LONDON, Apr 28 (bdnews24.com/Reuters) – Last minute rehearsals for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton got under way before dawn in central London on Wednesday with the royal couple expected to put the final touches to their preparations.
Roads around Buckingham Palace and along the route the couple will take from Westminster Abbey after Friday's service were closed as about 1,000 members of the armed forces took part in a full-scale practice for the couple's big day.
Carriages that will carry members of the wedding party also took part alongside mounted cavalry, with a full dress-rehearsal involving the clergy and broadcasters scheduled for Thursday.
The abbey itself has already been closed off to the public, and William and Middleton will be there for some final rehearsals on Wednesday, although royal officials declined to give details.
"As with anybody's wedding, you can imagine rehearsals happening up until the eve of the wedding," a spokesman for William said.
Across the capital, bunting is going up and flags are beginning to be hoisted, with similar preparations around the country where about 5,500 street parties will be held.
A small army of media from around the world has descended on makeshift studios set up outside Buckingham Palace and along the route to cover the ceremony which one British minister predicted would attract a global TV audience of some two billion people.
"America and the world is really excited about a piece of great news," said Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of U.S. entertainment news programme Entertainment Tonight, who is heading up a team of 70 staff for the wedding.
"It's been a pretty rough time around the world -- in the Middle East and in Japan and the world economy -- and this is something to be happy about," she told Reuters.
"Americans love a big production. This is the Oscars on steroids. It's the pageantry, the enthusiasm, it's about what people are wearing."
Some royal fans have already begun camping outside the abbey to secure the best spots to watch Friday's events, and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to start arriving in London in the next days.
MORE THAN A MILLION VISITORS
Visit Britain, the national tourism agency, is predicting an extra 600,000 tourists in the capital on the day, meaning there would be a total of some 1.1 million visitors with 40 percent of those coming from abroad.
"That could bring anything up to 50 million pounds," a spokesman said, adding the number of in-bound flights to Britain for the weekend had risen by 244 percent.
London and Partners, the agency which promotes the city, said it expected there would be 600,000 people actually lining the streets, the same number as came to watch the 1981 wedding of William's parents Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said the occasion would be a boon to a nation coping with government austerity measures which have resulted in drastic spending cuts and job losses.
"People across the country, and indeed across the world, are getting excited about the events on Friday," Cameron told parliament.
The Archbishop of York John Sentamu, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, echoed those sentiments.
"This event I hope will give a lot of hope to a lot of people, particularly young people," he said in a TV interview published on his website.
Those who do go to London to watch the procession or camp out could be in for a cold and wet experience, with weather forecasters predicting showers and a brisk wind.
On Tuesday, police appealed to the public to help them spot any potential troublemakers, while promising that they would not tolerate any attempt to disrupt the event.
Some 5,000 police officers will be on duty to deal with potential threats ranging from international Islamist militants to anarchists and stalkers.
Meanwhile the one-and-a-half mile processional route has undergone a deep clean to get it looking spic and span.
A team of 130 street cleaners including 80 sweepers along with 30 vehicles are being lined up to deal with the 140 tonnes of waste expected to be left by those watching on Friday.
RAIN FORECAST, BUT KATE TO "GLOW"
Following is a selection of stories related to the April 29 royal wedding of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton that have appeared in newspapers and on websites in the last week.
-- The police promised they would crack down "robustly" on anyone trying to disrupt Friday's royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, appealing to the public to help them spot any troublemakers.
Some 5,000 police officers will be on duty in London on Friday to deal with potential threats ranging from international Islamist militants to anarchists and stalkers.
(April 26, source: Reuters)
-- Kate has treated herself to some last-minute pampering with an 82 pounds facial.
Kate, 29, was preened and prodded at the boutique Retreat beauty salon where she is believed to have had the Oxygen Therapy facial to make her skin "glow" on her big day.
The princess-to-be, who has admitted to feeling jittery, spent an hour with sister and chief bridesmaid Pippa, 27, at the salon in Newbury, Berkshire, a 20-minute drive from their parents' home in Bucklebury
(April 26, source: The Daily Mirror)
-- Storms could hit the royal wedding, say forecasters, with overcast conditions expected on William and Kate's big day.
The current heatwave is set to come to an end later this week with more usual temperatures replacing the scorching sunshine of Easter. But for the royal couple, tradition holds that showers on your wedding day are a good omen.
(April 26, source: The Daily Express)
-- A gambler left bookies quaking last night after placing a bet worth 72,000 pounds on Kate wearing a Russian fringe tiara as she weds.
If the posh punter's hunch is correct, it will mean Kate, 29, has borrowed the priceless headdress from the queen to tie the knot with William
(April 26, source: The Sun)
-- A formerly homeless woman will undergo a transformation for the royal wedding after receiving a personal invitation from the groom.
Last week, it was revealed that William had sent an invitation to a young woman he met at a gala for a homeless charity last summer.
On Friday, 20-year-old Shozna, whose surname has not been disclosed, will be taken to a secret location to prepare for the day.
(April 26, source: The Daily Telegraph)
-- London Mayor Boris Johnson is to present William and Kate with a gift that combines his eccentric approach to politics with his obsession with cycling: a tandem based on the design of the capital's street-hire bicycles.
The bicycle made for two will be presented to the couple next week.
(April 24, source: The Mail on Sunday)