While much will be made of Meghan’s dress, the dresses of the bridal party and those of the female guests at the up coming Royal Wedding, what can we expect Prince Harry, his best man, Prince William and the other male guests to be wearing?
The invitations specify that male guests should wear: “Dress Uniform, Morning Coat or Lounge Suit” – but what are the intricacies of these different forms of attire and how do we expect the royal groom to be dressed?
Although Prince Harry is no longer a serving member of the armed forces, during his 10 years’ service in the army he did attain the rank of captain, serving both in the Blues and Royals Regiment of the Household Cavalry and the Army Air Corps.
As is tradition with members of the Royal Family, he is regularly seen in uniform when attending military related engagements, such as the Remembrance Day ceremony at The Cenotaph last November, where he wore the uniform of captain of the Blues and Royals. Somewhat controversially though he currently sports a beard when in uniform – something no serving officer would be permitted to do, unless for specific religious reasons, such as an officer who was a Sikh.
In addition to his army rank of captain, Prince Harry also holds several honorary military ranks across different arms of the forces. In the Royal Navy he holds the rank of Commodore-in-Chief of Small Ships and Diving; in the Royal Air Force he holds the rank of Honorary Air Commandant of RAF Honington; and he recently replaced Prince Philip when he retired and became Captain General of the Royal Marines.
Although the dress uniforms of these positions are perfectly fine in their own right, most would agree that the Blues and Royals uniform is especially smart and the royal groom would look particularly dashing wearing it – just as he did when he was best man to Prince William at his wedding in 2011.
The photos below show Harry in ‘dismounted review order’, with a forage cap at William’s wedding, followed by number 1 dress uniform for the regiment, and then Prince Philip in the uniform of the Captain General of the Royal Marines. Although number 1 dress is usually used for military events ‘on parade’ this wedding is definitely more informal than William’s was, so there is a small chance he might opt for this uniform.
We are yet to see the Prince in a marines uniform since his appointment; this is also a more senior appointment than his earned rank, so there is a chance he will wear that as a ‘new look’ for his wedding, and therefore clearly distinguishable in photos.
Although The Duke of Cambridge was a serving officer in the Royal Air Force at the time of his marriage, he had recently been given the honorary rank of Colonel of the Irish Guards. The dress uniform of a Royal Air Force officer, although smart, could not be described as overly eye catching.
It is said that Prince William preferred the Irish Guards black frock coat for his wedding day, but that his grandmother, The Queen, persuaded him to wear the famous scarlet tunic instead. Her experience in these matters meant William deferred to her advice and the crowds and photographers benefited as the scarlet tunic stood out much more effectively than the black frock coat would have done.
Both William and Harry’s uniforms for the 2011 wedding were tailored by Gieves and Hawkes of Number 1 Savile Row. Extra padding was placed under the arms to cope with perspiration from wearing the heavy tunics on a long and warm spring day.
If Harry is to wear uniform, that of the Blues and Royals is most likely, but William may well choose to wear the more muted Royal Air Force uniform, or Irish Guards frock coat, so not to be more visible than his brother, on what is of course Harry’s big day.
The Royal Expert weighs in on what she thinks Prince Harry will wear
“I think it’s almost a certainty we will see Prince Harry in military uniform on his wedding day,” says our editor, Victoria Howard. “He is immensely proud of his armed forces links and his own decade of service, and it is therefore a key part of his identity – he is perhaps more soldier than he is Royal!
“The decision for me is simply which uniform he will choose, but if I were a betting woman, I would go with his Blues and Royals uniform, as he served in that.”
Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding, although an occasion of international importance, is a lower key event than that of his brother, taking place in the more intimate surroundings of Windsor and the Castle precincts.
He may therefore choose to opt for morning dress, as his father, Prince Charles did when he married Camilla in 2005. Charles’s choice of colour for his waistcoat and tie, perfectly complimented the colours of Camilla’s outfit.
Princes William and Harry both followed their father’s lead in smart black morning coats and double-breasted waistcoats.
Etiquette experts Debrett’s tell us that when wearing morning coat for a wedding it should be: “A black or grey matt morning coat, single-breasted with peaked lapels, curved front edges sloping back into tails. Trousers are grey or grey and black-striped. A white or light-coloured shirt with a white turned-down collar, double-cuffs and cufflinks.
“Waistcoats are usually buff, grey or duck-egg blue and double or single-breasted. Double-breasted waistcoats may have a lapel, either shawl or peak, and are worn fully buttoned. Single-breasted waistcoats either have a step collar or no collar, and the lowest button is always left undone. Fancy waistcoats, such as those worn by members of the Eton Society, are sometimes worn, especially at weddings. Avoid anything backless.
Advice on how to accessorise continues: “Ties are preferred to cravats. A smart woven silk tie is acceptable. A tie pin will add an extra flourish of dandyism. Highly polished (not patent) black lace-up/smart slip-on shoes.
“A grey or black top hat is worn with morning dress for racing but at most other events it is carried rather than worn and may be dispensed with.
“A handkerchief may be worn in the left breast pocket with an understated buttonhole.”
“The tradition of leaving the bottom button on a single-breasted waistcoat undone began when the future Edward VII was Prince of Wales he became so fat that he couldn’t do up the bottom button on his waistcoat, so court followed suit to make him feel better about his body image.
