Royal Wedding Challenge: Make It Grand, Yet Cheap
LONDON (AP) – It’s a wedding planner’s nightmare.
The nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton have to satisfy the bride’s family and the groom’s royal relatives — but also a supportive but recession-weary British public. It must be grand, but not ostentatious; regal, but with a common touch; expensive but not a drain on taxpayers worried about their jobs and the nation’s fragile economy.
“I don’t even have enough money for my own wedding, let alone theirs,” said Scott Northgrave, 39, a London construction worker. “They have a fortune, why not use it?”
Who will foot the bill for the wedding, likely to be millions of pounds (dollars), is still being worked out, but the royal family knows they must not seem out of touch with the public’s cash-strapped mood. William’s office says “the couple are mindful of the current economic situation.”
Because William is second in line to the throne after his father, Prince Charles, the ceremony will not be a formal state occasion like the wedding of his grandmother the queen, then Princess Elizabeth, in 1947, or of Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. Both Elizabeth and Charles were heirs to the British throne.
Still, British Prime Minister David Cameron said it would be hard to resist giving the country a day off to celebrate.
“There would be a great temptation to have a public holiday, a day of national celebration,” Cameron said, giving evidence to lawmakers Thursday.
Nor will the wedding lack in grandeur. Westminster Abbey is the leading contender for a venue after Middleton was photographed leaving the central London landmark on Wednesday evening.
“Miss Middleton paid a short, private visit to Westminster Abbey in order to be able to consider it as an option,” William’s office said Thursday. “The couple wish for a little more time to be able to consult family members and make a decision for themselves.”
A spokesman for the abbey refused to comment, but it is, in many ways, the perfect venue.
The 1,000-year-old church where British kings and queens are crowned is grand but surprisingly homey, crowded with the tombs of poets, politicians and 17 monarchs.
It has both happy and sad memories for the royal family. The queen and her late mother both married there, and Princes Diana’s funeral was held there in 1997.
It can hold 2,200 people — plenty of room for guests — and does not cost anything to book. It is also likely to be available, since the list of people allowed to marry there is limited to members of the royal family, abbey staff and members of the ceremonial Order of the Bath and their families. About a dozen weddings a year are held there.
Money for the festivities could come from the annual 7.9 million pounds ($11.6 million) in government funding given to the royal household to pay for salaries and official functions, or from the queen’s personal wealth. Charles is also expected to pay some of the bill, and Middleton’s parents — self-made millionaires who run a party-planning business — will probably also help out.
“I’d imagine that the Middletons would like to make some contribution,” said Charles Kidd, editor of Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage, a guide to etiquette and the aristocracy.
“I’m sure they would like to have a significant role in making the wedding run smoothly. They would pay for something as part of the reception, or the honeymoon, perhaps,” he said.
At the very least, taxpayers will have foot the bill for security, including the large number of police on duty that day. Further public funding would have to be approved by Parliament and could spark a backlash — although some Britons said they’d be willing to contribute.
“If everyone paid out maybe five or 10 pounds ($8 to $16), just think how that would add up,” said retiree Susan Dowling, 74. “I’m excited for this wedding and I’ll surely help out.”
Julie Marks, a 25-year-old London chef, was also willing to chip in.
“I’d pay 50 pounds ($80) tops,” she said. “But if everyone did, it would certainly help.”
Analysts say the wedding will be an economic boon for Britain. Neil Saunders, consulting director at Verdict retail analysts, said the economic kick from the wedding could reach 620 million pounds ($985 million).
“If, as expected, it is a big set-piece event, it could well capture the nation’s imagination and provide a fillip (boost) to the retail sector,” he said.
Saunders said sales of food and champagne for private celebrations could be worth 360 million pounds ($575 million) and tourism could benefit by more than 200 million pounds ($320 million).
David Buik, market analyst at BGC Partners in London, said he was “much looking forward to the William and Kate feel-good factor taking effect on our economy and our morale.”
In addition to an expected hotel, restaurant and retail boom from tourists traveling to London for the occasion, retailers are rushing to cash in with Kate-and-Wills merchandise.
Asda, Wal-Mart’s British supermarket chain, tweeted glad tidings that a commemorative mug would be available soon for 5 pounds ($8).
The royal wedding could also help raise the spirits of a country still recovering from the worst economic downturn in half a century, and facing the unknown impact of deep government spending cuts.
The queen’s wedding in 1947 lifted Britain’s postwar gloom and came just days after the government announced a reduction in rations.
Her ceremony at Westminster Abbey was described as simple: the same as for “any cottager getting married in her village church,” one of the priests said.
Well, except for the gilded carriage and a 500-pound wedding cake.
The spectacle of the hugely popular Prince William marrying his attractive — and seemingly down-to-earth — bride also should bolster a royal brand that has been tarnished by divorce, sex scandals and financial indiscretions.
The royal family has become more conscious of its public image after the shocks and dramatics of Charles’ generation. The disintegration of his marriage to Diana was the worst of it, but his sister Anne and brother Andrew also went through divorces.
Andrew’s former wife Sarah embarrassed the royal family by being photographed cavorting half-naked with a lover, and this year by a newspaper sting in which she offered to sell access to her former husband to help pay her substantial debts.
Prince Edward’s wife Sophie retired from business life after a newspaper caught her boasting of her royal connections to impress a client.
William, so far, has done nothing worse than using a Royal Air Force helicopter to drop by Middleton’s house during his flight training.