With Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle tying the knot in May, and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank’s recent engagement, royal weddings are top of mind – though our fascination with royal weddings is not a recent phenomenon. Prince Charles’ wedding in 1981 drew around 750 million viewers. Decades before that, the union of Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly garnered record press coverage, and her iconic wedding dress became one of the most celebrated gowns of the century.
Royal weddings are more than just elaborate wedding dresses and breathtaking wedding rings. They’re also, in a sense, a fairy tale ending in public view. These unions are all the more interesting when the royal bride or groom marries outside of the nobility.
In anticipation of the upcoming royal weddings, we’ve compiled romantic royal love stories between royals and non-royals, and have highlighted some of the most exciting moments of their nuptials.
Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly
Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly met at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 during a staged photoshoot. Allegedly, Prince Rainier was looking for an American wife and a friend suggested actress Marilyn Monroe. The Prince rejected this idea because he didn’t like her unrefined public image.
Once he met Kelly, he was taken by her poise and grace and she was intrigued by his charm. Shortly after the photoshoot, Rainier’s priest sent Kelly a thank you letter and the couple began to date.
About a year later the two were married in one of the most talked-about royal weddings in history. The guest list was upwards of 600, and the couple received extravagant gifts like a 147-foot yacht and a Rolls Royce.
But it wasn’t the number of attendees, the food, or the venue that caught people’s attention — it was Kelly’s dress. The dress was designed by Academy Award-winning costume designer Helen Rose. It used 300 yards of antique lace, 150 yards of silk, taffeta, and tulle, 2,000 pearls, and took 30 seamstresses to make.
Emperor Akihito and Michiko Shoda
This marriage was revolutionary for Japan, as it was the first time that a member of the Imperial Family married a commoner. Michiko Shoda, who was the daughter of a wealthy businessman, met the Crown Prince playing tennis at a country club.
In 1959, they were married and paraded around in a horse-drawn carriage. It’s believed that over 500,000 joined the event. Millions more watched on television, and many families even purchased a TV to view the wedding.
Amid Japan’s postwar era, this union marked a progressive change. Emperor Akihito is known for bringing peace to Japan. Michiko was celebrated for being a modern woman, not only dressing in stylish clothes, but also raising her own children instead of relying on hired help.
Prince Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein and Rania Al-Yassin
Abdullah II is the only Jordanian monarch who has been married once. He met his wife Rania Al-Yassin at his sister’s dinner party, where a mutual friend brought Rania as a guest. According to him, it was love at first sight.
After two months of courtship, including motorcycle rides and waterskiing, Abdullah proposed. The couple was married at the Zahran Palace in 1993, and wedding guests included royalty from all around the world. British Designer Bruce Oldfield crafted two dresses for Rania. The most notable was a short-sleeve gown with large lapels and gold details, inspired by the Syrian formal dresses at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Following the ceremony, the couple drove around the city in an open convertible, waving to the adoring crowd.
Just five years after their marriage in 1999 Abdullah and Rania had to ascend the throne suddenly, and are known for handling their newfound power with grace. Queen Rania is celebrated not only as a faithful wife and mother, she’s also considered a woman of the people. She’s been extremely influential in education and public health.
Prince Pavlos and Marie-Chantal Miller
Prince Pavlos of Greece and Marie-Chantal Miller were set up by a mutual friend who made sure that they sat next to each other at a birthday party. After a couple years of dating, Pavlos proposed to Marie-Chantal on a ski lift in the Swiss Alps. Six months later, an extravagant wedding followed.
The couple were married at St. Sophia’s Cathedral in London. The Millers threw pre-wedding and post-wedding celebrations that included a dance for 1,300 guests at Wrotham Park and a garden party that mirrored the Acropolis at Hampton Court Palace. The wedding cost over $8,000,000.
