How Do You Get an Invite to the Royal Wedding?

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images

If you haven't yet received your invitation to the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, it's probably safe to assume it's not coming. (Stop telling yourself it got lost in the mail.)

But don't feel bad. Getting invited to one of the biggest weddings of the decade is no easy feat. For starters, the guest list is much smaller than the list for Prince William and Kate Middleton's 2011 nuptials at Westminster Abbey. Harry and Meghan will be saying "I do" at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, which only holds about 800 guests, compared to the Abbey's capacity of 2000. And a good number of those seats—530, to be exact—will be taken by the vast network of royal relatives who are automatically in, from first cousins Zara Tindall and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York, to Lady Gabriella Windsor, who is 50th in the line of succession to the throne.

Then there are the many celebrities who have become friends with the royals over the years. Elton John, a confidante of William and Harry's mother, Princess Diana, seems like a shoo-in. David and Victoria Beckham have become quite friendly with both of the Windsor princes over the years and are expected to be in attendance. Musicians Ed Sheeran, the other four Spice Girls, and Sam Smith are also rumored to have received the coveted invites. And because Markle is a celeb in her own right, we can also expect some star power sitting on her side of the aisle: Her good friends include tennis star Serena Williams, actress Priyanka Chopra, and many of her co-stars on Suits.

While celebrity attendees make up a decent portion of the guest list, you won't find many politicians filling the pews. Because Harry isn't as likely an heir to the throne as William, Her Majesty's government has officially declared that the wedding is not considered a state event. This means the happy couple doesn't have to extend an invite to politicians as an act of diplomacy; British Prime Minister Theresa May didn't make the exclusive guest list, much less foreign leaders, like the Trumps.

However, even though Harry's wedding isn't considered a state affair, the union still required the Queen's blessing. For centuries, every royal family member required the sovereign's blessing to wed. That rather outdated rule was changed in 2013; now, only the first six royals in line for the throne need QEII's OK. These days, Harry is sixth in line—his ranking fell last month when his nephew Prince Louis entered the picture.

Here's another reason to feel better about your missing invite: Some guests aren't even allowed a plus one. According to Town & Country, certain invitations were addressed to just one half of a married couple. The reason, they speculate, is because the single invitees are likely professional acquaintances as opposed to social ones. For example, if an invitee is a contact from one of the various charities Harry and Meghan support, those guests are representing their organizations, not their families.

Prince Harry and his fiancee, Meghan Markle, sign autographs and shake hands with children as they arrive to a walkabout at Cardiff Castle on January 18, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales.
Prince Harry and his fiancee, Meghan Markle, sign autographs and shake hands with children as they arrive to a walkabout at Cardiff Castle on January 18, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales.
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

In addition to the 800 guests inside of the church, more than 2000 members of the public have been invited to stand on the grounds outside and watch the royal processional. According to the official announcement, Harry and Meghan "want their wedding day to be shaped so as to allow members of the public to feel part of the celebrations too." Of course, space inside the chapel is limited, so allowing the public on the grounds is the best way to include them in the festivities. But even the public guest list is fairly exclusive—each invitee has been carefully vetted. Approximately 1200 of them have been chosen for their service to the community, 200 are affiliated with Harry and Meghan's charities, 100 are students from local schools, and 610 are Windsor Castle community members.

If you didn't make any of the guest lists, don't worry. Networks NBC, PBS, CBS, BBC America, and E! all cordially invite you to view it from the comfort of your living room—no tuxedos or fascinators required.

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What's the Difference Between Pigeons and Doves?

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iStock

To the layman, the difference between pigeons and doves has something to with color, maybe. Or location. Or general appeal (doves usually get much better press than pigeons do). But what’s the actual, scientific difference between doves and pigeons?

As it turns out, there isn’t one. Paul Sweet, the collection manager for the department of ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History, says the difference is more linguistic than taxonomic.

