A Royal Wedding: Facts, Figures and Basic Economics

The upcoming royal wedding can lead students on an exploration of economics and finances.

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The Economics of the Royal Wedding

On April 29, 2011, Prince William of Great Britain will marry Miss Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey. Regardless of how you feel about the British monarchy, no one can deny that a wedding on this scale requires some serious planning and organization. I thought it would be interesting for my homeschooling children to examine some of the economic and logistical challenges that go into planning an event such as this.

One of the top things a wedding organizer has to do is strike a balance between the pomp and circumstance befitting a royal wedding, and to to be mindful that it is being held during difficult economic times. We made a checklist of income vs. expenses, and examined a key area of spending: security. The wedding will be the most expensive security-intensive event ever staged in Great Britain. The estimated cost of the wedding is 80 million pounds, which will be paid for by the British taxpayer. Although this seems an unusually harsh burden to place on an already struggling populace, the royal family does attract tourists, and, therefore, brings in a great deal of money.

In the “income” column of our income vs. expenses checklist, we put the 500 million pounds in tourist revenue the royal family raised for Britain last year. We then listed several other types of income associated with the wedding, such as the money accrued through production of merchandising Then, we listed the expenses, such as the flowers, dress, and cost of the reception. I compared it to balancing our checkbook at home, albeit one with rather large figures! Another whopping cost is for media coverage, estimated to be in the millions. CNN is sending 50 reporters to cover the event. There are structures being set up all around Buckingham Palace to accommodate camera and audio stands for the approximately 8,000 television and radio journalists.

We discussed whether it was sensible, or economically viable, in a time in which budgets are already strained, to take on such huge costs. We came to the conclusion that it was. The world’s media aren’t following this event because they love the British monarchy per se, they’re following it because of the money to be made. But, royal wedding enthusiasts won't have to depend on the main news organizations for information, they can follow the progrress on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Times have changed since the last big royal wedding.

We also looked at the venue for the ceremony itself, Westminster Abbey. The Abbey holds 3,000 people, and because that number is hard to envision, we made paper dolls holding hands, in which one doll represented 100 people. We then examined the official guest list, and then came up with our own guest list, albeit a smaller one! It was a lesson in diplomacy, as they had to decide who to invite and give their reasons why. They also worked on a seating plan for the Abbey, and found it particularly difficult to rank people in terms of importance. In their plan, family members, charity workers and cartoon characters took the front rows, while political leaders sat at the back next to parents with newborns!

It is interesting to note that in keeping with British tradition, bells are rung at the end of a wedding ceremony. Although it isn’t clear how long the bells will be rung for this wedding, a full peal comprises a minimum of 5,000 sequences, all committed to memory and which are performed without a break. The ringing of the bells usually takes more than three hours!

Finally, we discussed the fact that memorable doesn’t have to equal extravagant, whatever the occasion. To this end we viewed videos and photos of the late Princess Diana's wedding dress, which was comprised of 275 yards of silk taffeta, 100 yards of tulle, and 150 yards of netting, just for the veil. The dress’s train itself was 25-feet long. We measured this distance, and in a cost-cutting, “something old, something borrowed” measure, we came to the conclusion that Kate Middleton could have a lovely wedding dress made from the train alone! What follows are some more lessons that can teach students about the economics of the royal wedding.

Basic Economics Lesson Plans

Basic Economic Concepts

Students learn about the economic concepts of unlimited wants and limited resources/scarcity.

Budgeting

Students learn how to balance a family budget based on needs vs. wants and income vs. expenses.

Media's Impact: In What Ways and How Fully Does the Media Shape Public Opinion, Debate and Policy?

Students investigate different types of media. They write an essay on its positive, negative, or skewed impact on society.