Excitement Builds As Royal Wedding Is 1 Day Away

Some people have been sleeping on the sidewalks of London determined to be at the front of the crowd outside Westminster Abbey to see William and Kate get married there Friday.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

People have been sleeping on the sidewalks of London in recent days. They're living in tents, hoping to keep their places outside Westminster Abbey.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And they're determined to remain one more night until tomorrow's royal wedding there. NPR's Philip Reeves has been traveling Britain to find out what this wedding means to people.

INSKEEP: And now he's reached the heart of the action.

Unidentified Man #1: If you please, let's please clear this gap...

PHILIP REEVES: The show's already begun. The first spectators are here - so is the world's media. Seventy-six-year-old Gwen Murray has told her story again and again, about how she doesn't mind spending a couple of days sleeping on the sidewalk if that means a good view of the bride.

Ms. GWEN MURRAY: Can you just dodge down a minute? I want to show the view. You see where those two posts are, by that fellow? She will come through those two posts and the carriage will be this side of it.

REEVES: Across the road, Tom Chretien and his wife Margaret are having a look at Westminster Abbey. They've come here from Saratoga Springs, New York.

Mr. TOM CHRETIEN: Well, we think that this could be the wedding of the century, probably our best chance to partake in a royal wedding for the rest of our lives. So we see it as a great opportunity, a fun time.

Ms. MARGARET CHRETIEN: We have a soft spot in our heart for William, having watched him born, grow up, and become the man that he is. We really admire him and we wish him and Kate the very best.

Unidentified Woman: (French spoken) Westminster...

REEVES: Seven thousand journalists applied for accreditation to cover the royal wedding. Kate Reardon, editor of Tatler magazine, thinks she knows why.

Ms. KATE REARDON (Editor, Tatler Magazine): It is complete, unrestrained, pure glamour, totally unequivocal glamour. There's excitement, there's romance, there's pageantry, there's history, there's all sorts of things tied into it. But it's a kind of a guilty pleasure.

(Soundbite of music)

REEVES: The queen's household cavalry is practicing for the big day. Big is maybe not the right word. Reardon says this wedding is huge.

Ms. REARDON: This is a truly epic, industrial level of organization and planning, something we're actually rather good at when you put it in the hands of the army, I think, rather than the government. It is military precision planning. There are thousands of horses, all of whom have to be fed, all of whom have to be groomed. You know, their tack has to be polished. I mean, the sort of - the level of detail that this goes into it - forget the cake and the dress, those are sort of really quite simple, straightforward things. But the sheer number of people, the crowd control, the security, it's extraordinary, mindboggling.

REEVES: Tomorrow's ceremony is about two young people, but Reardon says it's also about a lot more than that.

Ms. REARDON: To certain key individuals, this is a proper career-making moment and a life-changing moment financially. There will be photographers out there who manage to get an extraordinary picture of the day that is syndicated and reprinted for decades to come. That will be paying their kids' school fees. I mean, really, these pictures are incredibly valuable if you get the one defining image or the one image that nobody else gets or the behind-the-scenes image.

There are also people, you know, such as the dress designer, that this is a platform which no other designer on the planet could ever dream of achieving in terms of publicity and exposure.

Mr. ADRIAN DENNIS (Photographer, AFP): Across the whole route, I would estimate there would be upwards of four or five hundred photographers. The appetite for royal photographs is tremendous. So they'll be coming in from far-flung places in Europe, right across Asia. I expect a few Americans will be over as well.

REEVES: Adrian Dennis has been taking pictures for a living for more than 20 years.

Mr. DENNIS: I mean, obviously, it's a celebrity-based story and that really does run a lot of publications these days. Also, it's the carrying on of the Princess Diana fairy tale that happened and ended so tragedy - in tragic circumstances. But this is really the next chapter.

Ms. REARDON: The pictures that are the most valuable are the ones that are the most human. So while we're all dazzled by all the pageantry and the dresses and the gold and the jewelry and the diamonds and the horses and the carriages, the ones that give us individually an insight into another human being in a very specific situation, so that are almost freakishly intimate, despite the surroundings, are the valuable ones.

REEVES: Dennis is a staffer for an agency, AFP, so he won't be making those big bucks. This doesn't diminish his hunger for a great picture.

Mr. DENNIS: Luckily, I have a position in the Abbey, so I have got one of the few spots inside and I'll remember it, you know, for the rest of my life. The picture is that I'm looking for is the ambiance of the Abbey. I would like to show something of that - with the newlywed couple walking out. I've got a position where I know exactly the route where they're going to walk past, so I've composed a picture in my head of what it will look like. I just hope that all the ingredients work and perhaps they might look or glance in my direction.

I've been thinking it through for the last few weeks and a few sleepless nights too.

REEVES: Did you know anything about it?

Ms. RACHEL JOHNSON (Editor, Lady Magazine): No, I didn't. At first I thought it was a montage and then I came to the office and there is indeed a huge silky purple bow tied around my office. So I mean, basically London's gone completely crazy.

REEVES: Rachel Johnson edits Lady Magazine. She blames her publisher for wrapping her six-story building in a gigantic bow in honor of the royal wedding. She says her readers are interested in the wedding, although it doesn't seem that she is.

Ms. JOHNSON: There are at least a thousand journalists now just setting up outside Buckingham Palace, at Clarence Gate or at Westminster. And you think, there are three unwinnable wars in which people are dying going on that we're actually involved in, engaged in, and yet the focus, the entire focus of the world's media is on a couple of pleasant but inoffensive man and woman in early middle-aged who've been together for eight years and who are getting hitched on Friday. It's actually surreal.

REEVES: Johnson sees a trend.

Ms. JOHNSON: What I think the last five years have seen is a decreased appetite in fictionalized entertainment and a hugely increased appetite in reality TV. So in a sense the royal wedding provides the acme or the apotheosis of a global reality television event that everybody can enjoy.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

REEVES: Back outside Westminster Abbey, business is flourishing. The bookies have turned up. Among them, Paddy Power. You can bet on practically anything to do with this wedding, including the possibility of tears.

Mr. PADDY POWER (Bookie): This opener there is a bet on who will be the first to cry. I mean, the queen doesn't show a huge amount of emotion, so she's 16 to one, outsider. Kate, five to two, a likely enough crier, but I think Elton John, he's going to cry, he's eight to one. And the other one, the big sissy, David Beckham, he's 50 to one to be the first to cry.

REEVES: This is all part of the show, the warm-up act before tomorrow's wedding, a pageant that Tom and Margaret Chretien hope to see for themselves, but anyway won't miss.

Ms. CHRETIEN: Well, we have set our DVR, so we have quite a bit of recording that's going to happen while we're...

Mr. CHRETIEN: Yeah, we'll watch it all when it's all over.

REEVES: So if you miss it here because you haven't got a good view, you can watch it all again.

Mr. CHRETIEN: Oh yeah. We're recording probably about 10 and a half hours of this back home. So we'll enjoy it again and again.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, London.

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