Thursday, April 28, 2011
It’s hard to miss the sights and sounds of the forthcoming royal wedding. Images of palaces and spires, the strains of a wedding processional, and I’m back in front of a television set watching first Prince Charles’s wedding to Lady Diana Spencer and then, not so many years later, her funeral. Now that Prince William is about to wed Kate Middleton, the girl who will walk into Westminster Abbey a commoner and come out the world's first YouTube princess, I will occupy my spot in front of that little box again.
St. James’s Palace launched an official hub for the wedding with additional updates via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Flickr. By Friday afternoon, Kate Middleton will have become the most photographed woman on the planet.
Great Britain hasn’t seen a royal bash this big since since Charles married Diana 30 years ago, when there were 750 million viewers. Triple that number are expected to tune in to view their son William’s nuptials on Friday.
An army of royal planners are working to create the romantic spectacle that the world has come to expect on such an occasion. Westminster Abbey will be decorated with an avenue of growing trees lining the aisle and leading to the altar, in line with the bride’s wish that the decorations be sustainably sourced.
London is certainly rolling out the red carpet in preparation for this wedding of the century, and footing the hefty bill that goes with it. But it’s not only in England that interest is high – Nielsen reports that online media coverage of the wedding is considerably higher in America than in Britain. In fact, the vows will be uttered as people are rising in the US, giving the opportunity for wall-to-wall coverage throughout the day. Many Americans say that’s no problem – they won’t get up to toast the couple – they’ll stay up. Royal wedding viewing parties are planned across the country. I overheard a woman in my local grocery store saying that she was going to get up early and go to the Ritz Carlton at 4am for a viewing party followed by breakfast.
The Order of Service for the wedding has been made public, as have details about the decorations, the rings, the cake and the vows. The only remaining mystery, it seems, is the question of the bride’s wedding dress. When the groom’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, married in a time of post-war austerity, many across England sent in their coupons so that she could have a better wedding dress. Kate Middleton’s gown is said to have cost $50,000, but nobody knows what it looks like or who has designed it. The royal family will not release any details until Middleton arrives at Westminster Abbey on April 29th - but that has not stopped the endless guessing. A tent has been set up in front of the Goring Hotel (where the bride is staying) to where she will get into the carriage, to ensure that no one sees the dress until she arrives at the abbey.
William and Kate have chosen music that reflects the mood and setting of the occasion, encompassing works by Elgar, Britten, Vaughan Williams and Hubert Parry, including the stirring hymn "Jerusalem". After the ceremony the bells of Westminster Abbey will ring out in celebration for 3 hours across a crowd of more than a million people.
Hopefully the sun will shine on the bride and groom and all those who will be thronging the mall in hopes of catching a glimpse of the couple, though forecasters have indicated a strong chance of storms and high winds, possibly even the odd lightning strike. The royal couple risk getting wet as they plan to ride in an open carriage so that the crowds can see them in their wedding outfits. However, officials at St. James's Palace remain positive, saying that people are used to rain in Britain and probably would not be put off coming to line the route or crowding around Buckingham Palace. The newlyweds will appear on the palace balcony at 1:25pm for their much-anticipated kiss – rain or shine. And Tesco will print the kiss on a mug within an hour after that.
Odds-makers on the streets of London – who will bet on anything - are taking odds on crazy ideas, such as whether Kate will jilt William at the altar, or on safer bets such as Prince Philip falling asleep during the service, which I'll probably do as well. I'm not used to being up at the crack of dawn.