Wednesday, 17 November 2010

How to pay for a wedding

It didn't take long for the royal engagement announcement to degenerate into a row about money. Inevitable, I suppose: at the best of times, there will be those who object to the expenditure of any money on the royal family, largely because they object to the royal family; and these are not, of course, the best of times. Yet someone has to pay the vast cost of the elaborate nuptials. The nation expects a big party, and will feel shortchanged if William and Kate opt for a semi-private, hole-in-the-wall affair. The rest of the world will look upon us as cheapskates if we can't give our future king and queen a send-off at least as lavish (if hopefully less vulgar) than that enjoyed recently by Katy Perry and Russell Brand.

Even at a time of harsh austerity - especially at a time of harsh austerity - national pride demands a proper Royal Wedding. It may be a less mawkishly sentimental affair than Charles and Di thirty years ago (though I wouldn't bet on it) and the couple involved may be, by royal standards, reasonably normal-seeming people (something of a miracle in William's case, given his parents); but what are the Windsors there for if not to look fairytale-like and fulfil people's vicarious fantasies? There must be horses and carriages; there must be music and fireworks; there must, regrettably, be massive security. And all this costs money, if not nearly as much as the Olympics.

So how to pay for it? I see no reason why the wedding could not be run at a profit. Perhaps giving Hello! magazine exclusive rights to the photos would be a tad vulgar, but there's no reason why the rights to broadcast the event could not be sold to the highest bidder. And yes, that would be Sky: so no Dimblebys, and out with the saccharine forelock-tugging deference the BBC always paradoxically exhibits on such occasions (paradoxically, because we all know what the Beeb is like the rest of the time). Prime seats on the processional route could be hired out to help defray the cost of policing. Then there are the souvenirs, sales of which are forecast to top £25 million in the UK alone. What a merchandising opportunity to die for! The image and the names of Wills and Kate must be trademarked forthwith, and a percentage extracted from every mug and coaster, every exquisite hand-crafted commemorative spoon.

There's as much, if not more, income to be gleaned from abroad as from Britain. Radio 4 reported this morning on the massive interest the House of Hanover Windsor still enjoys in its ancestral homeland. Well, good. Unlike anyone else in Europe, the Germans still have money. If they want to enjoy the show, they should at least help to pay for it. Ditto the Americans. As Jonathan Friedland notes, "in the US Britain remains more period drama than real country, a Ruritanian theme park that is forever charming and quaint." Such an image may be ridiculous and anachronistic (at least, I hope so), but at least it sells. Someone over there is going to make money marketing royal trinkets; it may as well be the royals. Kate and William already missed a trick yesterday by granting a free interview to the national media, but I'm sure Oprah would still be interested.

The papers are full of speculation today about the usual trivia: Who will make The Dress? Where will the happy couple go for their honeymoon? I say: let the market decide. Whichever fashion house is prepared to stump up the most dosh to have its name plastered all over the festivities should have the honour of designing the dress; and whichever country's tourist board offers the most attractive bribe should be granted the first matrimonial visit.

Really, the possibilities are endless. With a bit of imagination, this wedding could be a real money-spinner.