CHICAGO — It’s less than two weeks until Americans set their alarm clocks for the wee hours of the morning to watch Prince William marry Kate Middleton, and already the royal fever is heating up across the Atlantic Ocean.
In the Los Angeles suburbs, a pub owner plans to stay open all night for a champagne party. In Washington, one woman plans a British tea for 20 guests. In Mississippi, college students will watch as their one-time heartthrob marries his own university sweetheart.
One fan plans to fly halfway across the country to watch the wedding with her daughter, just as they watched Princess Diana’s wedding in 1981, while another is taking the day off from work to soak up the details in solitude.
“It’s so romantic,” says Golriz Moeini, 36, who owns The White Harte Pub in Woodland Hills, Calif., and plans to have the wedding playing on seven televisions when it starts at 2 a.m. local time. “Out of the blue there’s another beautiful princess wedding that we can look forward to. This is something to be excited about.”
Television specials are planned, American magazines are putting out commemorative issues and wall-to-wall U.S. news coverage of the April 29 nuptials is expected.
That Americans are interested in Middleton’s marriage to Prince William, whose life has been in the public eye since he was born to Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, is obvious. But why?
The clue is Middleton’s role as a commoner breaking into the unbreakable British monarchy, said Philippa Levine, co-director of the British studies program at the University of Texas in Austin.
“For Americans, that really taps into something that’s deep in this culture, anybody can succeed, you just have to try hard,” Levine said. “It really does, for a lot of people, bring home the possibility that it could be them.”
One of those people is college senior Paige Swain, 22, of the University of Mississippi, who says she and her girlfriends will be watching as Prince William becomes unavailable.
“We’ve all grown up loving William and thinking we were going to be his wife,” Swain said. “I have to see the wedding to make sure he’s really taken.”
America also is filled with Diana fans, like Laura Southard, 54, of Richmond, Va., who had a small bookcase filled with as many as three dozen Diana books.
“When she died it was just really tragic for me,” Southard said. “I wore black every day for a week.”
As soon as Prince William’s wedding date was announced, Southard took the day off work. She said she wants to sit in the quiet of her home and watch him marry.
“He’s been through a lot,” she said. “And it looks to me that he’s done some really smart things to learn from his mother’s experience.”
Wedding-watchers will see William and remember how his mother brought glamour, star quality and a breath of fresh air into the royal family, said Yvonne Yorke, royal wedding expert for the cable television station Wedding Central.
“When they look at William they see his mother,” Yorke said. “A lot of people want William to find the happiness that eluded Diana.”
Lauren Wilson, 28, of Washington, will wake up early to watch the wedding but plans to record it too — to show at a party for 20 women that afternoon at her home.
“I got a bunch of tiny little Union Jack button pins for everyone to wear,” said Wilson, whose mother in Welsh. “Big Ben and double-decker bus cupcake toppers. I have been been brainstorming other little British things I can do — proper tea, cucumber sandwiches.”
Wilson not only has an affinity for Prince William and the monarchy, she said, but also for Middleton.
“She’s a regular girl who was able to snag a prince,” Wilson said. “I think that’s very appealing to young women.”
Diane LaChapelle, 72, of Dolores, Colo., plans to fly to San Francisco and wake at 2 a.m. to watch the wedding festivities with her daughter. LaChapelle and her daughters got up early to watch Prince Charles marry Princess Diana too.
“We’ll make sure we have tea and I make pretty good scones,” LaChapelle said. “I’m sending my blue lace mother of the bride dress and that’s what I’m going to wear.”
American businesses are getting the royal fever too. The Lyric Theatre in downtown Blacksburg, Va., plans a wedding viewing party at 5:45 a.m. with wedding cake. The Cityscape Bar in downtown Chicago plans a special royal wedding cocktail menu with drinks like “The Courtship” and “The Bitter Queen.” And the New York restaurant Tea & Sympathy plans a street fair.
And just try escaping royal wedding coverage on American television.
“In the week leading up to the wedding, the networks are going to be doing extensive special reports leading up to what will be wall-to-wall coverage of all of the day’s activities,” said Bill Carroll, vice president and programming director of Katz Television Group. “If you’re looking to see another fairy tale event, you’ll have every reasonable opportunity to get a look at what’s taking place.”
Celebrities are the American version of royalty, but there’s a difference between Prince William and Kate Middleton’s relationship and those of Hollywood couples, said Marjorie Kase, 34, of Manhattan, who plans on getting up early to watch the wedding.
“There is a lack of authenticity and transparency there,” Kase said adding that while we take celebrities “with a grain of salt,” with this wedding, “we see something different.”
The wedding will also be pure spectacle for Americans who have a history lacking kings with eight wives and queens who sit on the throne for decades.
“I like to see what Mrs. Obama is wearing, but this is different,” LaChapelle said. “This really is history.”