How Meghan and Harry's wedding will influence Irish weddings of every budget this year
It was the wedding of the decade — and one that looks set to have lasting influence. Unique touches from Meghan and Harry’s royal nuptials will feature heavily in Irish weddings of every budget this year, writes Meadhbh McGrath
The “Duchess effect” is a powerful thing. An endorsement from Meghan Markle is enough to boost sales of everything from designer handbags to charity cookbooks to the purple folders she carried on a visit to Australia.
Where she is likely to have a more lasting impact, however, is in the weddings industry. As couples tend to plan their big day so far in advance, trends in weddings last a good deal longer than in the fashion or design worlds, and the royal wedding reigns as the supreme influencer.
What elements of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s ceremony will we see at Irish weddings in 2019? We asked the experts about the top tips for a wedding fit for a royal.
Good rings come in threes
When the couple announced their engagement in 2017, brides swooned at the trilogy ring, designed by Prince Harry with two diamonds belonging to Princess Diana and a third stone sourced from Botswana, where he and Meghan took their first trip together.
According to Martin Commins, director of Dublin’s Bespoke Diamonds, the trilogy ring is enjoying a huge swell in popularity. “At the moment, it’s our second most popular style of ring. The trilogy rings are probably 35pc of what we sell, and five years ago, they would have been 5pc,” he says. Grooms are also increasingly taking the reins in designing their own rings. It was for many years a joint process between couples, but now, Martin notes, half of their custom rings are designed by men alone.
Real versus royal: “The trilogy ring is a nice way to get a lot of bling without spending a fortune,” Martin explains. “A ring with three stones up to one carat is probably half the price of one stone with one carat.”
Whether you’re spending €1,000 or €100,000, he advises focusing on the quality of the diamonds, and let the budget dictate the size. Another affordable option is to consider a sapphire or manmade diamond for the centre stone.
Meghan’s satin Givenchy dress with bateau neckline proved divisive, yet the boatneck is a classic style, and one that’s sure to see a resurgence in the next five years, along with the lack of embellishment and lace. “It gives people more confidence that they don’t need to go for something terribly fussy,” says wedding planner Tara Fay.
Her five-metre silk tulle veil, trimmed with embroidered flowers, is likely to be far more influential. “There’s a big interest in veils again, especially ones that have detail on them. It’s also about something anchoring the veil in place — obviously not everybody’s going to have access to a tiara, but we’re seeing a return to headpieces of some description, like hair jewellery or floral headpieces.”
Meghan opted for a more contemporary dress for her reception, and the halter neck gown by Stella McCartney has already inspired plenty of copycats.
“We’ve seen loads of halter neck wedding dresses since, and loads in bridesmaids as well. That’s going to be a really big bridesmaid trend,” explains Celina Murphy, deputy editor of onefabday.com. “It’s a simple style, but it was harking back to a ’90s/’00s silhouette, so it was a little more fashion-forward. It wasn’t all over the place in bridal, but it is now.”
Real versus royal: The exact design by Stella McCartney retails at €3,800, but Asos has a similar style in its EDITION range for €166. For bridesmaids, Debenhams, Asos and Dorothy Perkins for affordable halter options.
Take the cake
Claire Ptak’s lemon and elderflower creation for Meghan and Harry was a far cry from the traditional fruit cake. Celina explains that it’s already a popular flavour combination, but it cropped up at even more weddings late last summer.
“I think we’ll see a lot of couples testing their poor bakers to come up with unusual flavours as a sort of guessing game for the guests, ‘What are we tasting here?’” says Bláithín. “Couples will really experiment there.”
Real versus royal: The cake could easily be achieved on a smaller scale, with fewer tiers, or, if you have a skilled baker in the family, consider asking for help to make it at home — as Kate points out, a home-baked cake with buttercream icing is much more attractive than gummy fondant.
In full bloom
After years of Kimye-inspired flower walls, the days of too-perfect blooms are coming to an end. In 2019, couples are lusting after Meghan and Harry’s abundance of greenery, especially the floral arch at the chapel doors. “Everybody wants that for their church this year,” says Kate, noting that a palette of green and white will suit any venue. “They draw your eye away from a bold carpet, and give a much more sophisticated aesthetic.”
