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

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.


The Economic Impact of a Royal Wedding

royal wedding mugs, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry
The sale of commemorative merchandise, like these mugs, is expected to bring millions into the British economy. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

We know — "low-key" isn't the word most people would use to describe a royal anything, especially a wedding. This event is no exception, starting with the invitations, which are printed in actual gold ink. However impressive the price tag estimate is, this wedding will actually be comparatively less lavish than previous royal nuptials. For starters, it's being held at St. George's Chapel (occupancy 800) on the grounds of Windsor Castle about an hour outside of London, rather than at Westminster Abbey, which holds up to 2,000 people. Since Harry is pretty far down in line for the throne compared with big bro William, and the family, rather than the state, is paying for the event, few foreign dignitaries and British politicians are expected to attend. Donald Trump, Barack Obama and Teresa May were reportedly not invited [source: Smith-Spark and Foster].

Harry and Meghan are also making their nuptials a more relatable affair by inviting 2,640 commoners to be on the grounds at Windsor as they arrive and depart. Those lucky enough to attend will be treated to $36,000 worth of hot tea and sausage rolls [source: Evans]! The venue also necessitates another major departure from previous royal shindigs — since they won't be in London, there won't be a carriage ride down those famous streets post-ceremony. However, Windsor locals (and those who make the journey to be nearby) will enjoy a procession immediately after the ceremony.


Despite the immense crowd-control, security and cleanup costs associated with the ceremony, Britons will actually end up making more money than they spend on the event. Some experts say that the income from Prince Harry and Markle's wedding will be around $1.42 billion (£1.05 billion), thanks in large part to a major surge in tourism — to compare, an extra 350,000 visitors came to the U.K. in April 2011, the month when Will wed [source: MarketWatch].

Souvenir trinkets, such as plates, pill boxes, T-shirts, tankards and virtually anything else you can think of will also bring in millions in revenue, as well as food and drink bought to celebrate the occasion. Countless bottles of Champagne and wine will be purchased by British well-wishers to toast the newlyweds. But perhaps most important, the worldwide media blitz surrounding the couple and the wedding is sure to keep England in vacationers' minds for quite some time. One expert put the free advertising for Britain at $407 million (£300 million), and the uplift to the fashion industry (thanks to the interest in Meghan's clothes) at $200 million (£150 million) [source: MarketWatch].


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Boden, Nicola. "It's Friday, April 29: Wills to marry Kate on St Catherine's Day at Westminster Abbey in a 'people's party' wedding." Mail Online. Nov. 24, 2010. (Jan. 23, 2010). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1332312/Royal-wedding-date-Kate-Middleton--Prince-William-wed-Friday-April-29.html
  • CBS News. "Most Expensive Weddings of All Time." 2018 (May 13, 2018) https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/most-expensive-weddings-of-all-time/12/
  • Cutolo, Morgan. "11 Ways Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Wedding Will Make History." Reader's Digest. 2018 (May 13, 2018) https://www.rd.com/culture/prince-harry-meghan-markle-wedding-make-history/
  • Evans, Morgan M. "Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Wedding Reported to Cost a Grand $45 Million." Fox News. March 31, 2018 (May 13, 2018) http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/03/31/meghan-markle-and-prince-harrys-wedding-reported-to-cost-grand-45-million.html
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