Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s secret wedding couldn’t have been an official, legal ceremony, experts say

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle secretly got married three days before their televised royal wedding in 2018.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle secretly got married three days before their televised royal wedding in 2018. DOMINIC LIPINSKI/AFP/Getty Images
  • Meghan Markle and Prince Harry said they had a secret wedding three days prior to the royal wedding.
  • The couple told Oprah the ceremony took place in a backyard with just them and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Experts say this wasn’t a legal ceremony. The Church of England requires witnesses and a public location.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex revealed the details of a secret wedding that they said took place three days before their televised royal wedding in 2018, though experts say it may not have been official.

As Insider previously reported, during their tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry described a private, backyard wedding.

“Three days before our wedding, we got married,” Meghan told Winfrey. “No one knows that, but we called the archbishop and we just said, ‘This thing, this spectacle is for the world, but we want our union between us.'”

“So the vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury,” she continued.

“Just the three of us,” Harry said, singing to the tune of Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers’ 1980 hit “Just the Two of Us.”

A representative for the Church of England declined Insider’s request for comment, stating that “the archbishop does not comment on personal or pastoral matters.”

But Insider spoke to experts who said the wedding the couple described could not have been official under the Church of England’s wedding requirements.

Two experts said the wedding couldn’t have been official

Meghan Markle royal wedding
Meghan Markle walking into St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. ANDREW MATTHEWS/AFP via Getty Images

Insider spoke to two experts about the wedding Harry and Markle described. Both agreed that it wasn’t a legal ceremony.

“It wasn’t a wedding. It can’t have been,” Reverend Canon Giles Fraser, the rector of St. Mary Newington church in London, told Insider. “It was probably a blessing. But they got married legally at Windsor.”

According to the Church of England’s Canons, in order for a legal wedding to take place with the Church, two witnesses need to be present. Additionally, the wedding must take place in a church, or a place with a special license. Private homes – or a private backyard – wouldn’t be granted that license.

“While the archbishop might have been able to grant himself a special license in some circumstances, he may not have been able to overcome the legal need for weddings to be licensed to a building and to have two witnesses present, without which a wedding would not be ‘public,'” Harry Benson, a research director at the Marriage Foundation, a nonprofit championing marriage, told Insider.

“However, as far as I’m aware, this could not have been a legal wedding,” he wrote.

According to the UK’s government website, religious ceremonies “can take place at any registered religious building.”

Earlier this month, the church held its stance on ceremonies taking place in registered, religious buildings, according to The Daily Mail.

Plans were presented to religious officials last year that recommended places, like private homes, rivers, lakes, and bars, be recognized as suitable locations for wedding ceremonies.

Mark Sheard, the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council, told The Daily Mail on March 1 that the “commercialization of the wedding ceremony was undesirable” and that “the public nature of marriage necessitated that weddings should not be held behind closed doors.”

Fraser said Markle and Harry’s secret wedding could’ve been a “blessing,” while Benson said it could have been a “pre-ceremony” or a “rehearsal.”