Mark Grehan, the award-winning florist of The Garden in Dublin’s Powerscourt Centre, says clients often cite images from the royal wedding.
“What her wedding flowers have done is create a buzz around a garden kind of style, it’s a real country cottage style and it looks more natural and more understated,” says Mark, who also created a bouquet for Meghan during her Irish visit last summer.
Real versus royal: Mark advises reusing flowers from the ceremony at your reception, noting that he will often disassemble flowers from church pews to be used on dinner tables later in the day, which can save up to €300.
And if you really want that flower arch, Celina encourages working with a florist to devise a stripped-back style.
“Flower arches can be affordable for an average couple if you have them heavy with greenery, as opposed to filled with high-end flowers,” she says. “And small, tidy bouquets are a way you can pay homage to Meghan — if you’re watching your flower budget, an oversize bouquet is immediately going to be a no-no for you, so that’s one swap you can do.”
Pretty as a picture
Photographer Alexi Lubomirski’s black and white shot of the couple on the steps of Windsor Castle is destined to be much copied. “That’s definitely a trend,” says Tara. “People will want to emulate the photo where she’s sitting between his legs. That photo is very relaxed and feels unposed, although obviously it is posed, and that will have a big impact.”
Going her own way
Meghan eschewed tradition in walking part of the aisle alone, before being joined by Prince Charles; opting to have no bridesmaids; and making a speech at the reception.
“Couples think of the ceremony as a necessary evil, the hump they have to get over to get to the party, but the party wouldn’t exist without the ceremony,” says weddings expert Bláithín O’Reilly Murphy.
“But Meghan and Harry made it their own with very human choices. Often in Irish weddings, couples will have ideas about the ceremony, and they’ll share those ideas with family, particularly with their mums, aunts, grannies or sisters. If their mum, aunt, granny or sister says, ‘Well nobody does that, why would you be doing that?’, it puts the couple off. Because Harry and Meghan really pushed the boat out, I think the most unique trend we’ll see from their day is the ability to accept going against the grain. ‘If it was okay for the royals, it’s okay for my Deirdre and Michael.’”
Kate O’Dowd, who runs the wedding planning service Love &, agrees that traditions are gradually starting to change. “Families are so different now than they were. At my wedding, I was such a feminist that I decided I wasn’t going to be given away or given to anyone else, so I just walked down on my own!”
The bride’s speech, too, is becoming increasingly common. “It’s not 100pc attributed to Meghan, but I think that’s a thing where the seed is planted in a bride’s head,” says Celina. “It’s very male-dominated, but particularly in the last year we’ve seen that being changed up a lot. Couples were following the formula in the past, and now they’re more comfortable to ditch those traditions.”
Real versus royal: Celina notes that cutting the bridal party can have a serious impact on your budget. “You obviously still can have your best pals by your side, but you don’t have to pay for their dresses, shoes or flowers,” she adds.
Sing the praises
Music played a crucial part in Meghan and Harry’s big day, as 19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanne-Mason and the Kingdom Choir stole viewers’ hearts. Google searches for gospel choirs saw a significant spike in the weeks after the royal wedding, Celina notes. “Obviously Irish couples are looking to have a gospel choir because they saw it at Harry and Meghan’s wedding, that can be the only explanation. Gospel choirs have always been around and they are popular in Northern Ireland, but sometimes it just takes a high-profile wedding for it to really take off,” she says.
Cellists have been much in demand with Tara’s clients, too. “People will look at the ceremony and take elements: ‘I like that look, I like the idea of having a cello playing’,” she says, adding that many churches around the country have a gospel choir as the parish choir, or couples can look to commercial choirs as well.
Driving into the sunset
“If I hear of one more person wanting an E-type Jag…” says Tara of the steel blue electric convertible that Prince Harry and Meghan drove after their wedding. “The car, without a shadow of a doubt, is the biggest trend. I had three enquiries about it within weeks.”
While the exact model has only recently gone into full production, Tara believes two-seater classic cars will be highly sought-after, as couples wish to add a flash of 007-esque glamour. “That has been the single biggest thing that has been passed on, it’s quite incredible. Whoever buys one and rents it out is going to make a fortune.”