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Britain's Prince William and his fianc?e Kate Middleton pose for photographers during a photocall to mark their engagement, in the State Rooms of St Jamess Palace, central London on November 16, 2010. Prince William will marry his girlfriend Kate Middleton next year, the royal family said Tuesday, in the biggest royal wedding in Britain since his parents Charles and Diana married in 1981. The announcement ended feverish speculation about when the second-in-line to the throne would wed, after a romance that has already lasted nearly eight years. (BEN STANSALL)
Britain's Prince William and his fianc?e Kate Middleton pose for photographers during a photocall to mark their engagement, in the State Rooms of St Jamess Palace, central London on November 16, 2010. Prince William will marry his girlfriend Kate Middleton next year, the royal family said Tuesday, in the biggest royal wedding in Britain since his parents Charles and Diana married in 1981. The announcement ended feverish speculation about when the second-in-line to the throne would wed, after a romance that has already lasted nearly eight years. (BEN STANSALL)

Doug Saunders

Who's going to pay for William and Kate's lavish wedding? Add to ...

His grandmother's face may be on the money, but that won't make it any easier to pay for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton next Friday.

From a $50,000 dress to holiday overtime pay for 5,000 police officers to a six-figure cleaning bill, everything about the royal wedding will be oversized and grandiose, a public spectacle on a scale not seen - or paid for - since Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953.

So across Britain, people are asking a question often posed by friends and relatives of newlyweds: Who, exactly, is paying for it?

The answer is not so simple, with the official costs of the event and its vast security apparatus split among various branches of the Royal Family, the police, the military, and several local and national government departments. But most of the bill will be footed by British taxpayers.

The biggest cost of the wedding by far will be the $6.4-billion price of shutting down the British economy for 24 hours by declaring next Friday a national holiday, according to estimates from the Confederation of British Industry, the country's major corporate lobby group.

That will be a painful blow for a country that faces a fiscal deficit of $256-billion this year - and, to make matters worse, the wedding falls amid a cluster of other holidays, leaving only three working days between April 22 and May 2. Many businesses are expected to stay shut through the entire 10-day period, a string of lost productivity that could remove $47-billion from economic output, according to an estimate by accounting firm RSM Tenon.

To counterbalance that somewhat, there will be some Britons spending money on the big day. But not much: One poll found that just a third of citizens will be celebrating the royal wedding in any way, spending an average of $45 each on party food, booze and memorabilia.

Two different reports by retail organizations projected that the event and its crowd of tourists would boost consumer spending by either $753-million or $973-million - a small share of the money lost due to the holiday. But these failed to take into account the millions of Britons who will leave the country, many in order to get away from the wedding and its crowds, thus taking even more money out of the economy.

Beyond these larger economic costs, the official costs of the event are expected to exceed $78-million, and many of these will simply be grossly oversized versions of the usual wedding costs (the average British wedding, according to one study, is $29,000).

The Queen, whose personal wealth is estimated at $455-million, has pledged to pay for a share of the wedding, though officials from Clarence House, the office of Prince Charles, said in a briefing this week that the Royal Family's input would be "in the six figures, not in the seven figures."

The Royal Family will be picking up those costs "you'd normally associate with a wedding… such as flowers, reception, transport," the Clarence House official said. "It's being paid for by the Royal Family with a contribution from the Middletons."

In fact, it was revealed this week that the bride's family, who are the wealthy owners of an online party-supply company but are not state-funded aristocrats themselves, will be putting up an estimated $157,000 for the cost of "hotel suites, bridal gowns, bridesmaids' dresses, the maid of honour's outfit and the honeymoon," according to the Times.

A good part of that cost will be for hotel rooms, including a two-bedroom, five-room suite at the posh Goring hotel in Belgravia that costs $6,275 a night. In total, the family's hotel bill is expected to exceed $31,000.

On top of this, they will be paying for Ms. Middleton's bridal gowns, estimated at $47,000, and another $31,000 for bridesmaids' dresses and the mother-of-the-bride outfit.

But a royal wedding has its own special costs, many of them related to the hundreds of thousands of uninvited guests expected to pack the sidewalks of London.

The cost of cleaning the streets of Westminster the day before the wedding is estimated by the council at $63,000. Cleaning up afterward will be a bigger expense: After the 1997 funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, the cleanup cost was $469,000, or $636,000 in today's currency, and the wedding will cover a larger area; some accountants estimated the cleaning costs in the millions.

The security cost is a matter of widespread speculation, ranging from $11-million to $125-million. This has led to charges, even from within the governors of the police, that the Royal Family should bear a share of the policing expense.

Jenny Jones, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, told the Daily Telegraph that she believed the Queen has a responsibility to pay for some of the costs of an event that has strained security officials already planning for the 2012 Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, also in 2012.

"The Queen's personal wealth is estimated at £290-million," said Ms. Jones, a member of the Green Party. "I just think she has got to pay for it."







The world's most lavish weddings

From Hollywood starts to billionaire businessmen, these are among the most lavish weddings ever:

$78-million: When Vanisha Mittal (daughter of steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal) married investment banker Amit Bhatia in 2004, more than 1,000 guests each received a 20-page invitation made of silver and chose from more than 100 dishes on offer.

$20-million: Bill Clinton, Naomi Campbell and P. Diddy were among 600 guests from 26 countries flown in on private jets to witness Vikram Chatwal, the son of a New York hotelier, marry model/actress Priya Sachdev in 2006 during a 10-day celebration spread across three Indian cities.

$15-million: The true cost of British football star Wayne Rooney's 2008 wedding to grade-school sweetheart Coleen McLoughlin would have been higher, if not offset by the $4-million OK! Magazine paid for exclusive rights to the photos.

$7 million: Harper's Bazaar gave wedding of the year honours in 2005 to the Côte d'Azur union of Delphine Arnault, the daughter of French businessman Bernard Arnault, to wine heir Alessandro Vallarino Gancia.

$5-million: MDM Bank co-founder Andrei Melnichenko wed Serbian model Aleksandra Nickolic in 2005 on the Côte d'Azur in France serenaded by Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston.

$3.5-million: The flower expenses alone were $700,000 for Liza Minnelli's 2002 wedding with David Gest.

$3-million: Paul McCartney's 2002 marriage to Heather Mills was a bargain compared to his divorce settlement of $48.6-million less than six years later.

$2.5-million: For that price in 2007, Elizabeth Hurley twice married Indian textile heir Arun Nayar, first in Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, Britain, then again in Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, India.

$2-million: American star couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had a craving for Italian with their wedding in 2006 at Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano, with attire by Giorgio Armani and music by Andrea Bocelli.

$1-million: In company like this, Donald Trump's 2005 wedding to Melania Knauss seems low key, but it was enough for a $200,000 Dior dress and performances by Tony Bennett and Billy Joel.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the wedding of Andrei Melnichenko and Aleksandra Nickolic cost an estimated $30-million. In fact, reports estimated the cost at $5-million. In addition, an earlier version included an incorrect surname for Ms. Nickolic.

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Follow on Twitter: @dougsaunders

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