Thirty years ago, Jillian Frers traveled from St. Petersburg to her native England and woke up at 3 a.m. to secure a spot along Fleet Street to watch the royal wedding procession of Prince Charles and Diana.
"The ceremony was broadcast over loudspeakers," she recalled. When the royal family sang, the crowd sang. When the royals prayed, the crowd prayed. "We became like family with the other people in the crowd because we were there for eight or nine hours together."
On Friday she will watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton at her restaurant, the Chattaway, where she will be serving British food throughout the day.
"People want to see the fairy tale, the living happily ever after," said the 79-year-old who opted against fighting the crowds in London again. "I think the boys are going to do it for us. Kate is delightful."
The boys, of course, are William and younger brother Harry, sons of Diana, who was more popular than her husband and in-laws combined. Perhaps it's the hope that this time the fairy tale won't turn to a pumpkin that has people across Tampa Bay — Americans and Brits alike — gathering to watch the royal wedding live.
"Given everything that William has gone through, bless his heart, he deserves to be happy, and it looks like he's found it," said Laura York, who is hosting friends, ages 28 to 84, for a viewing party in Tampa that will include Dom Perignon, white gloves and a bubble machine.
Because of the time difference, live pregame television coverage starts at 4 a.m. locally with the wedding coverage beginning at 6 a.m. Friends, wearing wedding attire to pajamas and tiaras, are meeting before dawn at homes, restaurants and even the Don CeSar hotel to be vicarious royal guests for a morning.
"It's kind of like the total eclipse of the sun. You have to take part in it," said York, a former local television meteorologist who scoffed at friends who suggested she record the wedding to watch at a more sensible hour. "I'm from Louisville. That's like taping the (Kentucky) Derby."
Sally Nichols, co-owner and chef at Cook's Kitchen in Tampa, was a part-time chef for Prince Andrew and the duchess of York for about four years. "The royal household was quite formal but everyone is friendly," she said. "You are expected to work hard, but you are very much appreciated."
Cook's will be serving up a traditional English breakfast Friday with a big-screen television and party favors that just arrived from across the pond with Nichols' sister.
Kathy McLaughlin of Clearwater Beach has a slighter connection to the royal family. Her daughter spent her junior year abroad studying at St. Andrews University when William and Kate were there. She saw them around but wasn't a chum.
"At one point while she was over there a tabloid called me saying they thought they saw my daughter with William at a rugby match," McLaughlin laughed. "I'm fascinated by the whole wedding. When I mentioned that I might have a party, everybody jumped on it and I now have 13 people coming to my house at 6 in the morning."
She's become a regular at London Pride gift shop in Largo stocking up on wedding memorabilia and British foods. The store's owner, Fran Black, has seen steady business from party hosts.
"I think the wedding is a great opportunity to get with friends and watch a world event," said Katharine Saunders, who is going to a party at a friend's home in Treasure Island. She has always felt a special connection to Britain's royal family because she was born in England in 1961, two weeks before Diana was born, and William was born on her 21st birthday.
"It's definitely history," she added, "and the royals sure do know how to do history."
Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or email@example.com.