Kensington Palace announced on Friday that Meghan, 36, had asked Prince Harry‘s father, Charles, to walk her down the aisle after her father had to drop out of the event at the last minute. (She’ll actually walk a majority of the way on her own but will be complete the final steps to the altar with Charles.)
According to Myka Meier, the founder and director of Beaumont Etiquette, this is quite the change from traditional royal weddings as the groom’s family typically does not walk the bride down the aisle — the role is usually reserved from someone from her family, one of her friends or she may even opt to do the whole walk alone.
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“Prince Charles is walking Meghan Markle down the aisle is like nothing we’ve ever seen before in a major royal wedding,” Meier tells PEOPLE. “It is unprecedented and a very kind gesture to show solidarity and great support for the royal couple from the British monarchy and senior royals.
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“By walking Meghan down the aisle, the etiquette and protocol of who walks in and when will change slightly but seamlessly,” Meier adds. “The ceremony protocol will be reworked and orchestrated so that Prince Charles can then take on his other role as father of the groom and be seated next to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in the chapel as soon as Meghan is in place for the ceremony.”
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This is the first time in modern memory that a royal bride was walked down the aisle by a member of the groom’s family. Back in 1960, Princess Margaret — Queen Elizabeth II’s sister — was walked down the aisle by Prince Philip as her father, King George VI, had passed away in 1952. Still, even though Philip wasn’t a blood relative of Margaret’s, he was technically considered a part of the bride’s family and was one of the most senior male royal family members.
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In non-royal weddings, it is also not typical for a member of the groom’s family to walk a bride down the aisle unless they were a major part of the bride’s life. The decision to have Charles walk Meghan down the aisle is a big sign that Meghan has been fully embraced by the royal family.
“What an exciting time for both the royal couple and the British Monarchy to make such a modern move,” Meier says.