“The word dove is a word that came into English from the more Nordic languages, whereas pigeon came into English from French,” Sweet tells Mental Floss.

Both dove and pigeon refer to the 308 species of birds from the Columbidae family, Sweet says. There’s no difference between a pigeon and a dove in scientific nomenclature, but colloquial English tends to categorize them by size. Something called a dove is generally smaller than something called a pigeon, but that’s not always the case. A common pigeon, for example, is called both a rock dove and a rock pigeon.

“People just have their own classification for what makes them different,” Sweet says. “So in the Pacific, for example, the big ones might get called pigeons and the smaller ones might be called doves, but they’re actually more closely related to each other than they are to other things in, say, South America, that are called pigeons and doves.”

The difference boils down to linguistic traditions, so feel free to tell people you’re releasing pigeons at your wedding or that you’re feeding doves in the park. Scientifically speaking, you’ll be correct either way.

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What Is the Wilhelm Scream?

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iStock

What do Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Toy Story, Reservoir Dogs, Titanic, Anchorman, 22 Jump Street, and more than 200 other films and TV shows have in common? Not much besides the one and only Wilhelm Scream.

The Wilhelm Scream is the holy grail of movie geek sound effects—a throwaway sound bite with inauspicious beginnings that was turned into the best movie in-joke ever when it was revived in the 1970s.

Just what is it? Chances are you’ve heard it before but never really noticed it. The Wilhelm Scream is a stock sound effect that has been used in both the biggest blockbusters and the lowest low-budget movies and television shows for over 60 years, and is usually heard when someone onscreen is shot or falls from a great height.

First used in the 1951 Gary Cooper western Distant Drums, the distinctive yelp began in a scene in which a group of soldiers wade through a swamp, and one of them lets out a piercing scream as an alligator drags him underwater.

As is the case with many movie sound effects, the scream was recorded later in a sound booth with the simple direction to make it sound like “a man getting bit by an alligator, and he screams.” Six screams were performed in one take, and the fifth scream on the recording became the iconic Wilhelm (the others were used for additional screams in other parts of the movie).

Following its debut in 1951, the effect became a regular part of the Warner Bros. sound library and was continually used by the studio’s filmmakers in their movies. Eventually, in the early 1970s, a group of budding sound designers at USC’s film school—including future Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt—recognized that the unique scream kept popping up in numerous films they were watching. They nicknamed it the “Wilhelm Scream” after a character in the first movie they all recognized it from, a 1963 western called The Charge at Feather River, in which a character named Private Wilhelm lets out the pained scream after being shot in the leg by an arrow.

As a joke, the students began slipping the effect into the student films they were working on at the time. After he graduated, Burtt was tapped by fellow USC alum George Lucas to do the sound design on a little film he was making called Star Wars. As a nod to his friends, Burtt put the original sound effect from the Warner Bros. library into the movie, most noticeably when a Stormtrooper is shot by Luke Skywalker and falls into a chasm on the Death Star. Burtt would go on to use the Wilhelm Scream in various scenes in every Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie, causing fans and filmmakers to take notice.

Directors like Peter Jackson and Quentin Tarantino, as well as countless other sound designers, sought out the sound and put it in their movies as a humorous nod to Burtt. They wanted to be in on the joke too, and the Wilhelm Scream began showing up everywhere, making it an unofficial badge of honor. It's become bigger than just a sound effect, and the name “Wilhelm Scream” has been used for everything from a band name, to a beer, to a song title, and more.

But whose voice does the scream itself belong to? Burtt himself did copious amounts of research, as the identity of the screamer was unknown for decades. He eventually found a Warner Bros. call sheet from Distant Drums that listed actors who were scheduled to record additional dialogue after the film was completed. One of the names, and the most likely candidate as the Wilhelm screamer, was an actor and musician named Sheb Wooley, who appeared in classics like High Noon, Giant, and the TV show Rawhide. You may also know him as the musician who sang the popular 1958 novelty song “Purple People Eater.”

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