The wedding will also be televised live to 32 countries and a global audience estimated at about 300 million, including, for the first time, viewers in China.
Four American television networks will transport their stars across the Atlantic and transmit the wedding live. Each has employed several, preferably titled, expert commentators to lend authority to its coverage.
The networks will be able to use a remote-controlled camera placed above and in front of the couple, enabling viewers to see royal faces at the alter of the famous abbey.
Although wedding planners at Buckingham Palace initially argued that the actual exchange of vows was too intimate a moment to expose to the face-on camera, they agreed last week to permit its unrestricted use. Now producers have expressed worries that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert A.K. Runcie, who will officiate at the wedding, may block the camera's view at the crucial moment.
The decision to allow the face-on camera reflects the gradual easing of the restraints that once surrounded such grand occasions.
Listening With Hats On
The first televised royal wedding was Princess Margaret's in 1960. As recently as the late 1930s, ardent royalists even argued against broadcasting royal weddings over radio because some men might listen irreverently with their hats on.
Exposure has brought popularity, affection and a curiosity that has spawned an insatiable appetite among Britons for news about the "Royals."
No detail about the royal wedding is too small to report, no morsel about the royal couple too insignificant to savor, no topic too small for discussion and controversy.
Ferguson's preference for the traditional wedding vows "to love, honor and obey," instead of the "love, honor and cherish" promised by her good friend Diana, touched off a debate that extended into Parliament.
"If Fergie wanted to give a lead to modern women, this is not the way," stated opposition Labor member of Parliament Clare Short.
Conservative member Ann Winterton disagreed.
"I vowed to obey my husband, and he thinks I do obey him," she revealed.
Predictably, news accounts quickly reported that waves of British brides-to-be were deciding to "obey" rather than "cherish."
Speculation about the style of Ferguson's wedding dress has also bordered on a national pastime, with rumors about how she plans to disguise hips that the tabloid press has unkindly reported at up to 42 inches.
The Mail on Sunday predicted a beaded dress with a bustle at the back, while competitor News of the World claimed that the dress will sport a large bow.
New Trend Expected
Chelsea designer Lindka Cierach, who is making the dress, predicts nothing except that it will set a trend.
With the likes of garment manufacturer Sidney Ellis around, that projection seems safe. Ellis is poised to copy Ferguson's dress and have it in the display windows of Debenham's, a London department store, within hours of the wedding. He already has 20 orders, sight unseen, for the dress, which he estimates will cost a maximum of $1,400.
Copies of Princess Diana's wedding dress are still selling five years after her wedding, he said.
Wednesday's wedding has also proven an ideal excuse for Britain's tabloids to review past sexual exploits of the prince they nicknamed "Randy Andy."
The Daily Mirror recently draped a semi-nude photograph of American soft-porn actress Koo Stark over several columns to help illustrate an article on Andrew headlined, "Farewell My Lovelies." Stark was widely reported to have been one of the prince's girlfriends.
"I think the palace is very relieved to have him married off," commented Houston.
But the bulk of media coverage has focused on the bride as the new royal face.
Quickly dubbed "Fergie" by the British press, Ferguson has so far handled the pressure of constant, intense media coverage with an ease that has won admiration even from veteran royals watchers.
"There hasn't been a (royal) bride more relaxed and uninhibited," stated Godfrey Talbot, who was the British Broadcasting Corp.'s court correspondent for more than four decades before his recent retirement.
"She a nice girl who's given a lot of hope to other girls with red hair and freckles," said Dempster.
Many believe her relative maturity and extensive travel have given her a confidence and ability to deal with pressure that Diana, as a 19-year-old bride, lacked.
Although a commoner, she has frequently mingled with royalty because her father, a former cavalry officer, works as Prince Charles' polo manager.
Unruffled by Critics