As the royal wedding approaches, Nicky Perry is making elaborate plans to celebrate Prince William and Kate Middleton‘s marriage. “We’re going to have ourselves a right old knees-up,” says the exuberant owner of Tea and Sympathy, the British-themed tea shop in Manhattan’s West Village. Nicky envisages a street party, complete with Morris Men and bunting. New York is a city full of subcultures, and in the British expatriate world, royal wedding fever is taking hold.
Royal wedding commemorative mugs are proving very popular at Tea and Sympathy. “Americans are buying them,” says Perry. “People are fascinated by this wedding,” she explains. “They loved Diana, then the fascination died down a bit, and now there’s this beautiful princess-to-be and people can’t wait to see what she’s wearing, what her shoes are like, they want to know every detail.”
Mara Saksin, a graduate student and one of Tea and Sympathy’s American customers, is also excited about the wedding. She feels William’s life has paralleled her own. “William is my age, and even though we live 3,500 miles apart I saw him grow up. I was at a friend’s party the night Diana died, and I felt his loss, so I’m glad to see him marrying someone he loves. I just got married myself.”
Just a few blocks away, Michael Lopez and Anthony Gavasci are weighing up whether to wear top hats when they’re in London to celebrate the royal wedding. The couple booked plane tickets to London the very day after Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement. Michael, a hairdresser, and Anthony, a fashion buyer, are traveling with a group of friends.
“The group just keeps on getting bigger and bigger,” says Michael. “We hope we can get as close to the wedding as possible, to feel the great energy, the pomp and circumstance. Who does it better than the Brits? I’m looking forward to watching it, to critiquing it.”
Anthony sees Kate and William’s wedding as a turning point for the British royals, something he wants to witness in person. “Young blood is coming to the forefront,” he says. “This wedding is going to bring the royals into the millennium.”
Michael is looking forward to the moment he sees Kate Middleton walk down the aisle of Westminster Abbey. “The last time when the world watched it was a very sad time, Diana’s funeral, so it opens a new door, a new chapter, and it leaves the past behind. It’s a fairytale story, and it’s a Cinderella moment. The mother was a flight attendant. Kate’s a smart girl who waited and got what she wanted.”
Across town at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, the international gift fair took place this week. It’s where retailers buy the trinkets which will be in the shops and online come the spring. Peter Hollingsworth of Magpie Marketing, who hails from Britain and now lives in New Jersey, imports British giftware – including Kate and William commemorative china, with artwork approved by Buckingham Palace. He’s taking orders from gift shops for mugs, a plaque, a trinket box, and a teapot. “My first set of wedding china sold out within less than twenty four hours, just under a thousand pieces,” Peter told the BBC. He’s no stranger to royal memorabilia. In 1981 the then-Lady Diana Spencer visited his stall at the Birmingham Exhibition Centre, when he was selling souvenirs for her wedding.
“Americans are more interested in the royals than the Brits,” he says, “probably because they don’t have a royal family. This woman called me the other day from Missouri, and she said she had literally hundreds of Americans requesting wedding memorabilia from her shop.”
Back in the West Village, Michael and Anthony are trying to work out just how early they would need to get to Buckingham Palace on April 29 to be in a good enough position to see William and Kate appear on the balcony after their wedding. “Probably the night before,” says Anthony. “We can always find a nice pub and watch it there,” reflects Michael.