When it comes to having a royal wedding, pretty much every step of the way is laced with tradition (unless, of course, you’re Meghan Markle, the upstart American breathing some life into the institution). Of course, it’s not much different for American regular-schmegular brides: Custom, for many brides, dictates everything from the color of the dress to what you do with your bouquet at the end of the night. Generally, the flowers are tossed to a crowd composed of all the single ladies in attendance; whoever catches it, of course, is supposedly the next person to get married. For royals, however, the flowers have a far different fate—and it happens to be even more symbolic than that.
Last time we saw the royal wedding bouquet—full of flowers Harry picked in part to honor his mother, no less—it was seated comfortably in Markle’s lap as she and Harry whizzed through Windsor on their post-vow carriage ride. Please see Exhibit A:
Now, on the day after the wedding, the bouquet has a new home: Westminster Abbey. And no, it’s not preserved in glass for the ages à la Beauty and the Beast. Instead, it has a symbolic place of rest on the cathedral’s Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
Much like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Washington, D.C.’s Arlington National Cemetary, the Grave of the Unknown Warrior commemorates those who have died in international military conflicts dating back to World War I. Like the American monument, an unknown soldier is buried beneath the stones, making the grave a symbol of sacrifice. (The soldier in Westminster was buried in 1920, the soldier in Arlington a year later.)
According to a statement from Westminster Abbey, brides have been sending their bouquets here ever since Queen Elizabeth placed hers there in 1947 to honor her brother Fergus, who was killed in 1915 during WWI’s Battle of Loos.
Kate Middleton did the same thing with her bouquet after her wedding to Prince William in 2011, too:
Prince Harry himself had a decade-long career in the British Army, where he was praised for his skills as an Apache helicopter pilot and did two tours in Afghanistan. Once he was out of the service, he created the Invictus Games, a Paralympics-style competition for service members, as a way to support them—leaving behind a legacy and tradition of his own.