It’s official: Invitations for the new Wedding of the Century have gone out, and even though our book The Royal We obviously willed this into being like some kind of royalty-specific version of The Secret, it appears that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle did not save a seat for us. We understand. The venue — St. George’s Chapel — is petite (Westminster Abbey it is not), and the guest list will be tightened up to the closest of friends, the most obligatory of relatives, the most Michelle Obama of Michelle Obamas, and of course all five Spice Girls. (Seriously, ladies, couldn’t two become one to free up a little pew space?) But don’t sweat it, Meghan. You’ve still got some royal-watching, romance-loving, star-spangled bosom friends in your corner, and the toast we’re pretty sure you wanted us to give at the rehearsal dinner is something you can read here instead. (Heads-up, we’ll be in Windsor for the big weekend, just in case there are any no-shows.)
We begin, Meghan, with congratulations on locking down the world’s favorite, and most famous, eligible prince. “Hot Harry” has been in turns a charming scamp and an extremely stupid bro — like, catastrophically, mind-bogglingly, Nazi-costume stupid (wow, we hope someone filled you in on that before now) — but he seems to have grown into a good egg with a philanthropic soul. Relatedly, kudos to you for basking in all his ginger glory while there is still ginger glory to be had. Run your fingers through that red hair, Meghan. Tousle it all the livelong day before the tide ebbs, the Windsor genes take hold, and you’re left to revel in the fact that you knew it once. Ask Kate. She knows.
Kate has probably told you a lot of things, actually, and we suspect her advice boils down to: You’d better honestly love him, because hot damn, this life is no picnic in the Scottish Highlands. You’re going to get burned, and not just from the glare of the flashbulbs; from the glare of the public. Your hair will be too messy, except when it’s too polished. You’ll hold Harry’s hand too much — yet when you stop, you’ll be considered a cold fish. Gaze lovingly at him and be branded an emotional counterfeit, but if you don’t openly adore him, then you’re just in it for the celebrity.
Remember, though — if you look to Kate to guide the way, people will say you’re copying her. That said, forge your own path, and you’ll be told to act more like Kate. Laugh, and you aren’t sufficiently serious; be serious, and you’re trying too hard. Your eloquence will be written off as “actress-y,” but sling slang at your own peril. Being outspoken is “abrasive,” but if you keep quiet, you have no convictions. You will be too American, always, even as you are earning your British citizenship — at which point it will be suggested that you’ve turned your back on the good ole US of A. In short, you can’t win. Ever. Well, maybe on The Big Day. Weddings make even the crankiest old bags more forgiving than usual. But don’t worry, soon enough they’ll be critiquing your choice of honeymoon and then everything you do for the rest of your life.
You daren’t forget names, so stock up on 3-by-5 notelets, ’cause it’s Flash Card Season all year long.
You’ll have to have weights sewn into the hems of your skirts so that a sassy breeze doesn’t catch you unaware or catch some photographer a glimpse of your underwear. (Underwear, by the way, is mandatory now, if it wasn’t already). Get used to strangers speculating about slips, strapless bras, and anything in between. No snacking unless you’re OK with pregnancy rumors — which will happen regardless, actually, so embrace a cheeseburger when you want it. Publicly bemoaning a headache or blister is now verboten. You can carry only the bare essentials in a dainty purse — no more luggage-size all-purpose totes; those are the province of your assistant, who carries all ancillary items and must blend into the background. You daren’t forget names, so stock up on 3-by-5 notelets, ’cause it’s Flash Card Season all year long. And you can’t merely get out of a car. You have to shimmy just so, no skirt slipping too high, no thigh splaying akimbo. Oh, and speaking of thighs: It’s the Year of our Lord 2018, and the Queen still wants women to wear pantyhose when in service of The Crown. Is Harry really worth wrestling your legs into a pair of L’Eggs every time you leave the house? That’s something to seriously consider.
Very few people, after all, can truly know what you’re going through, and even fewer of them will sympathize.
Inside the palace walls, Her Majesty’s etiquette also rules, so you can’t hug your new family members, or go in for a high-five, or glare at Andrew with the tiniest of nods from behind your gin and tonic. You have to clock who’s in the room, and what their succession order is. Go it alone, and you have to curtsy to Beatrice and Eugenie; enter with Harry, and they have to bob to you. (At least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ll always outrank Harry’s racist old cousin.)
