Did you see the now infamous Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle? The Duchess of Sussex let slip that she and Prince Harry were married a few days before the public ceremony at Windsor Castle. This caused an unholy outcry and great consternation; the press threw up their proverbial hands in total horror. There were cries of ‘she’s misinformed’, ‘she doesn’t understand the British system’ even that her claims were a sham.
However, it was later confirmed that they were legally married on May 19th 2018 in what was the third most watched event on TV. It was televised around the world and in front of billions (yep literally thousands of millions) of people Meghan and Harry became husband and wife. It was seen as a magical day with all the pomp and circumstance of a British royal wedding. And the day after, the entire wedding, was put on YouTube and to-date it’s been watched 35.53 million times. Wow, it doesn’t get much more public than that!
So why did Meghan say they’d been married three days earlier? Was she confused or misinformed? Well the short answer is she wasn’t either of these things. The morning after the interview with Oprah a spokesperson for Meghan and Harry clarified that they had had a very private ceremony in their back garden on 16th May and in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury they had exchanged vows.
Many years ago, I was in a similar situation. No, I didn’t marry a prince but I did have two wedding ceremonies. We were living abroad in Borneo at the time and you may laugh but because I was under 21 years old I had to have a formal letter from my dad saying he gave his permission for me to marry. After the civil ceremony we honeymooned in Singapore and I was so excited when I signed the hotel register as Mrs McKernan. There was a British Embassy there so we took our shiny new marriage certificate and I updated my passport with my new name and status. I remember feeling very adult and incredibly grown up. Even though I was actually 18 at the time! I was now Mrs McKernan and I was most definitely married. I had the proof!
Fast forward seven months and we’re back in the UK. My parents were both religious and so a civil wedding just didn’t cut the mustard. As well as that, there was no way my mum was going to be denied a proper wedding for her only daughter. So we had ceremony number two. And that’s what Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex and I have in common!
After Meghan’s comments I watched the furore unfold around the world and I began thinking. I ended up asking myself quite a deep and meaningful question, which was…….. at which wedding did I feel I was married? Now I really need some thinking time and a large cuppa tea!
At our civil ceremony we were told to arrive at the Town Hall at 8am and the registrar would marry us sometime in the morning. The Town Hall was easy to find, as was the registry desk; it was the one next to the taxes desk, between the car registration and water supply desks! When we were called forward, we stood, raised our hands and said the given words (including lots of passport numbers). We paid the fee and had our two witnesses sign the certificate. Job done.
The following year back in the UK, my mum had had a great time planning and organising the entire wedding. We had relatives from England and Ireland as well as our many friends and family friends join us on our amazing day. As we stood in the church in front of everyone, I looked Brian in the eye and said my vows. That’s when the magnitude of what I was committing to and the realisation of how much I really loved him took my breath away. I remember feeling warm and fuzzy deep down in my core. I remember a very slight wobble immediately followed by a deep sense of belonging and connectivity. I knew this was right and I remember thinking ‘oh my goodness I’m married’.
Of course our legal marriage can be annulled anytime by going through the divorce process. I can change my name and unless I told you otherwise, you’d be none the wiser. BUT those solemn vows we made to each other in front of the people we loved most are sacred and they bind us together like a wedding certificate never could.
Of course Meghan and Harry’s royal wedding on 18th May was a magnificent, resplendent pageant with all of the fanfare a royal wedding day requires but it was also incredibly public. Whereas that time in the garden must have felt like an oasis of peace; a spring garden in bloom giving them a quiet, personal space. A space where they could have a ceremony which focused on their love and commitment as well as the promises and vows they wanted to exchange. Harry and Meghan not the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
So that’s my take on Meghan’s comment to Oprah. That day in the garden was when Meghan felt the weight, magnitude and love of the words she spoke to the man she loved, that was the day she married him.
And the same is true for the weddings I conduct for my couples. They travel from all over the world to be married in France but here the requirements are such that most of my couples register their marriages in their home country and then have a wedding ceremony here. The ceremonies I conduct are bespoke and very personal which means they’re incredibly meaningful. Yes I like to sprinkle the humour around but when you‘re saying your vows, when you’re looking deep into your partner’s eyes, when everyone is hanging on your every word – that’s when you know in your heart of hearts that you’re making a lifelong commitment, declaring your love to the person who is stood in front of you and making promises that will span the years and will be just as meaningful on your 40th, 50th and maybe even 60th wedding anniversaries. You are definitely getting married.