Who Pays for a Royal Wedding — and How Much Does It Cost?

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, St Martin-in-the-Fields Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, St Martin-in-the-Fields
Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle arrive to attend a memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London in April 2018. Their royal wedding in May is estimated to run $44 million, when you include security costs. VICTORIA JONES/AFP/Getty Images

It's been a few years since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (better known as Will and Kate) tied the knot, and the world is beyond ready for the upcoming nuptials of his brother Prince Harry to the oh-so-glamorous American actress Meghan Markle. Since weddings even for regular Joes cost a pretty penny, the royal wedding has many people wondering how much the whole shindig will set back the royal family, Markle's family and British taxpayers.

Unfortunately, it's not going to be an easy question to answer. Royal weddings are notoriously extravagant, and any commoner can tell you that this one is going to be pretty pricey. How pricey, you ask? Well, considering the fact that their ceremony and reception will feature only the most elite bridal couture, flowers and foodstuffs, their ceremony is widely expected to be one of the most expensive celebrity weddings of all time, and will probably even eclipse big brother's 2011 affair.

The British citizenry take some comfort in the fact that they're not going to be footing the bill for the wedding. At least not the basic charges. After Harry and Meghan got engaged, Kensington Palace released a statement addressing the issue, which read: "As was the case with the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, The Royal Family will pay for the core aspects of the wedding, such as the church service, the associated music, flowers, decorations, and the reception afterwards."

Common wedding tradition dictates that the bride's family pays for the ceremony, but just like Will and Kate's wedding, Prince Charles and the queen will be paying for much of the shindig. Will and Kate's wedding cost around $2 million, not including security expenses [source: CBS]. Kate Middleton's parents kicked in a six-figure sum of their own (they own a party supply company worth many millions), but Markle's family, who is of modest means, is not expected to foot any of the lavish bill. However, Markle is rumored to be covering the cost of her gown, as she has a net worth of around $5 million. The dress is sure to be a top-end design estimated to cost between $420,000 and $560,000, but experts think she'll pick something that won't upstage the Duchess of Cambridge's own wedding gown [sources: Halleman, Evans].

British wedding planning app Bridebook estimated the cost of Meghan and Harry's wedding to be nearly £2 million or $2,712,600. (In May 2018, the conversion rate was U.S.$1.36 to £1). Here's a breakdown of some of the expenses they estimated:

  • Catering: $388,5600 (£286,000)
  • Drinks: $262,000 (£193,000)
  • Flowers: $149,500 (£110,000)
  • Photography and videography: $23,096 (£17,000)
  • Cake: $67,930 (£50,000)
  • Stationery: $27,172 (£20,000)
  • Music: $407,580 (£300,000)
  • Fanfare trumpets: $122,274 (£90,000)
  • Decoration and production: $176,600 (£130,000)

But the most expensive aspect of the day by far is expected to be the extensive security measures, like snipers, drones, undercover police officers and military tech. Will and Kate's security cost British taxpayers an estimated $32 million, and Harry and Meghan's security bill is expected to surpass $41 million, making a grand total of around $44 million for this royal wedding [sources: Halleman, Evans]. Why the uptick? Well, several factors contribute to increased security efforts, such as racially charged threats made against biracial Markle, Prince Harry's past military service and the U.K.'s current terrorism threat level [source: Sholl].

Yes, the marriage could be considered a burden on British taxpayers, but it's also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for lots of them to make a buck or two of their own. Find out how people are taking advantage of Harry and Meghan's union on the next page.