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Royal wedding mystery: In TiVo era, why do Americans want to watch it live?

Restaurants and caterers in the US are putting on live viewing parties early Friday morning, trusting in the power of the royal wedding as a can't-miss communal event.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / April 27, 2011

Pub owner Golriz Moeini on April 5 shows the decorations she plans to use for her royal wedding watch party for Prince William and Kate Middleton at her White Harte Pub in Woodland Hills, Calif.

Damian Dovarganes/AP/file

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Los Angeles

Among the many curiosities that surround the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton Friday is a marvel of the current digital age: The world wants to watch it live.

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“One thing I think is very interesting to me about all this is that everyone has DVRs and TiVos and recording devices of every kind, and yet they are all going to get up at four in the morning to watch this just as it happens,” says Marcia Seligson, author of "Eternal Bliss Machine: America’s Way of Wedding."

She then confesses: “I’m going to do the same thing. And I don’t know why…. Why is that?”

Gordon Coonfield, a media expert at Villanova University, has an answer.

“People are really craving the shared experience of a communal ritual event,” he says. “There aren’t that many universal or relatively universal cultural rituals anymore … and here is one where everyone will stop whatever they are doing, and make sure they are watching as it happens. They’ll get out of bed, pull out their cell phone, turn on the TV, find it on their computer … anything.”

From London to Los Angeles, restaurants and caterers are banking on the power of that collective experience, planning live themed viewing events such as wedding parties, brunches, high-teas, and royal dinners.

“It’s not something that happens every day now is it?” says Andrew Perkins, manager of The Cat & Fiddle British Pub in Los Angeles. His pub is offering “big screens, drink specials, and a proper British spread” that includes bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips and Welsh rarebit (that’s double Gloucester cheese melted on toast with grilled tomato, for the uninitiated).

“The British royal family is quite revered everywhere, and we do pomp and circumstance better than anyone it the world," he adds. "We’re expecting quite a crowd.”

New York City’s Joanna Dreifus has been waiting for this moment for years and will be gathered around the TV with as many friends as she can.

“It’s the biggest show of them all,” says the founder of mymomshops.com, who considers herself a serious royal watcher and expert. She has blogged about her June 1997 meeting with her lifelong obsession, Princess Diana, outside an auction at Christie's in New York. “William and Kate's wedding will bring me full circle, since my own interest in the royal family began almost exactly 30 years ago.”

Ms. Seligson, the author, agrees that perhaps some events become so big and talked about that another layer of people become involved so as not to be left out, regardless of their own personal feelings of the event.

“Yeah, even though you’ve TiVoed it and can watch it the next day in the afternoon, it somehow just isn’t the same thing,” says Seligson. “You need to know firsthand what everyone is talking about.”

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