LONDON – What is it like getting married on the same day as Prince William and Kate Middleton? As the royal wedding looms, hundreds of harried couples across Britain are trying to figure out how to share the spotlight with the world's most-watched couple.
Sharon Hannon, 37, said she was initially upset when she saw her own wedding date being flashed across the television screen underneath a picture of the prince and his bride-to-be.
"Obviously at first it was a total shock," she said. "I was like: 'Why did they have to pick the same day as us?'"
So strong is the media obsession with the royal wedding that many of those engaged on that day have been sucked in to the frenzy. Wedding planning websites are papered over with messages from journalists seeking to interview couples getting married on April 29, while The Daily Mail said it was devoting 10 days of coverage to one of them in what the tabloid said was a bid "to recognize the hundreds of couples who are also getting married on Royal Wedding Day."
Local newspapers carry pictures of beaming brides-to-be detailing how happy — or distraught — they are that their big day ended up being even bigger than expected.
Some complained that the surprise holiday being thrown in honor of William and Middleton had prompted florists or caterers to skip town on their crucial weekend. Others found that the additional day off meant that more guests could take the time to come. Many said measuring up with Middleton would be a tall order, something Hannon acknowledged in a phone conversation from the guesthouse she runs with her fiance outside Glasgow.
"You can't get any bigger than a royal wedding," Hannon said. "If you buy a newspaper, if you flick the channel, everything's regarding the royal wedding. You can't get away from it."
Several hundred miles away, in the English market town of Spalding, 38-year-old bride-to-be Fritha Ansell said that she and her fiance Will Dolton "were one of the couples that took it humorously" when they found out that the royal wedding date was also their own.
Their tongue-in-cheek invitations declared that a joint reception with the prince and his bride had to be called off.
"Realistically it may be an idea to bring your wallets with you as Kate and Will may not be providing the free bar as was hoped," the invitations read. The couple even sent one to William's office, at St. James' Palace — and to Ansell's surprise they got a response, "a very lovely letter," politely declining.
Ansell, who works at a children's home, noted that the royal wedding holiday has given the couple an extra-long weekend to celebrate their own nuptials and encouraged out-of-town guests to make the ceremony.
"It's very kind of them," she said of William and Middleton.
While some couples expressed frustration at unexpectedly having to keep their eye on two weddings in one day, 27-year-old Sioned Tym-Crowther took a different tack, deliberately timing her wedding to coincide with William and Kate's.
"It's like our own royal wedding," the insurance worker said in a telephone interview from Sheffield, in northern England.
But Tym-Crowther, who has been engaged to her boyfriend Ben Smith for three years, said the pair chose April 29 because of the long weekend rather than out of any particular desire to get hitched in tandem with the second-in-line to the throne.
She added that she wasn't planning anything out of the ordinary to mark the ceremony taking place at Westminster; the only nod to the royal nuptials would be 'Will and Kate'-style mugs bearing pictures of Smith and Tym-Crowther.
For Pam Young, 46, said that she and her husband-to-be Chris Davis were making up special royal wedding-themed tea towels to mark both their marriage and that of the princely couple.
Like other brides-to-be interviewed this week, Young said that she and her bridesmaids would probably watch the Friday morning ceremony on television, sipping champagne as they got ready for their own weddings.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing Kate and Wills get married," Young said. "Then it'll be my turn."
Hannon, the woman in Scotland who initially had reservations about sharing April 29 with William and Kate, said she had since come around to the idea.
She said she'd received advice not to turn on the television as she got ready for her big day, but appeared to be of two minds whether to follow it.
"I remember Diana's wedding and I would love to see Kate's wedding, but I don't want to put it on and be comparing it to my own," she said, before adding: "I might get a wee sneak peak in the morning."