The royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was watched by approximately two billion people worldwide. The wedding was held on May 19, 2018, in the St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, and boasted a guest list packed with celebrities.
Like with many other weddings, there were likely a few guests of the opinion that the reception and after party were the things to most look forward to. Well, according to reports, Harry and Meghan didn’t disappoint anyone, as their party was a huge success. George Clooney was apparently a bartender; actor Idris Elba played a DJ set.
Though the British movie star had DJ’d big events before, he was naturally nervous about performing in front of the Duke and Duchess.
Elba later went on record to share details about what really happened at Harry and Meghan’s wedding reception. One thing is beyond doubt: everyone did their best to make it the party of a lifetime.
There are few events in the UK bigger than a royal wedding. Over the years, there have been plenty of them, including the weddings between then-Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and Prince William and Kate Middleton. Though those union were of great importance – William and Charles were both direct heirs to the throne – another wedding, years later, was arguably of equal significance, at least in the eyes of many royal fans.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle became something of a celebrity couple when they got together, not least because Meghan, at the time, was a television star in the series Suits.
Harry and Meghan’s wedding
In November 2017, the couple announced via the British Royal Family that they had gotten engaged.
Their wedding took place on May 19, 2018 – the service was held at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle – and around two billion people were said to have watched it worldwide.
Several media outlets reported that Harry and Meghan’s wedding cost around £32 million (approximately $45 million in 2018’s exchange rate). In addition, Meghan’s wedding dress is estimated to have cost about $120,000, a sum she was said to have paid herself.
In total, some 2,630 people were invited by the Palace to watch the ceremony outside of St. George’s Chapel, while 600 people were invited inside and to a lunch at Windsor Castle, held by Queen Elizabeth II.
What went on behind closed doors after the wedding hasn’t been openly discussed all that much, but British actor Idris Elba revealed what really went down at Meghan and Harry’s big wedding reception and party.
Reportedly, two hundred people were invited to a private evening reception held by Prince Charles at Frogmore House. By accounts it became something of a legendary party.
Private ceremony days before the wedding
As one might expect, royal marriages are always going to be grand affairs. One look at the numbers behind Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake and you get an insight into the type of event they were throwing.
As reported by Elle France, the couple’s wedding cake’s ingredients were:
- 200 Amalfi lemons.
- Five hundred organic eggs from Suffolk.
- Twenty kilos of butter, flour, and sugar, respectively
- Ten bottles of Sandringham Elderflower cordial.
To top it off, the cake was decorated with 150 fresh flowers.
Though May 19, 2018, will forever be remembered as the big wedding day for Harry and Meghan Markle, it supposedly wasn’t their first ceremony. In the infamous Oprah Winfrey interview after leaving royal life behind, Meghan shared a shocking revelation that she and Harry actually had a secret ceremony three days before the wedding.
“Even our wedding, you know, three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that, but we called the archbishop and we said this thing, this spectacle, this is for the world,” Meghan said.
“But we wanted our union between us.” she added. “The vows we have, they’re framed in our room, are just the two us in our backyard with Archbishop Canterbury and that was it … it was just the three of us. “
From the outside looking in, the wedding of Harry and Meghan was the ideal union, a mirror-image of perfection to follow the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton seven years earlier. But was everything really as it seemed?
Harry and Meghan’s private life – and the media coverage they got beforehand – made their wedding unique in its own way. One royal expert even went as far as to claim that the guests were there just to … be there?
Meghan ‘invited people she didn’t know to their wedding,’ royal insider claims
Two guests were movie star George Clooney and his wife, Amal. But reports suggest that they didn’t know Harry or Meghan at all.
“There’s a story doing the rounds that while Carolyn Bartholomew, Diana’s former flatmate, was waiting for the wedding service to start, she turned to the couple alongside her and asked how they knew Harry or Meghan,” Johnson wrote in the online publication AirMail.
‘We don’t,’ the Clooneys answered brightly.”
Shortly after the wedding, Harry and Meghan were said to have visited the Clooneys at their residence in Como, Italy. George Clooney himself explained that the four had had dinner together several times in recent years.
