Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Forget the trainwreck build-up ... tomorrow is about Meghan and Harry and love conquering all

Stage-managing your wedding day to exclude embarrassing relatives never works. Let's face it, most families have the odd balloon, says Lindy McDowell

To sum up then: the bride's father, Thomas Markle, is not attending tomorrow's wedding between his beautiful daughter, Meghan, and Prince Harry. Having been exposed for posing for fake (and lucrative) paparazzi shots, purporting to show his wedding preparations near his home in Mexico, he had apologised profusely and said he would not embarrass his daughter by attending.

The royals then asked the media to respect the privacy of the man who'd been invading it himself. Following this, Meghan sent him a message (they appear to communicate by text), saying she was heartbroken and begging him to come anyway. He said he would.

Then he had another change of heart. He said he'd had some sort of cardiac problem (although he was photographed around this time leaving a fast-food joint with a non-prescription, fried chicken takeaway) and now wouldn't be coming after all.

His other daughter, who appears to detest Meghan - even though she wanted to attend her wedding - claimed the pap pics were her idea to show her father - and the royals - "in a positive light". She blamed the media for putting her father under pressure.

The father, meanwhile, blamed the heart issue on his son, who'd written a nasty open letter to Prince Harry, saying that if he married Meghan, it would be the greatest mistake in the history of royal wedding mistakes.

The father went into hospital. The mother then left for her daughter's wedding. She was preceded into London by the angry half-brother, who, having called Meghan jaded, shallow and conceited, was now saying nicer things about her, claiming that he only got nasty because he hadn't got an invite. He also blamed media attention.

The half-brother's ex-wife, to whom he hasn't spoken in 20 years, had also arrived in London as a royal wedding pundit along with her two sons, one of whom is a cannabis farmer (legal), currently harvesting a new strain he calls "Markle's Sparkle".

The half-sister, who is writing a book called The Diary of Princess Pushy's Sister (which, she says, aims to show Meghan is not), has rarely been off the airwaves, spewing bile about her famous relative. She claimed this was a freedom of speech issue and that Meghan had no right to try to shut her up. She also blamed the media.

This week, she said she was in a car crash, where she broke her foot - or, possibly, her knee - as she and her partner tried to avoid the paparazzi. She insisted that she doesn't mind a bit that she wasn't invited to the wedding, but has called the bride-to-be narcissistic and selfish. Apparently, though, she's bought her a wedding pressie.

Meghan's uncles on her father's side - one a bishop, the other a former US diplomat - have expressed surprise they weren't invited to tomorrow's ceremony. So, too, have various young royals, who grew up with Prince Harry.

But the Spice Girls are going. And David Beckham and Posh. Theresa May isn't. Nor are Mr and Mrs Obama. Nor Mr and Mrs Trump, nor Pippa Middleton.

The father hasn't met Harry. The mother has met the Queen. And what the Duke of Edinburgh makes of it all is anybody's guess.

Phew! It does put the usual wedding preparation pressure (Do we really need a chocolate fountain? When we release the doves, what if they poop on our heads?) into perspective.

Poor Meghan and Harry (but, mostly, Meghan, because it's the Markle Beverly Hillbillies who've been affronting her) have had a wild week of it. There's been endless media analysis about whose fault all this was and how it could and should have been handled better by palace wedding planners.

But, actually, as a foil to the usual fairytale froth of royal nuptials, there is, amid the cringe-inducing carry-on of the extended Markle clan, something oddly relatable about the relatives. More exaggerated in this instance, granted. But all families have their renegades. That section of the family gene pool that somehow got contaminated with what could kindly be called eccentricity. To put it another way, every family has the odd balloon.

(I was trying to think who this might be in my own family, but couldn't work it out, leading to the uncomfortable conclusion that in our family - gulp - it might be me.)

But this is part of life's rich tapestry. And stage-managing your wedding day to edit them out of the picture is never going to work.

In the case of Meghan's father, his behaviour was wrong. But not criminal. There's since been a bit of an attempt to portray him as a naive victim of paparazzi manoeuvring (money, we're told, wasn't his main motivation).

But this is a man who's spent a lifetime working in the extended media industry - he's an award-winning retired lighting director - so he's nobody's fool. He saw a chance to make a quick bob or two. Not entirely noble. But not the end of the world, either.

And, suddenly finding themselves in media demand, the rest of the clan have been making hay, too. (Or, in the case of the cannabis-farming cousin, a slightly different crop.)

The cross-Atlantic media attention was always going to be intense, but the chaos - and there is no other word for it - which has surrounded this royal wedding has lifted it to another plane entirely.

Meghan will be without her dad on her big day, which is truly sad. He's paying a big price for making a few quick bucks. And I just hope the poor girl stays off social media, because some of the vitriol being spewed on there makes even the half-sister seem half-human.

The bride has had to deal with more pre-wedding drama than ever envisaged by the Brothers Grimm.

Tomorrow, though, is Meghan's day. Meghan's and Harry's.

But also, just as importantly perhaps, it's a day for those of us who still love a fairytale ending.

For, despite the many twists and turns, and the best efforts of those hobgoblins of fate and hate, that's what tomorrow amounts to.

This is not just the usual Cinderella story about poor girl meets prince with the traditional trappings of carriage, a palace, footmen, disgruntled siblings, a tiara and those new royal titles. It's a story that's as down to earth as it is the stuff of fantasy.

It's about two ordinary people who love each other saying that proudly and publicly. It's their friends and their families (those invited, anyway) joining in the fun.

And it's about well-wishers, who don't even know them, but who see and share their happiness, cheering from the sidelines - albeit pausing intermittently to critique some of the guests' dafter style choices.

As another famous American, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once reminded us, all the world loves a lover.

And while tomorrow's wedding may be a bit grander than most, that celebration of life and love is universal and uplifting and affecting and fun.

So, here's to them. Here's to the bride and groom. Here's to Meghan and Harry and to love conquering all.

Here's to happy ever after.

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