April 29, 2011 -- Rumors about Kate Middleton's royal wedding dress designer, the cake -- or cakes -- food and decorations will soon all be put to rest. But what might never be known is the precise cost of the whole affair, with estimates ranging from $16 million to $64 million and security accounting for the bulk of it.
To cover some of the expenses, the Middleton family is reportedly contributing six figures for specific costs of the wedding, according to Vanity Fair, which might include paying for hotel rooms for family members at the luxurious Goring Hotel.
The cost for a standard double room there is about $550 a night, although it's rumored that Middleton spent her last night as a single woman in a suite, which would be considerably more expensive.
The Middletons are also paying for her reported three dresses.
Middleton will apparently have one dress for the ceremony and wear the second dress for the brunch hosted by the queen at Buckingham Palace for about 600 guests. She will adorn a third dress for an evening reception hosted by Prince Charles, which will have about 300 guests, said Amy Eisinger, editor of weddingchannel.com
The two receptions will cost about $600,000, including $80,000 for two wedding cakes: a traditional white, buttercream or fruit cake, and a groom's cake (for which Prince William reportedly requested a chocolate cookie cake), Eisinger estimates.
"When you start breaking that down per head, it comes to a lot," Eisinger said. "If the two cakes are divided by 600 guests, that's $133 a slice."
Still, the wedding is by no means "opulent," said Dickie Arbiter, former spokesman for Buckingham Palace. This will be the fifth royal wedding he has attended.
Royal Wedding: Cheaper Than Charles and Diana's
"We don't do opulent, contrary to Hollywood's belief. It will be a wedding in the true sense," Arbiter said. "The wedding will be decorated like most brides would decorate theirs."
He added: "The church looks slightly different than what it would ordinarily look."
But this isn't just any wedding. Teams of florists have decorated Westminster Abbey to include eight 20-feet-high trees, and Buckingham Palace will have an array of flowers, for a total cost estimate of about $800,000, Eisinger said.
Also, Middleton and Prince William don't have to pay venue fees for Buckingham Palace and are not likely paying for Westminster Abbey, unlike for most weddings that take place in rented spaces, Eisinger said.
Security will be the largest expense by far, according to a fiscal watchdog, and that will be footed by the British taxpayers. But that's understandable, said Charlotte Linacre of the TaxPayers' Alliance, a grassroots campaign for better services and lower taxes in London.
Linacre said her organization is not criticizing the significant security costs, which is estimated to be about $33 million, according to the Daily Mail.
"In this kind of example, we think the police are not for the royal family but for public safety," Linacre said. "With huge crowds expected, they should be making sure people are safe."
Linacre said Buckingham Palace has responded positively to calls for the royal wedding to be sensitive to the country's relatively unstable economic state.
"We called for them to be aware to be sensitive of not being excessive with the costs when we're trying to find savings in all government departments," Linacre said, adding that the royal family is a "huge benefit" in bringing tourism to Great Britain.
Arbiter, the former palace spokesman, said security is a customary expense and cleanup might even cost less for the wedding than for demonstrations that leave property damage.
"People are generally good natured," Arbiter said. "Probably 6 to 7,000 people will line the route and leave it in a reasonable condition, unlike youngsters and anarchists."
Arbiter added that the processional route of the royal wedding will be only one mile, compared with the 2.5-mile route for the last royal wedding.
Whether the royal wedding costs are excessive, it's clear the grandeur of William and Middleton's wedding will be in contrast to Charles and Diana's, which adjusted for today's dollars, would be about $110 million, Eisinger said.
Compare that to the average U.S. wedding, according to wedding planner TheKnot:
Average U.S. wedding: $26,000
Average U.S. wedding dress cost: $1,099
Wedding cake: $540