Of course, you probably already know all this, because you’ve had a Royal Readiness Committee dedicated to your crash course in the peerage system, crossing at the ankles versus the knee, what to do if you’re kidnapped, and whether — while dashing to their place across the Kensington Palace courtyard to reclaim your iPhone charger — you still have to curtsy to William if you’re both wearing pajama pants. (You do, although surely he won’t tell.) Isn’t it weird that you’re practically earning a Ph.D. in arcane protocol simply because you’ve fallen in love? Most successful blind dates don’t end in pop quizzes about the difference between a viscount and a baronet.
Just make sure you can take it, because you’re the one making all the sacrifices here. Harry will always be a prince. You will never again be an actress. In addition to your career, you lose your comparative anonymity, girls’ nights in public establishments, and the right to have a bad day or even a neutral one. You can’t ever pop into a new spa to get your brows waxed, let alone your bikini line, or have a pub trivia team or a bowling league or friends who do karaoke in bars that aren’t even having karaoke night. Discretion is paramount, and so your social circle has shrunk. The self-proclaimed besties who attach their names to tabloid stories about you, even innocuous ones, are out the door. Those who remain are the ones who’ve proven they’re willing to live in the shadows, and be your friend without ever trumpeting it — and most of them are probably Harry’s, anyway. Here’s hoping you like them, because this transition might be a lonely one. Very few people, after all, can truly know what you’re going through, and even fewer of them will sympathize.
Find out whether Philip is as whiny as he is portrayed on The Crown.
So, how to survive it? Wine, probably. British cheese is excellent. The U.K. has great potato chips (wait a few years to call them “crisps” or you’ll be deemed pretentious). But mostly, by reminding yourself of this: You get to have fun. This is freaking cool, Meghan. You’re seeing rooms in stately homes and palaces that most of the world can barely imagine, and on a whim you can gawk privately at priceless artistic masterpieces. You are one of the rarefied few who knows the weight of a proper tiara. You have seen Harry naked (admittedly, that’s likely a way less rarefied group). You’ll witness the Queen as a grandmother, find out whether Philip is as whiny as he is portrayed on The Crown, and if anyone generally remembers that Prince Edward is even a thing. You can travel the world on behalf of the monarchy, dive deep into charity work, and reach out and touch the people who need it most — all thanks to a platform that’s bigger than any in your wildest dreams. Your life has gotten smaller, but paradoxically, it has also cracked wide open.
Thrill to the fact that you’re part of history, and that girls who don’t look like the stereotypical princesses — or who ever felt less-than — can see you opening people’s eyes and hearts. We know you’ll work hard and represent the best of what it is to be an American. We believe you’ll rise to the occasion of having a voice that’s amplified far beyond what it would’ve been before, of being able to meet and learn from anyone you can imagine, and of driving actual change — both in the world, and yeah, in that stuffy old monarchy. (Like, say, freeing the female pelvises from their nylon prisons.) And we hope you’re unafraid to take this flashy royal marriage and make it as real and passionate and supportive as if you were both commoners. Talk to each other. Complain, rant, rave, and rejoice. Have each other’s backs and be each other’s backbones. You are the only ones who know the truth of this journey, and that makes you each other’s best sounding boards.
Everything is bullsh*t except what works for your sanity and your partnership.
In fact, that is our fondest wish for you: immunity. From all of it. The world has dubbed this romance a fairy tale, but it’s also your real life, and thus everything is bullsh*t except what works for your sanity and your partnership. Laugh off the cranks who bewail your shoes and your up-dos and your flat American vowels. Plug your ears when people question your intentions. Ignore the unbearable snobs and the irredeemable racists who think you’re somehow not good enough for Harry just because of who you are and where you were born. Their opinions aren’t worth the breath they use to express them. And seal the doors if any of this tries to creep into your marriage. If you and Harry really, really love each other — you, enough to make this all worth it; him, four times as much, because he’d better for all you’re giving up — then trust that, and you will never be lost.
P.S.: We will take all of this back if you let Harry shave that beard. Sure, he’s about to be a married man, but please leave your American compadres this one tiny thing. We didn’t get invited to the wedding. It’s the least you can do.
Bustle’s Royally Fascinated series is all about owning our obsession with princesses — and exploring why that's an empowering thing.