Planning the seating chart for any wedding is complicated. Add in members of multiple royal families, politicians, and celebrities, and it's enough to give a the bride- and groom-to-be hives.
But according to royal expert Alastair Bruce, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry do not have to play fourth dimensional chess to figure out the seating chart-they should worry first and foremost about their own preferences for their upcoming nuptials. "It's very much a matter for the bride and the groom," he told me, while speaking about the upcoming documentary The Coronation, which airs on the Smithsonian Channel here in the U.S. on January 14.
"The thing about Prince Harry is that he's not seen to be in the direct line of succession, and therefore the pressure on him to invite the long list of people, who had to be asked to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is not present," he continued.
The size of the wedding venue, St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, will also certainly influence the guest list. While Westminster Abbey could accommodate the approximately 1,900 people invited to Will and Kate's wedding, St. George's Chapel reportedly has a capacity of 800.
Prince Harry and Markle will also have the help of the ultimate wedding planning team: The Lord Chamberlain's Office. This department within the royal household, which organizes ceremonies, will help Prince Harry through the process of deciding who sits where. "They will assist him. They know the layout of St. George's Chapel, and they will guide him," says Bruce.
As is tradition, the family of the groom will likely be seated on the right and the family of the bride be on the left, when looking at the altar, Bruce says, and while close family will be in the choir, the majority of the couple's friends will not.
For those unfamiliar with the layout of the chapel, "the choir is closer to the altar and the nave is the bit further down toward where the bride would come in and out," Bruce explained.
It's a layout that should be familiar to most involved, says Bruce. "It is after all a wedding, and weddings happen to all sorts of people at every station of life."
What is different about these nuptials, says the protocol expert, is what happens after-when Markle becomes a member of the firm. "The thing that's special here is that Meghan will be marrying into a family that is very affected by what happened in 1953," says Bruce, referring to the year of the Queen's coronation. "In a sense every member of the family is obligated to support the head of state to whom they're related, and of course [Meghan's] going to have to pick up that when she becomes a member of the royal family."
The Coronation airs Sunday, January 14 at 8/7 central on the Smithsonian Channel.
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