It's finally time for millions of Britons, celebrities and foreign leaders to save the date. After a flurry of speculation, the royal family said this morning that recently engaged Prince William and Kate Middleton have set a date for their wedding.
The royal couple will be wed at Westminster Abbey Friday, April 29, 2011, according to a statement by the royal house of Prince Charles, William's father.
As one of the most anticipated events of 2011, the date will be declared a national holiday and, in addition to the thousands of guests expected to attend the wedding, millions more will be watching on television and online.
"They wanted a Friday. They wanted a spring wedding and they wanted to give the country a day off," royal expert Katie Nicholl told "Good Morning America."
But why so early? Most royal watchers were guessing the wedding would take place in the summer. Bookies had even reportedly stopped taking bets on July.
"They didn't want this to take too long," Nicholl said. "Remember, they've been together nine years. ... They were just desperate to get it over and done with."
Prior to the announcement, special attention was focused on how much the royal blowout would cost and who would pick up the tab because the island nation has been reeling from the global economic downturn and recently slashed $130 billion in spending and about 500,000 public sector jobs.
The royal family said in the statement today it would be paying for the wedding and, Nicholl said, it will be a subdued affair; at least relative to most royal celebrations.
"But let's face it, the royal family isn't short a few pennies," Nicholl said.
The wedding could be an emotional return to Westminster for Prince William. It was the same place he said his final goodbyes to his mother, the late Princess Diana, at her funeral in 1997.
The abbey can hold nearly 3,000 guests, but it could still be months before the much-anticipated guest list is made public, former Buckingham palace spokesman Dickie Arbiter said.
"What you've got to remember is that you've got guests William and Kate want to invite, there are guests that William and Kate have got to invite because there's the commonwealth aspect, there are world leaders that have to be considered, there are friends. there are family. So they're already thinking about that," he said last week.
William and Middleton announced their engagement last week, sending millions of Britons and the international media into a wedding-warped frenzy.
Today's announcement was followed by visible sighs of relief from the happy couple, and the queen said she was "absolutely delighted" for the couple, Buckingham Palace said hours after the announcement.
Like the queen, Middletons' parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, said after the announcement they too were "absolutely delighted."
"The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton," a statement from Clarence House last week read.
Prince William, 28, asked Middleton, also 28, to marry him while the two were on vacation in Kenya last month, the statement said.
The happy couple appeared for the first time for reporters arm-in-arm before a barrage of camera flashes, Middleton wearing the famous engagement ring worn by Princess Diana.