Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton will marry in Westminster Abbey on Friday April 29 next year – and millions of workers and schoolchildren will get the day off to celebrate.
The couple were said to be “completely over the moon” after getting the spring wedding they wanted in a venue they chose for its “staggering beauty” and 1,000-year Royal history.
Downing Street announced that April 29 would be an extra public holiday, meaning many people would enjoy two four-day weekends in a row.
St James’s Palace said the Royal wedding would be paid for by the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Middleton family, although the taxpayer would pick up the bill for related costs such as policing.
Prince William has strong ties to Westminster Abbey in central London – his grandmother, the Queen, was married and crowned in the historic place of worship, and the funeral of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, was held there.
Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, private secretary to the young Prince, said: “The venue has long associations with the Royal family – it is in many ways the Royal family’s church – and of course with Prince William personally.
“For Miss Middleton, the associations she has with the Abbey are quite simply the same as any British person would have for such a glorious and holy place.”
The couple, both 28, announced their engagement last week, nine years after they met as students at St Andrew’s University.
Mr Lowther-Pinkerton told reporters at St James’s Palace today: “The couple are completely over the moon. I’ve never seen two happier people, which is absolutely fabulous to work in that sort of environment.
“They’re on cloud nine, like any other newly-engaged couple. They’re now getting stuck into organising their wedding. They are very much in charge of the arrangements for the big day.”
He added: “We know that the world will be watching on April 29, and the couple are very very keen indeed that the spectacle should be a classic example of what Britain does best.”
The Prince and Miss Middleton want to strike a balance between making it an enjoyable day and recognising the precarious state of the UK’s finances.
Mr Lowther-Pinkerton said: “Prince William and Catherine have made it very clear that they wish everybody to be able to enjoy the day with them.
“Consequently the day will be a proper celebration for the nation and the realms.
“Having said that, the couple are very mindful of the current situation, and for example Prince William has already expressed a clear wish that any involvement by the armed forces should rely in great part on those servicemen and women already committed to public and ceremonial duties.”
The cost of the wedding – including the church service, music, flowers, decorations, reception and honeymoon – will be split between the Queen, Charles and Miss Middleton’s millionaire parents, Michael and Carole.
The precedent for the move was set by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s wedding in Westminster Abbey in 1947 and Charles and Diana’s nuptials in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981.
It has not been decided who will pay for what, but a senior Royal aide stressed: “The Middleton family from the outset have been extremely generous. They are very very keen to contribute.”
Downing Street said the Cabinet agreed today to make the Royal wedding a public holiday in England, Wales and the North.
Prime Minister David Cameron was consulted on the timing of the wedding, which will be less than a week before the local elections and the referendum on voting reform on May 5.
The senior Royal aide said: “He was very content with the selection of the date.”
The Prime Minister dismissed suggestions that the timing of the wedding would interfere with the referendum campaign.
“People are perfectly capable of seeing the difference between a royal wedding, a happy day, a day of celebration, and a referendum campaign and a local election campaign,” he said.
“People are quite capable of separating the two and it is quite right that the Royal family should choose the day of their wedding.”
Miss Middleton was born Catherine Elizabeth, and by coincidence April 29 is the feast of St Catherine of Siena.
Detailed planning about the guest list, William’s best man, Miss Middleton’s wedding dress and who will conduct the marriage service is ongoing.
Westminster Abbey has a capacity of about 2,000, although this was expanded to 8,200 for the Queen’s coronation in 1953, and a number of heads of state are expected to attend the ceremony.
Asked about who would be invited, the Royal aide said: “There will be certain people there who you would be very happy to see but wouldn’t necessarily be at the top of your list.”
William and Miss Middleton are said to be keen on making their wedding a national celebration and a concert in Hyde Park to mark the occasion has been proposed.
The aide refused to confirm any further plans but said: “Their view on it would be, ’let’s have a party’.”
The Very Rev Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, welcomed the couple’s decision to get married at the Abbey.
He said: “We look forward very much to all the detailed preparations for what will be an enormously happy and glorious event here.”
The wedding announcement left bookmakers facing hefty payouts to punters who correctly predicted the date.
Forecasters warned that April’s weather was notoriously hard to predict, with snow falling in London during the month as recently as 2008.
Meanwhile, a Church of England bishop who made “deeply offensive” comments about William and Miss Middleton’s engagement was suspended from public ministry today.
The Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, reportedly said their marriage might only last seven years and referred to the Royal family as philanderers in comments posted on Facebook.