Prince Alexander and Máxima Zorreguieta
Prince Alexander of the Netherlands and Máxima met at Seville Spring Fair in 1999. She had no idea that he was royalty. At that time, she was working as the Vice President of Institutional Sales at Deutsche Bank in New York. A few weeks after they met in Spain, Prince Alexander came to visit her in New York and the relationship blossomed.
Two years later, he proposed to her at the Huis ten Bosch palace in the Netherlands. The couple spent the afternoon roller skating around the grounds, and ended near a pond where Prince Alexander had set up roses and champagne.
The couple was married in 2002. Maxima wore a beautiful tiara comprised of various pieces from the royal jewel collection, including diamond stars from Queen Emma. After both the civil and religious ceremonies, they rode around central Amsterdam in a gold carriage and then returned to the Royal Palace for the reception. After the wedding, they went on an extended honeymoon traveling to Switzerland, London, Argentina, and New Zealand. In 2013 they ascended the throne.
Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling
Princess Victoria of Sweden met Daniel Westling at the gym. He was her personal trainer and owner of the fitness center she visited. Not only was this an unlikely romance because of his profession, his rural upbringing didn’t seem fitting for a prince.
Early in their relationship he was known for his rural accent and scruffy attire. To combat this, Westling took language classes and was given a makeover. Despite Westling’s nearly decade-long relationship with Princess Victoria, many Swedes had mixed feelings about the union.
Nevertheless, the wedding was a grand affair with 250,000 people lining the streets and 5 million more watching on television. Breaking with tradition, King Carl Gustav, Princess Victoria’s father, walked her down the aisle. This was frowned upon by many church leaders because they viewed it as a sexist, Anglo-Saxon tradition.
Prince William and Kate Middleton
Prince William of Great Britain and Kate Middleton are perhaps the most well-known royal love story. Their boy-meets-girl tale is something many people fantasize about. Kate met her prince charming at the University of St. Andrews. They were in the same dorm freshman year and became fast friends.
It wasn’t until about a year later when Prince William saw Kate model in a university fashion show that he became romantically interested. Their relationship became public in 2004 when they were pictured skiing together in Switzerland. Prince William proposed in 2010 on a trip to Kenya. He presented Kate with a 12-carat blue sapphire ring that had belonged to his mother, Princess Diana.
In 2011, they were married at Westminster Abbey. Kate wore an iconic Alexander McQueen wedding dress with long lace sleeves. The extravagant wedding cost over $64,000,000, with the dress itself costing upwards of $400,000 and the wedding cakes totaling $80,000.
King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Jetsun Pema
This couple is known as the “William and Kate of the Himalayas.” Legend has it, they met at a picnic when the King was 17 and Jetsun was 7. Some accounts say that she came up and gave him a bashful hug, others say that she told him, “I would like to marry you.”
When Jetsun Pema grew up and attended university, she reconnected with King Jigme, and the pair hit it off. Though her family had ties to the royal family, she was still considered a commoner. Despite this, their romance developed and in 2011 they were married when Jetsun was just 21.
They had a simple, traditional Bhutanese style wedding. The ceremony kicked off three days of celebration in Bhutan, which ended in a seven-hour talent show featuring 500 local performers.
Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Prince Carl Philip of Sweden met model Sofia Hellqvist at a lunch with mutual friends. After about three years of dating, Prince Carl Philip proposed with a custom designed ring. The couple was married in 2015 in the Royal Chapel at the Royal Palace.
The ceremony included two very modern songs — “Fix You” by Coldplay and “Umbrella” by Rihanna. Instead of wearing a family tiara, Sofia received a new one as the present from the king and queen. The wedding reception was held at the Royal Palace with an extravagant menu that included scallops, pike-perch, and raspberry tartelettes.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
The couple met on a blind date in London in 2016, and the rest is history. In November 2017, Prince Harry proposed to the American actress with a ring made from Princess Diana’s brooch. They’ve set the wedding date for May 19, 2018. The couple is tying the knot at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, which is where Prince Harry was baptized.
Royal Love Stories