The whole world has gone royal wedding bonkers. With Prince William and Kate Middleton due to tie the knot on April 29, the UK is set to welcome an estimated 600,000 visitors, who’ll spend about Dhs183 million in the UK while enjoying the celebrations.
So where will all this money go? As always, wedding souvenirs will be big business: expect everything from celebratory travel tickets for use on the London Underground to stupendously British tea trays that enable you to drink from the royal couples’ faces, or even William and Kate bed sheets so you can snuggle down with the newlyweds. To round off the festivities, parties galore are being organised up and down the country – these celebrations could rival the scenes witnessed at the end of the second world war.
We admit that the whole shebang seems preposterously patriotic, yet brilliantly kitsch – it’s the next best thing to the football World Cup for many Brits (and, let’s face it, that always ends in disappointment). So for a celebration with a guaranteed happy ending, we urge you to embrace the festivities by jetting off to the UK, where you’ll have the chance to enjoy a ruddy good knees-up. We’ve created a no-nonsense guide to the royal wedding showdown in London, as well as a round-up of the best things to get up to while you’re there.
The big day
Before the wedding
April 29 has been declared a public holiday in the UK, meaning many people will have the day off work. Crowds waving Union Jack flags are expected to line the streets from the early hours to see Kate Middleton travel to the ceremony along The Mall, Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and Parliament Square in central London. Get there early to secure your spot if you want to catch a glimpse of the bride – the ceremony is due
to start at 11am.
This will take place at Westminster Abbey, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. After the ceremony, the couple will ride in a horse-drawn carriage to Buckingham Palace. Position yourself near Westminster Abbey and you’ll get a view as the newlyweds come out of the church towards Big Ben and Whitehall.
At Buckingham Palace, the Queen will give a speech, before the big moment the public will be waiting for. Just as Prince Charles and Princess Diana did a few decades ago, the royal couple will kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, and the RAF will perform a flypast.
This will be an intimate affair for 250 of the couple’s close personal friends and relatives. It will take place much later on, at around 7pm, where there’ll be dinner followed by a reception.
Get involved in the celebrations
This fancy brunch should appeal to our Dubai sensibilities: the five-star Ritz hotel will offer bubbly while guests watch the wedding on screen. If you want to make a day of it, opt for afternoon tea as well, available in the Palm Court. Both will provide a souvenir menu.
Brunch Dhs900; 10.30am-3.30pm. Afternoon tea Dhs300; 3.30pm, 5.30pm and 7.30pm, The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, London W1 (+44 20 7493 8181).
The Big Fat Royal Wedding
A lookalike charity version of the royal wedding reception, characters will be dressed in all their pomp and glory acting out the day’s events. The James’s Square venue will put on a slap-up dinner with cake, dancing and a toast to the happy couple.
Dhs7,770 for a table of 12 (proceeds go to the Help for Heroes charity). 7pm-11pm. The In & Out Naval & Military Club, 4 St James’s Square, London SW1 (+44 7841 482 306).
In Shoreditch, the royal wedding will be screened in the street, East London-style. There’ll be loads of free entertainment and fête games, including tug of war and music in the evening at local pub The Book Club.
Pub entry price TBC. 10.30am-late. Leonard Street, London EC2 (+44 20 7684 8618).
White wedding rave
If the royal stuff is a bit too highbrow, ignore the daytime formalities and go straight to the wedding celebration in the evening. London club 229 will be hosting a tacky disco complete with single bridesmaids, cheesy Motown tunes and free wedding cake.
Dhs60. 9.30pm-3am. 229, Great Portland Street, London W1 (+44 20 7631 8305).
Tour London in a Mini
For an unusual way to see the sights, try a chauffeur-driven vintage Mini tour. Your driver will show you the posh side of London through the streets of Mayfair, Parliament, Tower Bridge and the Royal Palaces, before stopping off at other sights including the capital’s most scenic parks.
Dhs200 per person for one hour. www.londonminitours.com.
London is a shoppers’ paradise, offering everything from vintage clothes and antiques and the latest designer togs. Go to Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill for antiques and delicious vegetables at the organic greengrocer. Visit Spitalfields near Liverpool Street station for cool clothing, local and world art and collectors’ items. As a tourist, be sure to take your picture outside Harrods in Knightsbridge, then pop over to South Molton Street, just off Oxford Street, for high-end fashion.
Want to travel down the Thames like James Bond? Hop aboard, grab a life jacket and hang on tight as the boat accelerates to 35 knots, hurtling along under London’s famous bridges while comedians entertain you for 50 minutes. You’ll even catch a glimpse of the O2 Arena, as featured in The World is Not Enough.
Dhs200 per person for 50 minutes. www.londonribvoyages.com (+44 20 7928 8933).
Eat and drink (a lot)
Ignore what the French say – British grub is super-tasty. Tuck in to a traditional roast dinner in a local pub, and slosh it down with a pint of hops. Expect a heap of roast beef, roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding.
To find your nearest pub, visit www.pubs.com.
Tower of London
If you only go to one historic site during your stay, make it this one. Sitting pompously in the middle of London, it shelters the 1,000-year-old White Tower built by William the Conqueror. Inside, you’ll find a prison, antique armour and weaponry, the changing of the Royal Guards and, of course, the Crown Jewels.
Dhs120 per person. Open 10am-5.30pm. Near Tower Hill Tube station (+44 20 3166 6000).
East meets West
For a view of new and old London, visit Greenwich. The area was once a busy medieval port and has an intriguing maritime feel. Climb to the highest point in the park and you’ll find the meridian line, separating the east and west of the world. From here you can see the former Royal Naval College below and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf on the horizon.
Park entry free. Open 6am-sunset. Near North Greenwich Tube station, www.royalparks.org.uk.
Need to know
Fly direct to London from Dhs2,957 return with British Airways.
Where to stay
Rocco Forte’s Brown’s Hotel
This luxury venue is offering royal wedding celebration packages – you’ll be picked up by limo, enjoy a royal afternoon tea and get a tour of Royal London.
From Dhs5,300 for a two-night stay. www.roccofortecollection.com
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
One of the most romantic buildings in London, the hotel’s distinctive neo-gothic turrets have now been restored, complete with ornate metalwork, hand-painted walls and a grand staircase.
From Dhs1,700 per room per night. www.marriott.co.uk
St Christopher’s Greenwich
Situated near the former Royal Naval College in Greenwich, this cosy guesthouse has a friendly bed-and-breakfast environment.
From Dhs326 for three nights. www.st-christophers.co.uk
Royal Wedding parties around the world
If you can’t get over to London how about Hong Kong? The British Chamber of Commerce is throwing a mammoth garden party, with strictly no trainers or jeans allowed. Don your best outfit and watch the wedding on the big screen while enjoying canapés and cocktails.
New York is, unsurprisingly, hosting bigger celebrations than anywhere else. Events will start as early as 5am (due to the time difference) and they’ll be broadcasting the event all over town. Highlights include the Dumbo Improvement District’s party, an all-day street party under Manhattan Bridge, and the Big Apple Brits’ expat party. The Anglophiles Club has also organised a party at the Dumbo Loft and will be showing royal footage from throughout the ages.
As part of the Sydney Comedy Festival, Factory Theatre will put on a show on April 29 where a blushing bride will be walked up the aisle by a prince. Comedy group Dead Cat Bounce will then rock
the night away in an alternative parody wedding party celebration.