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Westminster Abbey

Want to amaze ’em at your royal party or at the office kitchen? Then head on over to the official royal website and download the 96(!)-page media briefing. It’s all there. The wedding schedule. The parade route. The members of the wedding party. The carriages. The military units. The horses. Best of all, a seating chart for Westminster Abbey. (The Daily Mail also has a seating map.) There’s also a history of the Abbey, which supplies a tidy fact to drop when the timing’s right. Begin with a “You know…” and then pause for effect before continuing: “There’ve been 15 royal weddings in Westminster Abbey. The first was King Henry I and Princess Matilda of Scotland on Nov. 11, 1100.” Leave room.

In other royal wedding related news:

• Prince Harry, the younger brother of Prince William, is throwing a “survivors breakfast” at 6 am on Saturday, April 30. It’s for those who have partied the night away at Buckingham Palace. On the menu, according to, is what’s known as “treasure chests.” It’s a concoction of rum and champagne poured into ice chests. Bacon sandwiches will also be served, as well as “fry-ups” of sausages and other morning meats. Michael and Carole Middleton also have a full slate of partying. First there is the afternoon wedding buffet at Buckingham Palace. Then the Middletons will return to the Goring Hotel (their wedding HQ) and host a party for their guests who weren’t invited to the buffet. Then it’s off to the Palace again for the evening dinner.

• Kate will be eased into royal life, according to The Sun, citing a report in the (London) Sunday Times (subscription required). The intention is to avoid the pressures faced by the late Princess Diana, William’s mother, who was immediately thrust into public life after her marriage to Prince Charles. Once Kate returns from her honeymoon (location still unknown), she is scheduled for only two joint appearances with William. The couple will make their first official overseas visit to Canada from June 30 to July 8. William is following a path similar to that set by his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth. She married Prince Philip in 1947, and for two years the couple lived outside London, near Windsor Castle. (Kate and William will make their first home on an island off the coast of Wales.) Then, from 1949 to 1951, Elizabeth spent substantial time on the island of Malta while Philip served in the Royal Navy. The Queen has described this period as the happiest in her life. Elizabeth’s reign began in early 1952.

• For the wedding that has everything, there is one thing the newlyweds will have to do without: a 21-gun salute. Plans called for a 21-gun salute in London’s Hyde Park to celebrate the royal nuptials. Such tributes are made during the birthdays of the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles. Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert in 1840 began with a canon firing. Because crowds will gather in Hyde Park, the plan was abandoned. “We thought it would be a fitting tribute for the wedding, but we were told that, because of health and safety, and noise pollution concerns, it would involve too much red tape to get a new salute authorized,” one of William’s “pals” tells The Daily Telegraph. Instead, the couple will have to make due with two 21-gun salutes in different locations outside London. Presumably, no one will complain about “noise pollution” when Westminster Abbey’s ten bells peal for three hours after the ceremony.

• From a purely television perspective, St Paul’s Cathedral is the preferred locale for a royal wedding. The sight lines are better than Westminster Abbey’s. In fact, many guests inside the Abbey will have an obstructed view. But television viewers need not worry. The BBC, which will provide the feed from the Abbey, has installed 60 wireless, remote-controlled, high definition cameras to cover the hour-long ceremony. By contrast, Fox Sports used about 32 cameras for the Super Bowl. One camera operator will be wearing a Steadicam mount, allowing him to walk while the picture remains smooth. Broadcasters even want a small camera in the altar flowers. “This is a one-off, nothing can be missed,” a “source” told The Sun. “If Kate wells up during the ceremony, we need it in close-up and high definition. No wedding in history will have been covered like this.” Despite what people may remember, the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Diana was shot at a distance using wide-angle cameras.

Stage managing Kate and William’s event is 27-year-old Diccon Ramsay from the “X Factor.” Given the coverage his selection has garnered in the British press, the royals should be immensely grateful that Ramsay has deigned to offer his services. Ramsay will signal Kate and Michael Middleton when it’s time to walk down the aisle, and he will tell the newlyweds the precise time to leave the altar. He’s even wearing “a suit tailored for the day.” One hopes Kate and William prove worthy of Ramsay’s ministrations.

• Everyone faces the quandary of how much to spend on a wedding gift. Too little, and you seem like a cheapskate. Too much, and it seems excessive, as if you’re trying to impress. (Admittedly a tall order for this couple.) If you’re a member of the British cabinet, the proper number, apparently, is £35 ($57.65). The issue was of such concern that it was discussed at a cabinet meeting. If that number seems low, remember the UK government is undertaking extensive budget slashing. Ministers didn’t want to appear extravagant. The 23 ministers pooled their gifts, and made an £805 ($1,330) donation to Kate and William’s wedding charity. Each minister earns £135,000 ($222,440), and the relatively paltry amount did not sit well with some. “Most people will think £35 is pretty mean-minded coming from well-paid Ministers who can afford to give a lot more, especially when it is going to such good causes,” Labour MP Tom Watson told The Daily Mail. “You would raise more money at a jumble [rummage] sale.”

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By jimlyons