No matter what, his family is going to think you’re in it for the money. Charles* and I had dated for 4 years before getting engaged when I was 31. I’m 37 now and two kids later, I think his family has just really started accepting and trusting me. I married up and into a very wealthy family. Old money. While it’s not royal family money, I can empathize with Meghan Markle and the stress of marrying into a high profile family.
I grew up in Georgia with two hardworking parents and three sisters. My mother was a teacher and my father held a series of blue collar jobs. We were lower middle class and though we didn’t have a lot, I never felt “poor.” Family was always important and we were very close. I went to college in Florida on a scholarship and after graduating and working for a few years, I decided to go to business school so I could get a better paying job. It was there, I met Charles.
Charles caught my attention in our first-year ethics class. He was incredibly smart, but what I noticed was that he was so kind. We began dating after almost a year of knowing each other. We became fast friends over difficult classes, our love for food and hip-hop (yes, my white, respectable looking husband is a huge hip-hop head). We started off as friends and one night after one too many drinks, the liquid courage led to us sharing a kiss that ultimately led to dating. I was the first Black woman he ever dated and now his wife.
I didn’t how rich Charles was till about a year after we’d been dating. He was definitely (and understandably) insecure about it. I’m sure there were signs, but honestly, I wasn’t looking for them. He dressed nice, but it wasn’t like he was Gucci down to the socks all the time. I mean, his suits and tuxes were impeccable. I remember at a networking event, I overheard a fellow classmate claim that Charles’ custom suit had to be at least $15,000.00. I thought they were just hating because of how well it fit him. A couple years later, I found out, the Ermenegildo Zegna Bespoke suit was closer to $30,000.00.
I found out about his wealth when we got into our first major fight. I was upset that we’d known each other for a year and been dating for almost a year and it was getting close to graduation and I hadn’t met his parent and didn’t know really anything about his family. However, he had met my parents when they came to visit and even came to our home in Georgia. I thought he was hiding me because I was Black. I remember I told him this and his eyes got incredulous and he turned beet red. He felt I was attacking his character, I felt like I had wasted a year.
I’ll admit, I was triggered. As a dark skin Black woman, I have my own personal issues and it brought me back to days of not feeling desired, fully loved or having a partner that was truly proud to have me on their side. I also was navigating new territory as I’d never dated or had even had sex with a white man before Charles. The fight ended with me storming out and saying, “If you can’t introduce your n*gger girlfriend to your parents, then we should just end this.”
He called me the next day and yes it was awkward. The first thing out of his mouth was that he didn’t like when I used the word with the ‘er’, but could stomach it with the ‘a.’ I was about to cuss him out again because I was thinking he was calling me on some BS. I’ll never forget, it was a Thursday. He told me that he loved me and knew his parents would too. He asked what I was doing over the weekend and if I wanted to meet them. I said yes, “Are they coming to Stanford?” He said no and that he was booking us flights to London. I immediately said I couldn’t afford a last minute ticket to London. He said he would handle it. We left the next day. The tickets were first class. I haven’t flown coach since and depending on where we go, we often fly private with our family.
Meeting his family, seeing (one) of his (eight) homes, I realized that Charles wasn’t rich, he was wealthy. The wealth had been in his family for generations. I hadn’t met his parents, because after one conversation, you just know that they are on another plane. Their experiences are not ones that most people will ever have in their lifetime. When I met his mother, she was nice but firm. She grilled me on her son: what did I like about him, how we met, etc. She grilled me on me: what were my plans after business school, where had I traveled? The trip was overwhelming and exhausting. I had felt insecure about my clothes and honestly, my life. I remember the plane ride home and immediately sitting in the seat, ordering a jack and coke, and feeling so much relief. I feel like Charles sensed it. Before Charles asked me to marry him, we had some really difficult conversations surrounding a pre-nuptial agreements, family expectations, etc. Charles said he realized it was a lot to ask of me but he was willing to do whatever necessary to keep me in his life forever and keep me comfortable. While Meghan Markle might not have a prenuptial agreement, I do. If Charles and I were ever to divorce, I get $8M per child and alimony for 4 years. Fortunately, we are quite happy. Regardless of what happens, at 18, our children will have access to their trust funds.
