By Sylvia Hui, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — It may be the stuff fairytales are made of — but Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding comes with a hefty real-life price tag.
And amid the nation's joy, that has some Britons grumbling such lavishness is inappropriate for this age of austerity.
For thousands of the newly unemployed, the poor struggling from slashed public services, and students facing sharp rises in university fees, there's little to celebrate.
The couple and palace officials have repeatedly said they're mindful of the tough environment.
The nuptials on Friday will certainly not be on the scale of the all-out grandeur of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer's wedding in 1981, when the procession route to St. Paul's Cathedral was much longer and the honeymoon lasted almost three months.
No official figures for the wedding's costs have been released. But palace officials did recently tell reporters that the total bill for William and Middleton's nuptials will be in the six figures.
The wedding won't be as expensive as people think, the palace stressed, because the monarchy already employs many of the people involved in the wedding, such as caterers and chefs for the champagne reception.
The wedding is not a state occasion — unlike, say, a coronation. That means the royal family is paying for most items on the wedding checklist: the flowers, the carriage procession, the dresses, the service, and the reception.
Renting Westminster Abbey was free of charge, so a big chunk of the expenses will go to entertainment. Queen Elizabeth II is footing the bill for the post-wedding reception for about 650 guests at Buckingham Palace, while William's father, Prince Charles, will host the dinner for 300 Friday evening.
Although much public money already flows to Britain's royal family — taxpayers sent the royal household 38 million pounds ($60 million) last year — the monarchy earns millions from its vast land and property portfolios. The royal family pays millions in tax on its earnings.