When we think about the most iconic royal weddings to date, a few come to mind. Of course, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s ceremony marked the start of a new generation of royals, and King Charles’ wedding to Diana Spencer still stands as one of the most widely watched royal events. Prince William married then-Kate Middleton — now Catherine, Princess of Wales — in a gorgeous ceremony in Westminster Abbey. Prince Harry broke the royal mold when he tied the knot with Meghan Markle.
As we look at the history of royal relationships, few have worked out for the better. In our current batch of royals, Princess Anne is on her second husband; Charles infamously married the "third" person in his marriage to Diana, Camilla, Queen Consort. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson split up in the 1990s, and William has been at the center of cheating allegations several times. Aside from Harry and Meghan, who seem to be breaking generational cycles in more ways than one, only one of Elizabeth’s four children is still married to their first spouse — Prince Edward. The queen’s youngest son, Edward, married longtime girlfriend Sophie Rhys-Jones — now Sophie, Countess of Wessex — in 1999, and the two have been together ever since. Given that their nuptials were a bit more low-key, we want to know all about it. This is what Edward and Sophie’s wedding was really like.
Edward popped the question with an elegant ring choice
Royal engagement rings are, as many of us know, a big deal. Diana Spencer’s iconic sapphire and diamond engagement ring caught everyone’s attention, and after leaving it to Prince Harry — who then gave it to his brother, Prince William — the ring sits on Princess Catherine’s hand. Meghan Markle, meanwhile, wears an engagement ring that sourced its stones from Botswana as well as Diana’s personal jewelry collection. Sophie, Countess of Wessex, meanwhile, wears a beautiful engagement ring that is slightly understated yet incredibly elegant — we have all the details.
Prince Edward and Sophie announced their engagement around the holiday season of 1998. Having dated for some time, the proposal wasn’t entirely shocking, yet their relationship was almost seen as a do-over, given the failures of his three siblings’ marriages. As noted by the BBC at the time, the couple announced that they’d be wed in a "family wedding" at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, and Sophie showed off the beautiful ring presented to her when Edward popped the question.
As detailed by Hello!, Sophie’s engagement ring was sourced from jeweler Garrard — the same jeweler who designed Diana and Sarah Ferguson’s rings — and featured a two-carat oval diamond adorned with two smaller heart-shaped diamonds on either side. Usually spotted with her gold wedding band, Sophie’s ring is estimated to be worth about $150,000.
Unlike other royal weddings, Edward and Sophie’s day was not made a state occasion
Think back to Prince William and Princess Catherine’s wedding day. William was striking in all red, his military uniform standing out from the crowd. Catherine looked like the perfect bride in white. Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, knew that they didn’t want their wedding to follow in the same pomp and circumstance footsteps of, say, then-Prince Charles and Diana Spencer’s wedding — so instead of inviting everyone to a state occasion, Edward and Sophie held a private event in front of 550 guests.
As the BBC notes, however, their wedding was the biggest event the town of Windsor had seen since King George VI’s 1952 funeral — but by royal wedding standards, Edward and Sophie’s big day was on the smaller side. Instead of inviting dignitaries, international politicians, and statesmen, Edward and Sophie kept the guest list relatively confined to friends and family, snubbing then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and other politicians. On the guest list included Andrew Lloyd Webber, actors John Cleese and Robbie Coltrane (because at least one "Harry Potter" actor had to be in attendance), and singers Tom Jones, Harry Connick Jr., and Michael Ball, among other well-known figures, CNN noted at the time — but as for politicians, they had to sit this one out. In his absence, Blair sent the couple well wishes from Germany, as he was attending an industrial nations event at the time of the ceremony.
The couple had a specific request of wedding guests that related to their outfit choices
When Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, tied the knot, they had a bit of an off, yet special, request — no hats were to be worn. Hats, of course, are a royal staple and often mark a sense of propriety and ceremony, but given that the couple wanted their wedding to be more low-key, they requested that the guests come hat-free. As noted by the BBC, Edward and Sophie further requested a "more relaxed tone of dress." Leave the ball gowns at home alongside the hats, they said in part, because a 5 p.m. afternoon wedding doesn’t need all the fluff.
Not everyone headed the couple’s wishes, including Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother — but we guess if you have the title queen, you can do whatever you want. As noted by the BBC at the time, Elizabeth wore a headdress — a sort of hat-adjacent look — and the Queen Mother wore a full-on blue hat with feathers to go with her ensemble for the day. Princess Margaret and Princess Anne followed Elizabeth’s look and opted for headdresses, but the usual stuffiness of a royal wedding was certainly not on display overall.
