Huge security operation to descend on Prince Harry, Meghan Markle wedding

LONDON — Most wedding are a challenge to coordinate. Add 600 guests, 100,000 visitors, 5,000 journalists and millions of viewers, and you have a royal challenge — especially for those tasked with keeping Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's big day safe.

Police began preparing for the May 19 event as soon as the couple decided on the details.

“The smallest of things could go wrong and it could be regarded as a disaster in one way or another, so you always want to make sure you've done all your planning,” said former London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe.

How much Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are expected to spend on their royal wedding
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How much Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are expected to spend on their royal wedding

Food and drinks — $686,000 (£479,000). Catering is needed for both the formal lunch reception and the dinner reception for friends and family. Top-shelf champagne, wine, and whiskey will likely come from the Royal Palace cellars. The Royal Family’s favorite champagne, Bollinger, goes for nearly $115 (£80) a bottle; that's approximately $195,000 (£136,000) spent on champagne alone.

Wedding dress — $430,000 (£300,000). The rumor mill is working overtime when it comes to Markle's dress, which will reportedly have a six-figure price tag and be paid for by the bride herself. A fashion icon in the making, Markle is expected to go with a traditional design and unique detail.

(REUTERS/Toby Melville/Files)

Marquee — $500,000 (£350,000). Even though Markle and Prince Harry are using St. George's Chapel free of charge, they'll need a large event tent to host guests on the grounds after the immediate reception in St. George's Great Hall.

Music — $430,000 (£300,000). An organist and choirs will be on hand for the ceremony, while a DJ and live wedding band will set the mood at the reception. The Ministry of Defense also reportedly ordered $129,000 (£90,000) worth of personalized, silver-plated trumpets for the event.

(REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)

Invitations and wedding favors — $290,800 (£203,000). Kensington Palace announced in March that British printing company Barnard and Westwood made the invitations featuring the Prince of Wales badge printed in gold ink. The wedding favors will be something low-key and personal, according to Bride Book.

(Victoria Jones/Pool via Reuters)

Production/decoration — $186,000 (£130,000). A top London production agency is expected to transform Windsor Castle into a modern-day fairy tale. This includes lighting, dance floors, bars, and seating.

(REUTERS/Henry Nicholls)

Flowers — $157,600 (£110,000). Elaborate floral displays from one of London's top luxury florists will adorn both the chapel and the outdoor marquee. Bridesmaid's bouquets are also included in which the Peony is rumored to be the starring flower.

(Photo credit should read IAN WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

Entertainment — $78,800 (£55,000). A photo booth, children's entertainers, and a fireworks display will keep hundreds of guests entertained throughout the reception.

(Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Wedding cake — $71,600 (£50,000). Guests will enjoy a lemon elderflower cake covered with butter cream and fresh flowers, made by California-based pastry chef Claire Ptak.

Luxury toilets — $50,000 (£35,000). A necessity when you're accommodating hundreds of guests.

Photographer/Videographer — $24,300 (£17,000). Press will not be allowed inside the reception, so a private wedding photographer and videographer will be tasked with capturing the entire day. They'll also put together multiple photo books for an additional cost.

Wedding party wardrobe — $21,000 (£14,700). Between stylish bridesmaid dresses, groomsmen tuxedos, and flower girl and page boy outfits, wardrobe costs for the wedding party will run deep.

Beauty — $14,300 (£10,000). A hair and makeup team will be on hand to keep Markle and the rest of the wedding party looking fresh throughout the ceremony and receptions.

Wedding rings — $8,600 (£6,000). The wedding bands will be made with the Royal family's Welsh gold kept in the Royal vaults. While it's no added expense to the wedding, the rings are incredibly valuable.

(Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Bonus: The Honeymoon — $172,000 (£120,000). Bride Book's expert predicts Markle and Prince Harry will take a pre-wedding trip as well as a vacation with friends after the wedding frenzy has subsided. Markle is reportedly footing the honeymoon bill as a gift to her new husband.

(Photo by Marka/UIG via Getty Images)


When it comes to secure sites, it doesn’t get much tighter than a castle complete with a moat.

“The carriage is several hundred years old, it's unprotected, it's not ballistic proof, it's not bullet-proof, it's not stab-proof, it's nothing-proof.”

Yet with more than 100,000 visitors expected to descend on Windsor, the small historic town where the wedding is being held, along with VIPs and 1,200 members of the public who have been invited, those working to keep the wedding safe will need to be ready for a variety of challenges in the castle, on trains and around town.

With that in mind, police started putting security measures into force months before the wedding. Automatic license plate recognition technology has been checking vehicles coming into town, while officers are also conducting random stops. Large steel and concrete barriers have gone up inside and outside Windsor to prevent vehicle attacks. Sniffer dogs routinely search mailboxes, and even the drains have been searched and sealed.