Although grey or black is usual for a morning coat, the Royals more commonly opt for the black option. If worn at the Royal Wedding, top hats will probably not be worn by the Royals but expect to see them on other guests. Grey toppers will be made of felt, and black from silk or moleskin which gives a pleasing sheen in the sunlight. Black silk top hats have not been made since the 1930s as there is no longer the machinery in existence to make them, so any seen are highly prized vintage examples or family heirlooms.
A Savile Row tailor will almost certainly have been used to produce Harry’s morning suit, should that be the outfit he opts for.
It is highly unlikely that Prince Harry himself will opt to wear a lounge suit, but it is a perfectly acceptable choice for guests who are not in the military and do not want to go to the expense of buying or hiring morning dress.
Debrett’s guidance for lounge suits says: “This dress code is used for occasions with various degrees of formality and means a suit worn with a shirt and tie.”
On the variant combinations it tells us: “A three-piece suit consists of a single-breasted jacket, a single- or double-breasted waistcoat and trousers. When wearing a single-breasted waistcoat, the bottom button is always left undone. A two-piece suit consists of single-breasted or double-breasted jacket with trousers (no waistcoat). Belts should not be worn with a waistcoat or double-breasted suit.
“A shirt with a turndown (not button-down) collar should be worn with a tie and the top button of the shirt must be done up. The most versatile tie knots are the four-in-hand and the half-Windsor; large Windsor knots should generally be avoided.”
Although this mode of dress will almost certainly not be worn by Harry, or other members of the senior Royal Family, he may well choose to wear a lounge suit for his going away outfit.
On announcing his engagement to Meghan, Harry drew wide praise for his choice of suit – single breasted in mid blue with a crisp white shirt and plan dark tie.
It has been announced that Prince Charles will be hosting an evening reception for the couple at Frogmore House, a short distance from the Castle on the Windsor estate.
Around 200 close family and friends have been invited, and although details of the dress code for the reception have not been released, it will almost certainly be a black tie event for male guests.
Again, we look to Debrett’s for the do’s and don’ts of black tie attire. They tell us that the appropriate occasions for black tie are: “Black tie…less formal than white tie, is the most frequently encountered formal evening wear, worn for dinners (both public and private), parties and balls, as well as some season events such as Glyndebourne.
“It may also be described as ‘dinner jackets’, ‘DJs’, ‘dress for dinner’ or, in America, as ‘tuxedos’. A host may also say ‘we are going to change for dinner’, which will traditionally indicate black tie. It should be described as a dinner jacket, not a dinner suit.”
For such a seemingly simple outfit it can be easy to go wrong, luckily Debrett’s details how to keep the look just right: “A black wool (barathea) or ultrafine herringbone dinner jacket, single-breasted or double-breasted with no vents, silk peaked lapels (or a shawl collar) and covered buttons. White dinner jackets were traditionally worn in hot climates but not usually in Britain, even in the summer.
“Trousers are black with a natural taper, and a single row of braid down each outside leg.”
Some may be surprised that wing-collar dress shirts are a ‘no-no’: “A white evening shirt, with a marcella collar, bib and double cuffs, with a turn-down collar (not a wing-collar), worn with cufflinks and studs. A plain silk shirt with buttons may be worn but any kind of ruffles or frills should be avoided. Alternatively, a fly-fronted shirt, where the buttons are concealed, is acceptable. Adults should avoid novelty shirts and ties.
“Studs may be black or decorative.”
Supporting the notion that a ‘gentleman’ never wears a pre-tied bow tie, the guide continues: “A black hand-tied bow tie (avoid ones which are pre-tied). The size of the bow tie should be proportionate to the size of the wearer.”
With black tie it is the finishing touches where things can often go so wrong. Luckily Debrett’s keeps us on the straight and narrow by telling us: “Black highly polished or patent lace-up shoes and black silk socks.
“Cummerbunds are not considered essential but may be worn. A matching tie and cummerbund in a non-conventional shade (pastels rather than burgundy and black) should be treated with caution.
“Waistcoats may be worn although they are not seen very often. They would always be considered a smart option. A waistcoat and cummerbund are never worn together. A white handkerchief in the left breast pocket is a classic detail.”
Male guests following this advice cannot go wrong and will look perfectly in place for the evening reception.
They may be surprised though to see Harry and other senior male members of the Royal Family in slightly different attire.
Since the 18th century it has been tradition for the male senior royals to don the ‘Windsor uniform’ for evening receptions taking place within the grounds of Windsor Castle.
Introduced by King George III in 1779, the full dress version, covered in gold braid disappeared in 1936. Today, the ‘undress’ version is still worn and consists of a dark blue tail coat, with scarlet collar and cuffs. There are three buttons on each front, two at the back of the waist, two at the end of each tail, and also two on each cuff (plus one above). The gilt buttons bear a design of a Garter star within a garter, surmounted by the imperial crown.
It is worn with a white single-breasted waistcoat with three small gilt buttons of the same pattern, and with plain black evening-dress trousers.
In more recent times the uniform has been further adapted to a dinner jacket version of the coat, and it is this version that guests may see Harry wearing on the evening of his wedding.
Whatever Prince Harry chooses to wear, as at any wedding, all eyes will be on the bride and many column inches will be written in the hours and days that follow, about the design and how beautiful she looked.
Spare a thought for the groom though – Prince Harry’s choice of outfit will have been carefully considered, not least so that his look perfectly compliments his bride’s, ensuring she attracts the limelight on their fairy-tale day.