The wedding preparation was stressful for me and my immediate family. My parents had saved about $10K for each child to contribute to their wedding. $10K was a lot to me. If it wasn’t for Charles’ family, I would not have been able to feasibly afford more than a $40K wedding on my post business school salary (those loans were a beast and Charles paid them off for me the day after we were married as one of my gifts). Our wedding was $1.5M dollars. My dress alone was $65K as it is couture and was made in Paris. I remember trying to feel “fancy,” and suggesting Kleinfeld’s when his mom asked where I was thinking about dresses. I remember her laughing and my face hot with embarrasment. The beading took a month to complete. The whole time it was happening, it felt surreal. $65K was the salary I was making the year before I entered and was half of my yearly salary post business school. I would have never spent that much on a dress on my own accord. However, I’ve learned in this family, sometimes to just go along with things and to pick and choose my battles.
My family felt a bit left out because they couldn’t contribute and they didn’t want to feel like a charity case. My mom never came to my final dress fitting in Paris because she couldn’t afford the flight and hotel herself and didn’t want their family paying for it. I remember trying on my dress, with my soon to be mother-in-law and sister-in-law present and I started crying, not tears of joy (unbeknownst to them), but sadness, because I wanted to have my mother there for the moment. I would have offered to fly her out, but I was stupidly spending my money to try and “contribute” as well and had gotten myself in some debt. I wish I would have had some kind of mentor to walk me through marrying wealthy. I would have told my younger self to not overextend myself, to be more open in how I was feeling, and to enjoy it more.
It was a 300 person wedding, over half the invitations were obligatory family business invites. Everything was over the top and grand, nothing that my southern, modest, self was used to. I remember sitting with his mom and my mom and we were picking things out for the wedding and my mom was so quiet because of the extravagance. $400 bottles of champagne were drunk as we chose $10K centerpieces and hundred dollar napkins. Literally, if I liked it, his mom purchased it. I didn’t have to think twice, check our account, nothing. It felt weird.
Once Charles and I got engaged, it changed everything. He started paying for almost everything for us and further opening me up to his lifestyle…which was light years away from anything I was used to. While I couldn’t afford his lifestyle, he reminded me it was our lifestyle and slowly started introducing me to new things. From private museum tours to taking me on shopping sprees overseas. It was better than how they talked about it in the rap songs we both loved so much.
Leading up to the wedding was stressful. Rumors were swirling that I was a gold digger, marrying him for his money. Ex-girlfriends reached out to me, one boldly wrote, “Not surprised he’s marrying a Black woman, he had a Black nanny he was very close with.” I suddenly started to feel insecure in us. Everything was such a process, I met everyone in his family and often went to them. Whether it was their Aunt in Wales or first cousin in France, it almost felt like a tour. I started to feel more like a possession than a person. I’m glad I explained this to Charles. He apologized and said he could only imagine, explained this was all he knew. And that I was marrying him, not his family, and while there would be major life changes, he’d always be by my side. And he has.
He also made sure that the wedding wasn’t just his parents show and that my family and our personalities showed through too. The food was southern, which made me incredibly happy. While we had a live orchestra at our wedding, we also had a DJ, so that we could play rap music…the explicit versions. Even though he’s white, we jumped the broom.
Six years later, Charles and I are still happily married and I’ve adjusted in my new life. Even just reflecting on how it was before and how awkward I was leaning into it, makes me laugh. I had many firsts with Charles and while I never have to worry about money, I am very conscious of my privilege. I’m conscious of making sure my family feels comfortable. I try to make sure that love and not money leads. So I’ll treat them to expensive things, but also do things we love, like our favorite buffet restaurant in my hometown.
Meghan Markle’s life is not changing overnight. It changed the moment she got engaged to Prince Harry and will continue to change. My advice to her would be to keep her close friends, close. To lean into her new life, but don’t let go to the aspects of her old life she loves. Also that while people are going to have specific expectations, to ensure she stays true to herself. As a fellow Black woman, who married into a white family, you will be forced to speak up in situations, and it will be a disservice if she doesn’t. Sending lots of love and happiness to her. When you lead with love, things tend to work out…no matter the dollar amount in your account.
This story was told to Hello Beautiful Staff.
The woman requested to remain anonymous for safety reasons, to allow the most honesty, and to not piss off her in-laws.
*Name has been changed to protect the family.