Royal wedding: by the numbers

Weighing in at $65 million, the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton is about 2,000 times as costly as the average British upper-middle class wedding.

Kieran Doherty/Reuters
The Queen's Guard march out of Buckingham Palace, in London on April 28. Britain's Prince William will marry his fiancee Kate Middleton in Westminster Abbey on April 29.

"They do not love that do not show their love," as the Bard wrote, and for the young couple Prince William and Catherine Middleton, that includes showing the world a $65 million royal wedding.

That figure designates $35 million for public services, security, police, and cleanup, and at least $20 million for most everything else, from rehearsals to stag parties, food, and drink, to the still closely-guarded secret of the honeymoon.

By contrast, the average British upper-middle class couple getting married spends an estimated $30,000 on clothes, cake, reception, travel, rings, and maybe a rented band. Donald Trump’s wedding to Melania Knauss in 2005 was $1 million, while Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes spent $2 million on their Italian wedding in 2006 at Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano.

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So where's all the money coming from for the royal wedding tomorrow?

Prince William's grandmother, the Queen, and his father, Prince Charles, are said to be paying $45 million toward the wedding.

Ms. Middleton’s family will contribute a six-figure sum, according to Vanity Fair, which media boiled down to about $160,000. This includes $47,000 for the wedding dress, $31,000 for bridesmaid’s dresses, and a pre-wedding family suite at Belgravia’s Goring hotel for $6,275 a night, reports the Toronto Globe and Mail.

There was some savings: The $375,000 diamond and sapphire engagement ring the prince gave his bride-to-be, belonged to his mother, Princess Diana.

Indeed, Will and Kate have scaled back substantially on the costs and ostentation from the 1981 wedding of Princes Charles and Lady Diana. The traditional wedding breakfast will not be a served as a meal but a finger food buffet, for example.

Still, the larger cost of a wedding that may garner 2 billion TV viewers will be a loss of income to national coffers, since April 29 has been declared a holiday. The Confederation of British Industry estimates a non-earnings of some $6.5 billion tomorrow. Further, the day off comes amid other Easter week holidays that leave only three working days in the period between April 22 and May 2.

Mark Littlewood, director general of the London-based think tank Institute of Economic Affairs, sees "substantial problems" for the wider economy.

"It sounds terribly measly and mean-spirited to begrudge anyone for a holiday, but actually for ordinary businesses this is quite problematic," he says. "We are going to see a sort of downturn in economic activity over this 11-day period."

Despite original estimates of windfall profits out of the wedding, most retail estimates put the intake of tourism and wedding merchandise at about $1 billion or slightly less.

"If you're in the business of selling Union Jacks, caps, flags, and T-shirts, or … [run] a hotel near Buckingham Palace… you're going to make money," says Mr. Littlewood.

But how to calculate overall costs and benefits is difficult. Tristam Hunt, a Labor member of parliament, argues in the Financial Times that there is substantial worth in a monarchy that encourages the development of civil society and healthy traditions. The wedding is a sort of soft power, in his view.

"This week," he writes, "billions of people around the world will come to know our Book of Common Prayer, our hymns and history, our ancient abbeys and royal palaces. They will see on display our sportsmen and designers, artists and actors. It will be a carefully crafted Britain, uniting social mobility and modernity with history and heritage. But in turn, it is hoped, viewers will want to study and invest in Britain."

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