To say the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton will be a massive media revelry is, at best, an understatement. Every major U.S. and international news organization and cable channel is jockeying for position. • Thirty years ago, Prince William's parents' wedding was the quintessence of royal watching. At the time, some 750 million people were said to have tuned in. This month, estimates of those who will be watching William and Kate tie the knot are as low as 1 billion viewers to as many as 2 billion. And it's happening in the early morning for U.S. royal watchers.
Television rundown What to expect, how to see it
PBS 3 to 8:30 a.m.
Public television stations will carry the BBC's live, commercial-free coverage as led by BBC veteran Huw Edwards. The BBC plans to cover the royal family's arrival at Westminster Abbey, the ceremony itself, the newly married couple's return to Buckingham Palace and, finally, the moment when Prince William and Princess Catherine greet the crowds from the palace balcony. BBC.com will stream the wedding live at bbc.com/royalwedding.
ABC 4 to 10 a.m.
Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters anchor coverage from Buckingham Palace.
NBC 4 to 10 a.m.
Today begins coverage from London at 4 a.m.
CBS 5 to 9 a.m.
After anchoring the evening news for a third straight night from London, Katie Couric leads live coverage beginning at 5 a.m.
BBC America 3 to 8:30 a.m.
The cable network will carry a direct simulcast of BBC One's commercial-free coverage.
MSNBC from 3 a.m.
Martin Bashir and Chris Jansing lead coverage from London until 5 a.m., when Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist take the reins.
CNN from 4 a.m.
Piers Morgan, Richard Quest, Anderson Cooper, Kiran Chetry and British broadcaster and fashion expert Cat Deeley anchor CNN's coverage from London.
E! Entertainment 4 to 9 a.m.
Giuliana Rancic hosts Live From the Royal Wedding.
Fox News Channel from 4 a.m.
Shepard Smith and Martha MacCallum anchor coverage from Buckingham Palace.
Kate Middleton's mother is a former flight attendant and her father was a dispatcher. Her parents left the airline industry to start a successful party supply company. Middleton met Prince William in 2001 when they were both students at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland. Prince William graduated with a degree in geography in 2005 and now serves in the Royal Air Force. Middleton graduated with a degree in art history the same year and briefly worked as an accessories buyer for a clothing company. She also worked for her parents' company. Middleton, who has no aristocratic or noble ties, is considered the first commoner to marry an heir apparent in more than 350 years. (In 1660, Anne Hyde wed the Duke of York who became King James II.) The couple, shown in one of two official portrait photographs, will live in North Wales after the wedding. Prince William will continue to serve in the military.
Prince William gave Middleton the engagement ring worn by his late mother, Princess Diana. The oval ring is a sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds, mounted on 18 karat white gold.
The line of succession
After Queen Elizabeth leaves the throne, a line of succession determines who rules next. Here are the next 10 royal family members in line.
1. Prince Charles of Wales
2. Prince William of Wales
3. Prince Henry of Wales
4. The Duke of York
5. Princess Beatrice
6. Princess Eugenie of York
7. The Earl of Wessex
8. Viscount Severn
9. The Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor
10. The Princess Royal
The wedding day
Being married on a Friday may seem like an interruption to the work week, but the British prime minister declared the couple's wedding day a national holiday so most Brits can plan on a three-day weekend. The wedding procession will begin at Buckingham Palace and pass many landmarks including the House of Parliament and Big Ben on the way to Westminster Abbey. The Abbey was also the location of Princess Diana's 1997 funeral. Pippa Middleton, younger sister of the bride, will serve as maid of honor, while Prince Harry, William's younger brother, will serve as best man. After the ceremony, the couple will return to Buckingham Palace in a 1902 State Landau Carriage. The carriage is open air, and the couple may have to ride in a glass carriage if the weather is wet. The reception is hosted by the queen and paid for by both the bride and groom's family.
The guest list
David Beckham, top, (and Posh), Elton John, below, and Mr. Bean actor Rowan Atkinson will mingle with dozens of royal guests.
St. James's Palace also released the seating plan at Westminster Abbey, which showed that relatives of William's mother, Princess Diana, are sitting across the aisle from the royal family, joining the Middletons in an exception to the traditional division of a church into a bride's side and groom's side.
More than 46 foreign royals are seated behind the British royals, including those from Denmark, Norway, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Morocco. One has already backed out — Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain. He apologized to Charles, William's father, for his absence, explaining he didn't want his country's unrest to "tarnish the celebration." Only a handful of celebrities are invited, including the Beckhams, director Guy Ritchie, soul singer Joss Stone and Atkinson — a close friend of William's father, Prince Charles.
Although about 1,900 guests have been invited to the couple's wedding ceremony at Westminster Abbey, half of them will sit in the section of the abbey where views of the altar are restricted, and they will have to rely upon video screens to follow the service. Foreign dignitaries, the Middletons' family friends, British government and defense officials, families of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, William's army colleagues, and people who work for William's charities will be seated around the abbey.
Cake No. 1 is the official cake baked by Fiona Cairns, a top cake designer in Britain. It's a fruit cake, but, unlike the door stoppers that are called fruit cake in the United States, Cairns is creating a multitiered confection decorated with a cream and white icing and sporting a floral theme, according to the official Royal Wedding website (officialroyalwedding2011.org).
Cake No. 2 is a dark chocolate biscuit cake said to be a tea time fave of the prince's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. The cake was specially requested by the royal bridegroom. McVitie's Cake Co. is making the chocolate cake according to a royal family recipe. The cake recipe is supposed to be a royal secret. Still, the United Biscuits Group has revealed that about 1,700 McVitie's Rich Tea Biscuits will be used in the wedding reception cake and in the few hundred cake slices to be served at the reception buffet. Just over 37 pounds of chocolate will be used.