As someone who got married in Las Vegas, in a ceremony witnessed by one person—the officiating pastor—I’m not partial to big, expensive weddings. And yet I find myself overly intrigued by the cartoony nature of the upcoming royal nuptials between Kate Middleton and Prince William. The ceremony kicks off at 6 a.m. EDT and I plan to watch it. I even plan to set my alarm. Does that make me less of a manly man? Probably. Will it put me in the minority of married, heterosexual American men? Undoubtedly. But it’s not often you get to witness human extravagance played out on such a grand, audacious stage. In fact it’s basically a once-in-a-generation occurrence, and I don’t want to miss it. After all, you think Prince Harry is going to follow his brother with a big wedding himself? Hell no, he’s not the type. He’ll probably get married in Vegas, or whatever the British equivalent of Sin City happens to be. We redheads have similar tastes.
Next Friday is a national holiday in Great Britain, which will allow citizens there to freely celebrate the marriage of rich, attractive strangers who don’t pay taxes. As Jerry Seinfeld, who was doing publicity for an upcoming London standup performance, put it, “Well, it’s a circus act, it’s an absurd act. You know, it’s a dress-up. It’s a classic English thing of let’s play dress-up. Let’s pretend that these are special people. OK, we’ll all pretend that.”
More than 2 billion people are preparing to play make-believe, according to reported estimates of the worldwide television audience. Some of these people will undoubtedly have been following every twist and turn in the lead-up to the royal wedding—from Prince William’s decision not to wear a wedding ring to the former girlfriends who have been invited to the wedding.
I am not one of these people. Sure, I’ve seen the headlines and clicked on the occasional story. I’m even looking forward to the commemorative “royal wedding doughnut” at Dunkin Donuts, thanks to the promise of “a heart-shaped creation filled with jelly and covered with vanilla icing and chocolate drizzle.” But I’ve stopped short of buying any commemorative mugs, and I will not be taking a cue from the likes of Kathy Toy of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, a grown woman who’s marking the event by hosting a sleepover with friends.
“We’re getting up at 3 a.m. for wedding cake and mimosas,” Toy said. “Years ago, women of my generation watched Princess Di get married, so I figured, ‘Why not?’ We’ll have tea and tea sandwiches, and we’ll all be wearing tiaras, so we feel like princesses.”
So, yeah, people will be marking the event in different ways. My wife? She’ll be honoring the event by sleeping through it. If the wedding were taking place at 3 a.m. where I live (as it will be in California), then no, I would not be waking up for it. But getting up at 6 a.m. to witness worldwide hysteria? As a journalist I feel it’s something of a duty.
More than anything I want to witness this spectacle because, well, it’s rare that 2 billion people are ever focused on the same frivolous thing. And frankly, I think that’s something worth celebrating. Is it really any different from fans watching the Academy Awards? Or fans skipping school or work to watch a Yankees victory parade in the Canyon of Heroes? Oh, sure, because shirking responsibilities to throw ticker-tape at Derek Jeter is any different from getting together with friends and watching Sex and the City or the royal wedding. It’s not. It’s all just an excuse to celebrate … something. Something that is probably frivolous, yes, but which undoubtedly binds people together in a common cause—like throwing tomatoes at one another or wearing green and drowning your livers in honor of an Irish saint.
A lot of men in Great Britain—particularly between the ages of 18 and 35—will probably see the royal wedding and its accompanying national holiday as nothing more than a three-day weekend. Or, ya know, exactly how most American men view the weekends of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day.
However you choose to approach the royal wedding—by watching it, ignoring it, ranting about the inanity of holding such an expensive spectacle during “times like these”—you’ll be hard-pressed to avoid it altogether. So why even try? Embrace the frivolity, the extravagance, the fawning from the media. The 75-minute show will be over soon enough, and then we can all go back to work. Or in Kathy Toy’s case, back to playing princess.
—Photo AP/Tim Hales