Edward was joined by his brothers as the best men and broke a royal tradition while doing so
Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, made it clear from the get-go that their wedding would not follow in the stuffy footsteps of tradition. Edward — joined by his brothers, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew — shunned the limousine that would’ve typically driven the groom to the chapel and walked the 20-minute stroll to St. George’s Church, the BBC noted at the time. They lucked out on the weather, too — it had been raining, and the chances of storms on the day was a "major concern in the morning." But the sun came out on time, and Edward greeted well-wishers as he made his way to the ceremony. Though they couldn’t technically be in his wedding party — as the royals follow the tradition that bridesmaids and page boys all be children — Andrew and Charles were Edward’s "supporters" on the day, essentially taking on the role as the "best men," The New York Times noted during their coverage.
Notable on the day in question was that Edward’s two best men — both divorced — were not joined by any significant other. Andrew’s ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, did not receive an invitation despite being on fairly friendly terms with the prince and the other royals, and Camilla Parker Bowles — Charles’ "companion," as she was referred to in 1999 — wasn’t included in the day’s festivities, CNN noted.
Sophie’s vows included phrasing once omitted by Diana Spencer
When Sophie, Countess of Wessex, first came on the scene, many people drew parallels between her and the late Diana Spencer. Everyone watched closely, and Diana and then-Prince Charles got engaged and started their lives — albeit mired with strife and chaos — together, but Prince Edward and Sophie presented a much different front than their royal couple predecessors. When interviewed about his then-fiancée, Edward told cameras that his love for Sophie was "the most important thing of all." As The New York Times pointed out, critics were quick to compare his statement to Charles’ "whatever love is" comment that he made when asked relatively the same question during his engagement interview with Diana.
The differences between Sophie and Diana’s royal love stories continued on the day of the wedding, The New York Times further reported at the time, noting that Sophie included the word "obey" when making her vows to Edward: she vowed to "love, honor, and obey" her husband, a phrase that Diana famously omitted from her wedding day. By uttering the royally famous words, Sophie — The New York Times assessed — "let it be known that, while she understands the comparisons her passing resemblance to Diana prompts, she does not want to encourage them." Given that Edward and Sophie’s marriage has stood the test of time — as opposed to all of his siblings’ first unions — the couple has done something right.
Edward fumbled slightly during this tender moment in the ceremony
A wedding can certainly make even the most confident among us nervous, but Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, seemed to take the day in stride. As noted by the BBC, Edward appeared "relaxed and confident" as he waited for Sophie to walk up the aisle, and both of them "faultlessly delivered their vows." Edward even gave his wife-to-be a little wink, giving royal watchers a sense of the couple’s playfulness and levity. But every wedding day has a little bit of a fumble, and Edward and Sophie struggled a bit to get her wedding band on her finger. As noted by The Guardian, the "awkward moment" arrived when the bride and groom realized that Sophie’s wedding ring was just a little too tight, but they managed to get it on and take the little fumble in stride. A previous slip-up with Sophie’s shoes for the day in question just served as a reminder that the couple was — and are — in fact "human," The Guardian noted at the time, chatting with well-wishers who shared their thoughts on the couple and the wedding.
After the ceremony, Edward and Sophie were able to share a private moment — and we want to know what she said about trying to get the ring on her finger! — and they could share the first kiss as husband and wife off-camera and out of sight from all the guests and crowds.
Sophie looked stunning in her intricately beaded gown
The wedding day — especially a royal wedding — is all about the dress, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, did not disappoint. As detailed by Hello!, Sophie opted for a gorgeous silk organza dress for her big day, featuring a beautiful coat style designed by Samantha Shaw. Unlike Diana Spencer and Sarah Ferguson, who opted for puffy sleeves and big ball gowns for their weddings, Sophie’s sleek, V-neck dress was chic and sophisticated, radiating the power of a professional woman marrying for love — not duty.
The dress was adorned with over 325,000 crystal beads and pearls, trimming the neckline and sleeves without following a specific design or "motif" like previous royal brides. Topping off the full bridal look, the Countess of Wessex wore a full-length veil of silk tulle and crystal detailing. As for jewels, Sophie was granted permission to wear a stunning diamond tiara from Queen Elizabeth’s private jewelry collection. For the day in question, the Crown Jeweler — David Thomas of Asprey and Garrard — redesigned the headpiece for Sophie specifically. She paired the tiara with pearl drop earrings and a black and white strand of pearls around her neck, which were given to her by Prince Edward. Also from Asprey and Garrard, the jeweler responsible for her tiara and engagement ring, Sophie presented a complementary look and was the picture of elegance on her wedding day.
The bride gifted her husband a special wedding attire touch
It’s a sweet tradition for the bride and groom to exchange presents for their wedding day. Prince Edward gifted his bride a strand of pearls and matching earrings that she wore on the day, but what did Sophie, Countess of Wessex, gift her husband-to-be? As noted by the BBC, Edward showed up to the wedding in a dark suit and crisp white shirt, brimming with pride as he and his wife left the chapel. But it’s all in the details, and Sophie gifted Edward the 18-carat hunter pocket watch he was spotted in! Though they had to remain apart for a chunk of the day before the ceremony, it’s lovely to think that Edward and Sophie partook in the sweet tradition of gifting each other small tokens they could incorporate during their wedding.
