In the days leading up to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s royal wedding ceremony, many black South African women were becoming increasingly indifferent, questioning why every single detail of the ‘event of the decade’ had become a media priority. Sitting on our post-colonial, woke, high horses, we were critical of the traditions of the same British monarchy that left several African countries disenfranchised and economically crippled. As someone with a keen eye on fashion, I still committed to watching the nuptials to see the bride’s dresses and her celebrity guests’ outfits, but the wedding pleasantly surprised me in a really endearing way.
The copious articles focusing on royal wedding etiquette, the historical time-lining of brides who had married into the crown, and the predictions about Meghan’s wedding ceremony led me to expect a lily-white wedding with a guest list just as lily white. Because of this, two important facts slipped my mind along the way. The first is the fact that the Duchess of Sussex is an outspoken biracial humanitarian. Secondly, a wedding is actually the bride’s baby – she has more than just a small say in proceedings. And the fairy-tale events that beautifully transpired on 19 May were the exact reminder I needed.
Meghan’s (wait, can mere peasants like us still call her by her first name?) big day was a sincere display of how she embraced her African American heritage, and brought black culture into a venue that had previously never experienced nor welcomed the warmth of pure black joy.
And no, this is not an attempt at creating a black/white binary or to claim Meghan Markle as more African American than white, but rather a light-hearted expression of how Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding created a sense of happiness that we could all share in one way or another.
So these were the most memorable moments that made history at the royal wedding ceremony:
1. Rev Michael Curry’s powerful sermon
Michael Curry was the minister chosen by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to give a sermon on the day of their nuptials. He is outspoken on issues of racial justice, LGBT equality, sexual harassment and exploitation. According to The Guardian, Curry is the ‘most senior figure of the American Episcopal church, the first African American to serve as presiding bishop of the predominantly white US Episcopal church, and has recounted his family history as slaves and sharecroppers in North Carolina and Alabama in his autobiography Songs My Grandma Sang.’ While preaching the good gospel on how ‘love is the way’, Curry also used his moment on the pulpit to quote the late Martin Luther King Jr:
‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.’
2. The Kingdom Choir’s soulful performance
So the rumour mill had us anticipating performances from English talents such as the Spice Girls and Ed Sheeran on Saturday, but it seems the Duchess and her team had a different kind of sound in mind. 20 soulful harmonisers from the UK-based award-winning Kingdom Choir filled the room instead, singing a gospel rendition of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand by Me’, which was also one of Princess Diana’s favourite songs.
This historic, stellar and inherently black performance had some social-media fans opining that this may have just been the most subversive moment in British history.
Hard not to be totally honest when we’re all watching something together so historic and so moving.. But seeing so many faces like mine in that chapel, on this occasion, with this establishment.. It‘s filled my heart with utter joy. Stand by me ❤ #royalwedding #HarryandMeghan
— Ore Oduba (@OreOduba) May 19, 2018
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) May 19, 2018
3. Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s illustrious cello performance
19-year old prodigiously talented cellist (and the first black musician to win the BBC Young Musician of the Year award, in 2016), Sheku Kanneh-Mason was personally requested by the bride to perform for her guests in the chapel. And when Sheku played ‘Ave Maria’, the world was both moved and impressed by his superior talent.
4. An unapologetic display of afros, dreadlocks, twist-outs, and cornrows
While Meghan Markle’s hair was styled modestly in a low bun with a few free strands of hair gently cascading around her face, her guests proudly wore their natural kinks and curls in an array of intricately styled natural hairstyles. Meghan’s mom Doria Ragland led the movement as she showed off her freshly twisted ‘locks (and nose ring) to complete her sorbet coloured mother-of-the-bride ensemble.
The Duchess’s tennis champion friend Serena Williams, who dons a wig from time to time, decided that the royal wedding was not the occasion for one of those, so she went for cornrows of a back-caressing length instead.
Oh, and let’s not forget the myriad of natural hairstyles we saw when the Kingdom Choir performed.
On be half of @mskarengibson and @thekingdomchoir we would like to thank @jeanetteyounglondon (In The middle), for sharing her phenomenal talents with us as our stylist for The Royal Wedding yesterday! 😊🔥💃🏾 ………….. – Choir conductor: @mskarengibson Stylist: @jeanetteyounglondon Make up: @spacenk Music arranger: @markdelisser __ Big Thank You To Our Sponsors: @tanyadimitrova @phaseeight @oasisfashion @mossbros @pop_pr_ @savillerowofficial @eylureofficial @Sheerchemistry – Abimbola Amoako (Choir Coordinator) @theycallmeabimbola Adenikè Adenaike @AdenikeZen Aisha Stuart @aisha.sheerena Ayanna Mitchell @ayannagrey Celia Osuagwu @chocscee Chekirah Ugoala @che.sings Chrystal Lecointe @chry5ta1 Clinton Jordan @clintoncreates Collette Watson-Blythe David Elevique (accompanist)@musicalinsight Elaine Simpson @elainesimpson67 Farriea McLean James Francis @iam.jamesfrancis Karen Gibson (Choir conductor) @mskarengibson Kelisha Tuck @kel__z Kemi Bramwell @kemi_b1 Kim Samuels @km_smls Mahalia Fontaine @mahaliafontaine Mariam Akintokun @mari.songs Mark DeLisser (Arranger -Stand by Me) @markdelisser Nicole Di Gioacchino @nicolethaliamusic Paul Lee @007PAUL Robyn Samuels @firstnamerobyn Shanna Goodhead @shannasongbird Sharlene Monique @sharlenemonique Stacey Skeete @staceyskeete Stephanie Grant @stephnotice Tracey-Jane Campbell @traceyjanecampbel1 Vernon Samuels Wayne Ellington @wayneellington7 Wayne Hernandez
5. Meghan Markle’s sentimental veil
She’s been dubbed a ‘Diana in the making, and it seems quite fitting that she be likened to her late mother-in-law considering the fact that her monarch-length veil was a nod to Princess Diana’s super-long train and veil worn at her 1981 wedding. The Palace’s statement on the gown revealed that there’s more to the veil, though:
‘Ms. Markle expressed the wish of having all 53 countries of the Commonwealth with her on her journey through the ceremony. Ms. Waight Keller designed a veil representing the distinctive flora of each Commonwealth country united in one spectacular floral composition.
‘The Commonwealth family of nations – of which Her Majesty The Queen is Head – will be a central part of Prince Harry’s and Ms. Markle’s official work following His Royal Highness’s appointment as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. Ms. Markle wanted to express her gratitude for the opportunity to support the work of the Commonwealth by incorporating references to its members into the design of her wedding dress.’
So to echo Rev Michael Curry’s words in wishing the royal newlyweds well and embracing a new family:
When love is the way, there’s plenty good room – plenty good room – for all of God’s children. Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well … like we are actually family.