange blip involving doughnut walls.

It is highly unlikely we will find out what Markle and Prince Harry have chosen for their big day until long after the event: while their nuptials at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on Saturday 19 May will be televised, cameras will not be admitted into the reception at Windsor Castle.

It is assumed this decision has been made to provide the couple with some privacy on their big day – but also to help maintain the romance of their reception venue, which was purchased as a present by George III for his wife, Queen Charlotte, many years ago.

As noted previously, the marriage of George and Charlotte was very successful compared to their contemporaries, particularly due to the esteem that Charlotte held her new king in.

Writing on 26 April 1778, nearly 17 years after their marriage, Charlotte’s affection for George is clear. As she concludes her letter to him: “You will have the benefit by Your voyages to put Spirit in every Body, to be more known by the World, and if Possible more beloved by the People in general.

“That must be the case, but not equal to the love of her who subscribes herself.

“Your very affectionate Friend and Wife Charlotte.”

Image: Getty


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.