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The Globe and Mail

Forget tea towels. This royal wedding is all about sick bags and 'love sheaths'

Here are the ingredients for a majestic evening: A couple of pints of Kate Loves Willy Ale, accompanied by a slice of Royal Pear pie, perhaps ending with a light drizzle of Royal Romance Oil. If all goes well, there might even be an opportunity to whip out the Royal Wedding Souvenir Condom, brought to you by Crown Jewels, "proud purveyor of an exclusive range of heritage love sheaths."

The hundreds of souvenirs commemorating the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton are a cheeky reminder that the days of lèse majesté are far behind us: Now it's more like tease majesties.

Only three decades ago, Prince William's parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana, made their way to the altar under a canopy of relatively respectful memorabilia: Waterford crystal goblets, stamps, china thimbles. The tawdriest byways led only to tea towels. With William and Kate, the English talent for irreverence is in full view, with plates that say, "Thanks for the day off" and T-shirts proclaiming, "I paid for the royal wedding and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

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Gone are the days when you could be sent to the Tower for looking into Henry VIII's beady eyes and criticizing his marital choices.

"I think now it's acceptable to be subversive and pooh-pooh the wedding," said Patrick McCurdy, creator of the blog Royal Wedding Tat. When Charles and Diana married, "things were more conservative and perhaps the monarchy meant a bit more."

Mr. McCurdy, who teaches media and communications at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, is from Burlington, Ont., but spent six years living in London. His blog is a catalogue of questionable taste ("tan like a royal" sun bed promotions) dubious marketing strategies (cat food in "royal gravy") and anarchist sentiment ("Stuff the royal wedding" T-shirts.)

The explosion in tat - a British expression for shoddy collectibles - has to do with changing expectations around these huge events, Prof. McCurdy says. "We can no longer experience events just by watching them. We have to consume and participate as well. And now anyone with even basic Internet skills can create on-demand T-shirts."

One of the most popular items leading up to Friday's wedding is graphic designer Lydia Leith's Royal Wedding Sick Bag, with more than 5,000 sold since it was introduced in February.

Toronto teacher Kevin Brewer arrived in London this week intent on bagging one, and found his at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. (The display of Throne Up sacks is only metres away from a broad and leafy street called the Mall, on which the newlyweds will travel in a carriage on Friday.)

"I was looking for something kitschy," Mr. Brewer said. "I was tempted by the Wills and Kate beach towel, so I could lie on them and sizzle, but this won."

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But marketing success does not exist solely in the realm of the bawdy and sardonic.

Also sold out across the land is the Royal Trifle, created by gastro-alchemist Heston Blumenthal (and presumably being bought by people who don't want to wait six months to get into his new restaurant, Dinner). The chef's dessert is a thoroughly English combination of trifle and Eton Mess, the famous pudding of Prince William's public school, and contains champagne, lemon and saffron threads.

Fiona Goble's Knit Your Own Royal Wedding - a do-it-yourself craft project featuring a Queen with a beaming yarn smile and suspiciously well-behaved corgis - has been a surprise hit and is currently ranked 31st on Amazon U.K.'s bestseller list.

Traditionalists can always make their way to the gift shop of Prince Charles's Highgrove estate, where a Catherine and William wooden engagement puzzle is on sale. The Middleton family has carefully steered clear of any profiteering taint by not selling wedding memorabilia through its online business, Party Pieces. (A scratch-card game featuring questions about the monarchy was introduced earlier this year and hastily withdrawn.)

What is not yet clear is how much of an economic boost the royal wedding will provide to Britain's stumbling economy. There have been estimates that the coming four-day weekend will add £600-million ($948-million) to the country's economy and 100 million pints to its waistline. But those are merely estimates, and perhaps wishful. Retail sales in Britain fell 1.9 per cent this March from the previous year, the biggest drop in 16 years, and the British Retail Consortium noted that many retailers "are hoping for some good news around the extended bank holiday period and a feel-good factor driven by the royal wedding."

An informal survey of souvenir vendors around London's West End brought mainly shrugs and non-committal remarks about the health of tat sales. Stores are full of bins of pens, key chains, posters and calendars featuring the engagement photo of Ms. Middleton and Prince William.

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"I think it will be good on Friday," one seller said. He's hoping that the forecast is wrong: On Friday it's supposed to rain.

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