Edward is, as many may have suspected, a bit of an oddball — he marches to the beat of his own drum, has pursued work in film and creative fields, and has raised his kids out of the spotlight. He also, wait for it, has a thing for cat-themed ties. As noted by Town & Country, Edward has been spotted wearing ties with different cat designs for decades now, and he wore such an option on his wedding day. He’s since worn various versions of the necktie he chose for his nuptials, and this touch of individuality is just as funky as it is heartwarming.
Sophie took part in a touching royal tradition after the ceremony was over
Over the years, there have been elements of royal weddings have been preserved. A piece of the cake served as Diana Spencer, and then-Prince Charles’ marriage has lasted all these years, different royal wedding dresses have been displayed in museums, and the weddings live on in the photographs taken that day. Another royal tradition that Sophie, Countess of Wessex, took part in on her wedding day was the dedication of her bouquet. Royal bouquets held by the bride aren’t the lavish floral arrangements that many of us have come to know, but are usually rather simple in design and feature one to two colors. After her wedding ceremony, Sophie took her bouquet to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and placed it upon the tomb, the white roses and ivy standing out from the dark stone.
As noted by Westminster Abbey, the tradition was said to have been started by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, to honor the fallen on the day of the royal wedding. As Hello! Magazine detailed, Elizabeth — who married King George VI — dedicated her bouquet to her brother Fergus, who had died in the Battle of Loos about seven years before her wedding. In a touching tradition, many royal brides have followed suit. Princess Catherine, Meghan Markle, and Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice have all placed their bouquets on the tombstone following their wedding ceremonies.
The couple opted for a buffet-style reception, tossing formality aside
There’s nothing better than a wedding with good food and a good atmosphere, and Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, ensured their guests had a good time. As noted by Express, wedding guests enjoyed canapes at the Waterloo Chamber and Grand Reception Room after the ceremony was over and later enjoyed a — wait for it — buffet-style dinner at the reception. When we think royal, we think silver service and everything handed out on a platter — not for Edward and Sophie. They brought yet another layer of relatability to their big day; by all accounts, it was a hit.
"The queen was constantly wandering through and chatting to people," a guest told the BBC in the aftermath of the wedding and reception. "It was one of the friendliest weddings I have ever been to. It was a really friendly, family wedding."
Adding that she had also attended Diana Spencer and then-Prince Charles’ wedding, the insider noted that Edward and Sophie’s day was "far less formal," and the couple even opted out of toasts and speeches.
Rounding out the evening, Sophie and Edward cut into their daffodil and tennis racket-themed wedding cake, both nods to Sophie’s heritage and how the couple met — on the tennis court — the Irish Times detailed.
William was photoshopped on the day in question
You may not have expected that Prince William was photoshopped in Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex’s wedding photos. It was 1999, but such technology allowed photographer Geoffrey Shakerley to alter the pictures as the prince was said to not "look happy enough" on the day. As noted by the BBC, Shakerley said that William was "not looking his best" in one of the official photos from the day, so he swapped out his face from another picture in which he was grinning. The photographer later reflected on the Photoshop job, saying that it came at Edward’s request.
"Prince Edward said he didn’t think Prince William looked absolutely his best, so digitally we were able to put in another picture of Prince William from one of the other shots where he is smiling and laughing," Shakerley said. Reproductions of the photo were not allowed after the wedding as per the Bagshot Park Charity, as the organization run by the royal couple wanted to donate all the money made from the wedding’s coverage. Such reproductions then would mean less money — or at least that’s how charity trustee Henry Boyd-Carpenter justified the photoshop job.
"If the photo were to be put out on the Internet, it would be a free for all, and the charity would not benefit at all," Boyd-Carpenter said. We’re not sure these things are mutually exclusive, but there you have it.
As is tradition, Edward and Sophie were given new titles
When Diana Spencer married then-Prince Charles, she became Diana, Princess of Wales. When Kate Middleton married Prince William, she was given the Duchess of Cambridge title, and so on. When Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones tied the knot, Edward was bestowed the Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn titles, making Sophie the Countess of Wessex. Such titles have stuck throughout their time as royals, and they have since given the titles of lady and viscount severn to their children, Louise and James, though they have denied HRH designations for both their kids.
There is a bit of a dilemma with titles, however, regarding Edward. As noted by the BBC at the time of the wedding, Edward was said to be given the Duke of Edinburgh title — held by his father, Prince Philip, at the time — after the death of both his mother and father. Philip passed in 2021 and Queen Elizabeth in 2022, and many thought the Edinburgh title would be rightfully handed to Edward, but no such luck. King Charles essentially owns the title and can bestow it to anyone he likes — there is, as you may have guessed, a title holdout.
So what is Charles’ endgame? Some have predicted that the king will give the Edinburgh title to Princess Charlotte, his granddaughter, while others see the title grab as nothing more than the result of petty jealousy between the brothers.