Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are to marry at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle next May and will go on their first public walkabout on Friday in Nottingham, the palace has announced.
The couple are planning to involve members of the public in the proceedings in some form yet to be determined.
“It will be a moment of fun and joy that will reflect the character of the bride and groom,” said their spokesman.
Markle, 36, who is American, will also become a British citizen and will be baptised and confirmed into the Church of England before the wedding, Kensington Palace announced.
And it said the royal family would pay for the wedding, including the church service, the music, the flowers and the reception.
Wider security costs, policing and public order arrangements will be covered by the public purse, however. The palace declined to comment on whether the bride’s parents would contribute.
The service is expected to draw a star-studded congregation. Markle’s friends include the tennis star Serena Williams and the Made in Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh.
The chapel usually holds about 800 guests compared with the 2,000 capacity of Westminster Abbey, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge married in 2011.
The engaged couple’s spokesman said: “Harry and Meghan Markle are extremely grateful for the warm public response following yesterday’s announcement of their engagement. In a happy moment in their lives, it means a great deal to them that so many people throughout the UK, the Commonwealth, and around the world are celebrating with them.
“The couple of course want the day to be a special, celebratory moment for their friends and family. They also want the day to be shaped so as to allow members of the public to feel part of the celebrations too and are currently working through ideas for how this might be achieved.”
The UK prime minister, Theresa May, while on a flight to Jordan to start of her three-day visit to the Middle East, was asked by reporters whether the nation deserved a bank holiday for the royal wedding.
May did not directly respond, but equally did not talk up the idea. However, she did seem enamoured of the happy couple. “You talk about cheering people up,” she said. “Seeing two young people in love, and that’s obvious – I didn’t see all of the BBC interview, I saw some snatches of it, but I think that was obvious.
“What’s also obvious was that they’d given a lot of thought to what it means to be a royal couple in today’s age. I wish them great happiness for the future, and I think the country is delighted to see this engagement. And collectively, we wish them all the very best.”
The last royal wedding at the chapel was for Harry’s cousin, Peter Phillips – the son of the Princess Royal – who married the Canadian Autumn Kelly in 2008. Harry’s father, the Prince of Wales, and stepmother, the Duchess of Cornwall, had their televised religious blessing there in 2005, after their civil ceremony down the road in the town hall.
Harry was christened in the chapel in December 1984 when he was three months old, which, according to Church of England rules, means he can also marry there.
After the wedding Markle will also become the fourth patron of the Royal Foundation, the main charitable arm of the Kensington Palace royals – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. It has so far launched initiatives such as the Invictus Games and the Heads Together mental health campaign.
Markle’s belongings are currently being shipped from Canada to Kensington Palace and she plans to travel back to North America to see friends and family in the months before the wedding.
The palace confirmed that she was leaving behind one of her dogs, Bogart, who is staying with friends in North America. Guy the Beagle is now at Kensington Palace, they announced.
Asked about how she had decided between them, their spokesman said: “I can’t speculate. Miss Markle is very fond of her dogs and any decision about moving a dog over the ocean will have lots of complexity to it.”
Markle divorced her first husband, Trevor Engelson, a film producer, in 2013. Her parents are Thomas Markle, an award-winning TV lighting designer, and Doria Ragland, a yoga instructor who lives in Los Angeles.
Markle was educated at a Catholic school, but her father is reported to be a member of the Episcopal Church of the United States, which is part of the Anglican communion. Her mother is reported to be of the Protestant faith.
In a TV interview on Monday Markle described the engagement as a transition “out of my career, but into the role”. She said she wanted to focus more energy on the causes that she had already championed. Markle has been an ambassador for UN Women and a global ambassador for World Vision, including driving a clean water campaign in Rwanda. She will withdraw from those roles.
“She wants to start a clean slate getting to know this country and travelling round the Commonwealth,” their spokesman said.
“Once you have access or a voice that people are going to listen to, with that comes a lot of responsibility, which I take seriously,” she said. “I think in these beginning few months and now being boots on the ground in the UK, I’m excited to just really get to know more about the different communities here, smaller organisations who are working on the same causes that I’ve always been passionate about.”
On their visit to Nottingham they will visit the Nottingham Contemporary art gallery for the Terrence Higgins Trust World Aids Day charity fair, where they will meet people including those living with HIV. Markle’s first taste of the day job of a royal will also include a visit to the Nottingham academy to meet schoolchildren and youngsters who attend a Friday night youth club.
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