Jane Barber of York, England, heard the announcement at work, listening to the 1 p.m. news on the radio. She cursed out loud at her desk. “I thought, ‘Noooo!’ ” the 35-year-old blond told Maclean’s. “They’re stealing my thunder!” Minutes later, her phone was going non-stop. “Everyone was ringing me up saying, ‘Do you realize what day you’ve chosen?’ ”
It was the end of November, and Prince William had just appeared before the press to announce that he and his fiancée, Catherine Middleton, had set a date for their wedding: Friday, April 29, 2011—the same day that, months earlier, Barber had carefully selected for her own nuptials. The realization that her walk down the aisle would be shared with one of the world’s most prominent couples was not a happy one.
For dozens of other couples, the news hit even harder. The country’s broadsheets were thick with tales of British brides turned bitter. “Brides-to-be are filled with dread that their day in the spotlight could be overshadowed,” the Telegraph reported. “Watch out, Kate. Britain’s bridezillas are out to get you,” said the Guardian. In London, couples rushed to the registry office to switch their wedding date. Within days, North Americans were doing the same. MSNBC extended sympathy to brides and grooms who’d been “royally hosed”; Time magazine called it their “royal pain.”
The story of a Scottish couple named Kate and Wills—Kate Crawford and William McTaggart, that is, who are getting married on April 29—made headlines worldwide. Unlike the tony matrimony of their namesakes, these fiftysomething divorcees will be getting hitched at the $110-a-night hotel in Ayrshire, Scotland (Ironically, McTaggart’s son may have to miss his father’s wedding—in order to perform at the royal wedding, as a drummer for the Scots Guards pipe band.)
Even Canadian crooner Michael Bublé switched his wedding date from the 29th, joking on the Today show: “I was going to do it on the 29th, but I was afraid that it wouldn’t get any press.”
But as the date approaches, more couples are upbeat about the coincidence. Diana Zilvytis, who lives near Toronto, will also marry on the 29th, and sees a definite bright side: her fiancée “is never going to be able to forget our anniversary!” Mike Richard and Lynda Beauchamp of Acton, Ont., have even used the royal wedding to set the tone for their own. For their engagement photos, bride and groom played royal dress-up, wearing a tiara and red and gold crown. Beauchamp’s bridal shower had a princess theme, in what she calls “a nod to Kate.” Guests played “pin the crown on Kate.”
“I figured, why not?” says Beauchamp, who works as a branch administrator for TD Waterhouse. “You’ve got to go with it; you can’t fight it.”
Back in Britain, Jane Barber did some reflecting—and had a change of heart. Always a great fan of the royal family (she tries to see Buckingham Palace whenever she’s in London), Barber came to see her wedding date as a nod to centuries-old British tradition. “I’m quite proud to be sharing my day” with the royals, she says. “This is going to sound really corny, but it feels really British.”
Barber puts herself “in Kate’s shoes” to think “right, how is she doing it?” as she prepares for her own wedding. She even imagines that her wedding venue—“a really, really grand manor home, all gold leaf and big windows”—is a bona fide palace. Barber plans to serve a Kate and Will commemorative beer, the “I do” brew, at her reception. And she’s contemplating placing pictures of Kate and William in her reception hall.
Even fictional couples are jumping on the bandwagon. Newspapers have speculated that Phil Mitchell—a character on the British soap opera, EastEnders (one of the most watched shows in Britain)—will marry his girlfriend Shirley Carter on April 29. As one source told London’s Mirror: “There was no way the script writers could ignore the street party fever sweeping the nation.”
For the non-fictional couples, the overlap issue often boils down to this: should their own guests be allowed to watch the royal nuptials on TV while attending their wedding? Sarah Haywood, one of Britain’s top wedding planners and author of The Wedding Bible, says it’s “a very personal decision. And it would probably be based on whether you were a royalist or not.”
For Michael Fragnito, a 29-year-old insurance agent from Essex, it’s a no-brainer. Fragnito will be walking down the aisle with his fiancée Sarah about an hour and a half after William and Kate, and he definitely will not be screening the royal wedding beforehand: “These are our guests. If they’ve got more interest in the wedding of a couple they’ve never met, well…We certainly won’t be doing anything to accommodate it.”
Jane Barber will also keep the telly off—but not as a matter of choice. “I’d love to watch it. But we’re getting married at the same time that Kate and Will are, at 11 o’clock.” Still, Barber suspects that some of her guests will bring portable televisions to the reception—a move she welcomes. And just in case, she will be recording the royal wedding at home, so that she can watch it as soon as her own nuptials are over.
“We might have to have a sneak preview,” Barber says. “We probably will.”