Some 3,000 police officers are expected to flood Windsor, with authorities focusing on four main threats, according to security experts: terrorism, royal obsessives, public protests and crimes of opportunity, like pickpocketing.

Meghan Markle with other famous faces
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Meghan Markle with other famous faces
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 20: (L-R) Actors Abigail Spencer, Jordana Brewster, Meghan Markle and Sarah Hyland attend ELLE's 6th Annual Women in Television Dinner Presented by Hearts on Fire Diamonds and Olay at Sunset Tower on January 20, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for ELLE)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 01: (L-R) Meghan Markle, Serena Williams and Hannah Davis participate in the DirecTV Beach Bowl at Pier 40 on February 1, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for DirecTV)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 01: Meghan Markle, Nina Agdal and Shay Mitchell participate in the DirecTV Beach Bowl at Pier 40 on February 1, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for DirecTV)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 20: (L-R) Actors Abigail Spencer, Meghan Markle and Constance Zimmer attend ELLE's 6th Annual Women in Television Dinner Presented by Hearts on Fire Diamonds and Olay at Sunset Tower on January 20, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for ELLE)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: Georgina Chapman (L) and Meghan Markle attend the Marchesa show during Spring 2014 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at New York Public Library on September 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 07: Models Meghan Markle (L) and Petra Nemcova attend the Herve Leger By Max Azria fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2014 at The Theatre at Lincoln Center on September 7, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2014)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 05: Model Meghan Markle (L) and actress Jamie Chung attend an exclusive preview of the Marchesa Voyage for ShopStyle collection on September 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for ShopStyle)

“You have a celebration and a royal family that like to be accessible to the public. That has to be matched against security, and they’re not always happy bedfellows,” said former London Metropolitan Police Commander Robert Broadhurst.

That’s certainly the case when it comes to the royal couple's planned ride in an open-topped Ascot-Landau carriage through Windsor after the ceremony — likely to be the weekend's biggest security headache.

“The carriage is several hundred years old, it's unprotected, it's not ballistic proof, it's not bullet-proof, it's not stab-proof, it's nothing-proof,” said Broadhurst, who coordinated security operations at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2011 wedding of Prince William and the former Kate Middleton (who rode in an open-topped 1902 State Landau carriage from their marriage ceremony at Westminster Abbey to the celebration at Buckingham Palace).

“You have a crowd that's largely unsearched, who could have anything on them, from weapons to paint to graffiti to maggots to confetti, all of which poses a threat,” Broadhurst said.

Keeping with British tradition, most police will not carry firearms, although armed officers will be on the streets ready to respond if needed. There will also likely be a police helicopter or two circling above the crowd, with cameras that can identify faces, as well as tiny details like the time on your watch, according to Broadhurst.

The local force, the Thames Valley Police, will coordinate the security effort with help from London’s Metropolitan Police, who patrol inside the castle. It will be the biggest security operation the force, used to high profile events, has ever had to cope with.

A key part of the operation will be the intelligence work leading up to the wedding.

Police are ready to identify potential troublemakers in advance to stop them from coming to Windsor, and be ready to intercept any threats that crop up on the day.

Authorities will have some help in their efforts from furry, four-legged friends.

Six mounted police officers will patrol the crowds, with an additional four escorting the royal carriage. British Transport Police officers in stations and on trains, some armed and accompanied by search-and-security dogs, will patrol transport hugs in and around the town.

Thanks to Markle’s American roots, thousands of Americans are expected to make the trek to Windsor, lending an international element to the security operation.

“The police service in the U.K. always works closely with its partners, in particular the U.S." Broadhurst said. "And a case like this where of course the bride is a U.S. citizen, that really ups the interest of our American colleagues — quite rightly.”

The absence of heads of state at the wedding will make the security a bit less of a challenge. So will its location in Windsor, a town of around 30,000 residents about 20 miles west of London, where Queen Elizabeth II lives for part of the year.

The town is much smaller than the capital, London, and will likely stop in its tracks to watch the wedding, making it somewhat easier for police to patrol. Though tens of thousands of people lining narrow streets presents its own set of challenges, including crowd control and petty crime.

All this preparation doesn’t come cheap, though. The price tag hasn't been publicly broached yet, but police costs for William and Kate’s wedding added up to around $8.5 million, including almost $3.8 million on police overtime, according to figures obtained by the Press Association through Freedom of Information requests.

It's worth every penny to make sure the wedding runs safely and smoothly, however, said Hogan-Howe, the former London police commissioner.

“It's vitally important — a huge amount of work goes into it and you make sure everyone gets into the event safely,” he said. “It gets beamed around the world and it's a great image for Britain and it's also a great image for the relationship, I think, between Britain and America.”

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