They have already bought their sapphire-and-diamond engagement rings from the Home Shopping Network, found wedding gowns at local thrift shops and planned their rehearsal dinner and wedding day events.
Never mind that Gigi Baay and Marianne Swanson of New Orleans are married with children. The two friends have been planning a celebration of Kate Middleton and Prince William’s nuptials for months. Though neither has an invitation to Westminster Abbey, what they do have are plane tickets to London, where they plan to spend the royal wedding weekend celebrating in regal fashion.
They are hardly the only tourists heading to England for the royal wedding April 29, a national holiday throughout Britain. Visit Britain, the official tourist organization, is anticipating more spectators in town for William’s wedding than for his parents’ marriage at St. Paul’s Cathedral 30 years ago.
“We expect at least an extra 600,000 visitors,” said Mark Di-Toro, a spokesman for Visit Britain. “But it could be as many as a million this time.”
So how can one celebrate the couple’s union beyond watching it at home with what is predicted to be three-quarters of the world’s television viewing audience? Easily, with this unofficial Royal Wedding Guide to London:
Get me to the church on time British Airways is offering a variety of royal wedding packages that include hotels and flights leaving April 27 and returning May 1. For $1,085.50 a person, a couple can fly round trip from New York to London, stay at the Royal National, a three-star hotel near Oxford Street, and even save on breakfast, which is included.
A room of your own Hotels throughout London are also offering royal wedding deals; for example, at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, a minimum of three nights’ stay starts at 840 pounds per couple, or $1,395 at $1.66 to the pound. Those not wanting to spend a king’s ransom should check out crashpadder.com, which has more than 500 hosts in London renting out rooms in their homes at an average cost of about $50 a night.
A photo session with William What better way to celebrate the wedding than to have an engagement photo taken with the prince himself. The Stephen Friedman gallery, in Mayfair, has a life-size wax statue of William, complete with a replica of Kate’s engagement ring attached to his forearm. Link your arm through his, slip your finger through the ring, and in an instant, become Kate.
Walk like a royalist Celebrity Planet, a London-based tour company, is offering two Will & Kate Royal Wedding tours. The first, which costs 15 pounds (about $25), is a two-hour walking tour in which visitors stop by the shop where Charles bought Diana’s engagement ring, the former offices of Kate’s paternal great-grandfather, the club where Charles spent his stag night before marrying Diana and, of course, Westminster Abbey, among other places.
The second is a chauffeur-driven tour (75 pounds, or about $125) that includes sites like Kate’s former apartment house and William’s first school. London Walks has a two-hour royal wedding tour for 8 pounds (about $13) that includes “glamour, tradition, intrigue, scandal, insider info, royal nuptial bliss (or otherwise) down through the centuries.”
Ride royally Even though Buckingham Palace, where Kate and William are expected to kiss on the balcony, is closed to the public, one can visit the Royal Mews next door. It houses, among other transport treasures, the two carriages they are expected to use that day – the Glass Coach and the 1902 State Landau. Both will be on display before and after the wedding. Information: royal.gov.uk. Make sure to stop at the Buckingham Palace gift shop, where the only “official” royal couple merchandise is being sold – a pale blue-and-white line of bone china that includes a plate (40 pounds, or about $66), tankard (35 pounds, or about $58) and pillbox (25 pounds, or about $42).
A trousseau like Kate’s To get a better sense of Kate’s style, or to copy it completely, head to King’s Road, where one can visit many of her favorite shops, including a branch of Jigsaw, the clothing company where Kate worked as an accessories buyer until a few years ago; Whistles, where she bought the cream blouse she wore in one engagement portrait; Reiss, where she picked up her dress for another engagement portrait; and BCBG Max Azria, where she found the turquoise gown she wore to the Boodles Boxing Ball three years ago. And of course, hit Harrods, a 10-minute walk away, where Kate bought the outfit she wore the day their engagement was announced – a blue wrap dress by the designer Daniella Issa Helayel.
Eat like a king Though Kate and Will have been spotted at various restaurants, two seem to be favorites: for Will, Foxtrot Oscar, a clubby Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Chelsea; and for Kate, the Ebury Brasserie in nearby Pimlico, where she is frequently seen.
For tea, reserve a table at the Goring Hotel, though that may be impossible, as Kate’s family is rumored to be staying at the 100-year-old hotel that was once one of Winston Churchill’s favorite haunts. Alternatively, head to the Langham Hotel, which is offering a celebratory royal wedding tea throughout April that includes a glass of Champagne to toast the couple, and costs 51.50 pounds a person (about $85).
A royal brunch Those wanting to celebrate in truly royal style may want to attend the Royal Wedding Brunch at the Ritz hotel, where Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 80th birthday. For $244 per person, guests can enjoy themed food stations, an outdoor grill on the terrace, Champagne and live streaming of the event on television screens, as well as a “decorative keepsake” with the initials of the royal couple and their wedding date. From 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For reservations by e-mail: email@example.com.
Party on, Will and Kate It is hardly a secret that the royal couple’s favorite nightclubs are Mahiki, a tiki bar in Mayfair, and Boujis, a club in South Kensington, but a new favorite is 86, a sleek cocktail bar and restaurant in a Georgian town house in Chelsea – a place many think might feature in Kate’s bachelorette night plans.
The big day The best place to be on the actual wedding day, weather permitting, should be outside, whether in a park, at a local street party or on the procession route. Look to the Royal Parks for a picnic option as huge television screens are supposed to be put up there (St. James and bordering Green Park are probable spots) as well as farther afield (perhaps Hyde Park and Regents Park).
Those who prefer a more sophisticated indoor event should stroll over to Janet’s Bar (30 Old Brompton Road; 44-20-7581-3160), a favorite South Kensington drinking spot of Kate’s sister, Pippa, as well as Princess Beatrice, where a wedding reception is being held all day beginning at 10:30 a.m., complete with live television coverage of the event, canapes and drinks. Guests are expected to dress in their wedding best.
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