Royal wedding plans stepped up with visit to abbey
Prince William plans to tone down the usual pomp when he weds next year, say palace officials, but fiancee Kate Middleton's visit to Westminster Abbey suggests it could still be a spectacular affair.
William, the eldest son of the late princess Diana and heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, will marry his long-term girlfriend in London after an eight-year romance in spring or summer 2011.
The venue has yet to be chosen, but Middleton's night-time visit fed speculation that the couple would wed in the gothic abbey where Britain's monarchs are crowned.
"Miss Middleton paid a short, private visit to Westminster Abbey in order to be able to consider it as an option," St James's Palace, William's offices, confirmed.
"The couple wish for a little more time to be able to consult family members and make a decision for themselves."
The couple, both 28, on Wednesday began working out the details of the event with an eye on the public mood as Britain struggles with deep cuts in public spending designed to slash a massive budget deficit.
The palace said earlier that the couple had spent the morning in meetings with household staff about the wedding.
"All options are on the table and they've given us clear direction in terms of dates and venues," a spokesman said.
Staff will now take their thoughts to senior royals such as Queen Elizabeth II and Charles, the government and the Middleton family.
"They want the day to be as enjoyable as possible, and they are mindful of the economic situation," he added, a reference to the government's major austerity drive.
The couple, who met during their university days, got engaged last month during a holiday in Kenya. They went public with the news on Tuesday.
William presented his fiancee with Diana's sapphire and diamond engagement ring in a proposal that Kate described as "very romantic."
Charles said he was "thrilled" and quipped the couple had been "practising long enough".
William said he had waited so long before popping the question to ensure that Kate knew what she was getting into by marrying him.
"I wanted to give her a chance to see in and to back out if she needed to before it all got too much," William said in a joint TV interview Tuesday.
The St James's Palace spokesman said the prince and his fiancee were still buzzing after their announcement.
"They are still very much on cloud nine and are still enjoying the happy moment," he said.
"They are enjoying talking to friends and family and enjoying one another's company and showing their commitment to each other publicly."
Royal officials say the couple want to be very hands-on in planning their wedding and their first decision will be on the venue.
Even before Middleton's visit, some commentators had strongly tipped Westminster Abbey, but the modest military Guards Chapel would also be a strong candidate if the couple decided to stage a more frugal event.
Charles Kidd, an expert on the aristocracy, told AFP a smaller wedding would also reflect "the sort of character that Prince William and Kate Middleton have -- they would probably prefer a slightly more modest affair."
A third option is St Paul's Cathedral, where Charles and Diana married in 1981.
Bookmakers reckon the wedding will likely take place in the sunnier months of July or August, though some commentators are leaning towards March.
Financial experts were speculating on how big a boost Britain's struggling economy would get from the wedding.
One forecast suggested it could be worth as much as a billion dollars as loyal subjects stock up on fancy food and booze to toast the happy couple.
When they are married the newlyweds will live in northwest Wales, one of the more remote parts of Britain. William is a Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot there, based on the island of Anglesey.
Journalist Tom Bradby, reportedly a friend of the couple, who conducted the television interview, told ITV that William wants "a happy, quiet, domestic family life."
The couple have already spent a lot of time together in Anglesey and William will return to work on Thursday, according to a spokesman for Clarence House, Charles' residence. Kate had "private plans", he added.
© 2010 AFP