Oprah Winfrey also attended the wedding, though this left most people perplexed as there hadn’t been any talk regarding the talks show host’s relationship with Harry and Meghan. As royal reporter Daniela Elser pointed out, one headline read: “Oprah Winfrey has arrived at the royal wedding – but people aren’t sure why.”
Royal expert Andrew Morton – the author of Diana: Her True Story – also questioned the celebrity guest list.
“(She) populated the wedding with A-list Hollywood celebrities who … have proved their worth to her by speaking out in public about the criticisms of her,” Morton said.
“I don’t think she (had) even met Oprah Winfrey (before the wedding). I don’t know whether Harry had. But she invited these people along, and now she has her own court.”
“She’s a new player and she’s been quick out (of) the starting box. Unlike Prince Harry’s friends who keep quiet, Megan’s A-list celebrity friends, the court of Meghan, is a very voluble court and they’re very powerful.”
Actor Idris Elba was the DJ at Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding party
Yet while there was speculation over the ties some of the more distinguished guests had to Harry and Meghan, certain other celebrities in attendance had long-lasting friendships with the couple. One of those was British actor Idris Elba, who was given an extraordinary task at the wedding reception.
Elba has become one of the greatest British actors of the modern age. While just a teenager, he came in contact with the royals for the first time.
At 16, he left school to pursue the dream of attending the National Youth Music Theatre. However, the cost was too great. As a result, he turned to The Prince’s Trust, created by then-Prince Charles to help improve the lives of disadvantaged young people.
“They gave me a £1,500 grant and set me on the path that would eventually change my life,” Elba wrote in a piece for The Mirror in 2013.
Elba became an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust when he grew up. Through the charity, he met Harry and Meghan, the Duchess, who he would call a “role model” and a “beacon” when the Sussexes got engaged in 2017.
“Harry and I have hung out a couple of times through his dad’s charity – The Prince’s Trust – which helped me out when I was a young actor,” he told Ellen DeGeneres.
“Meghan was the one that was really letting it go”
Now, not only is Elba a great actor, but he’s also a DJ. Speaking with Ellen, the 50-year-old explained that the Duke used to come to see him play from time to time. On one such occasion, Harry popped a big question, which Idris laughed about.
“He was like, ‘What are you doing on [May 19]?’ I told him nothing, and then he asked if I would DJ at his wedding… I was like, ‘Is this a joke?’”
But Harry and Meghan were serious about it, and Elba soon accepted. Meghan even sent over a playlist to Elba with songs such as I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston.
As with any wedding reception, the post-wedding party offered a different sort of spectacle to the rule-riddled formality of the union itself. Harry and Meghan’s wedding was broadcasted on television, and journalists and paparazzi wanted to capture as much of them as they could. But there were no cameras or journalists present for the party, and so the newly-married couple finally got the chance to relax a little bit.
Speaking with ET Canada, Idris Elba revealed what went down at the party, and it seemed like one person in particular owned the dance floor.
“I think Meghan was the one that was really letting it go,” Elba said. “You know, she was real … she just had a lot of fun. It was her wedding. So she had the greatest time.”
So what did Elba play as a DJ? Well, Elba has admitted that before going into the DJ booth, he was “so nervous.”
Meghan’s song request for the wedding party
Who wouldn’t have been? The stakes were, of course, high. Once he got started, though, things went smoothly.
“[Harry and Meghan are] good friends and I wanted to make sure they had a great time, so there was a lot of pressure,” he told the Daily Mail in 2021.
“This wasn’t like my cousin’s wedding. This [reception] wasn’t at the community hall … this was a big, big deal,” he added.
Elba decided to keep the entirety of the playlist to himself. Still, besides the Whitney Houston dance tune I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Harry and Meghan Markle’s first dance song – he revealed that one other song on the list was the legendary rap song Still D.R.E by American rapper and producer Dr. Dre.
Elba concluded that Still D.R.E was a big hit, and guests “went off” to the 1987 Whitney Houston song.
At the time, a source told People that plenty of other things were going on at the party, where “everyone was letting loose and had a blast.”
Serena William, a longtime friend of Meghan’s, played beer pong – and George Clooney decided to spend some time as a bartender.
“George Clooney hopped behind the bar and was mixing drinks for guests,” the source said.