Wednesday, April 20, 2011

To many Brits, it's 'just another wedding'

"It's just another wedding," says Londoner Frank Sabine, who's training to be a taxi driver and will spend April 29 studying for his exam. "It's not really grabbing my attention. I'll leave it to the so-called royalists."

Evidence that many Britons share Sabine's blasé attitude: In a ComRes survey this month, only 48% of respondents said they would tune in to a live TV broadcast of the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. (Viewership worldwide is expected to be up to 2 billion.)

Recent surveys of Americans about the royal wedding produced conflicted results: A 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll in March found that 65% are not interested in the wedding.

Another poll in Parade magazine last week found that 82% of Americans say they plan to watch the wedding on TV. And Zoosk, an online social-dating network, released a survey this month that found 39% of American singles would rather have a root canal than watch the wedding.

Many Brits will enjoy two four-day weekends in a row, thanks to a combination of pre-existing official holidays and the government's decision to make April 29 a national holiday.

The U.K. Travel Association estimates that 3.5 million Brits will travel overseas during the 12-day period ending just after the wedding. Bookings on low-cost airline Ryanair for the Easter period are up more than 10% year over year.

Traditional street parties will be scarce.

Glasgow, the biggest city in Scotland with 581,000 people, is hosting no street parties, at least none big enough to require a street closure. The 263,000 residents of Bolton, England, will hold all of 13 street parties. The city celebrated the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981 with more than 100 street parties, according to The Bolton News.

The customary rain and chill of late April is partly to blame, says Richard Bradley of the non-profit Oxford Streets for People. The 149,000 inhabitants of the city of Oxford will throw only seven street parties.

"There isn't the same sort of enthusiasm about royal weddings that there used to be," he says.

Experts on the British monarchy say times have changed since the nation bought into the Cinderella fantasy of Charles and Diana's wedding, which kicked off a marriage notable for infidelity, media leaks and, eventually, divorce.

The mystique of the monarchy has ebbed, says historian Max Jones of the University of Manchester, and so has the deference once accorded the royals. Figures who were once above the fray are now exposed to what he calls the "knocking and mocking" of the celebrity media.

"There is no longer a sense that this is an event that has significance for the life of the nation," Jones says. "It's another blockbuster wedding."

Prince William and his fiancée aren't nearly as colorful as some past royals, says Neil Blain of the University of Stirling.

It takes a lot more than it used to, he says, for Britons to feel engaged by royal happenings.

Instead, they fret about their lost productivity at the office.

"It'll just mean that for a couple of weeks, you won't be able to reach your clients," says Londoner Kate Waters, director of a recruitment firm. "I'd say you lot are more excited about it than we are."


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