The Duchess of Cambridge, formerly plain Kate Middleton, waving to crowds after the wedding
On 29th April 2011, more than 2 billion people across the globe watched the British Royal Wedding between Catherine Middleton and Prince William on television, via the internet and even streamed directly to their mobile phones.
Let us assume that 50% of them were women.
Now why would all of these ladies take time out from their daily lives of work, studies and even sleep (my friends in the USA woke up at 4am to watch it) to watch the nuptials between two people who in all probability they will never ever meet in their lives?
First of all I believe, they wanted to see Kate’s dress, secondly it was a historic occasion of a commoner (non-Royal) marrying into the British Royal family and thirdly they wanted to be a part of her Princess Day.
That’s right, her Princess Day, also known as her wedding day.
If I were to ask any five year old girl in the UK what she wants to be when she grows up I am 99.9% certain that she would say a princess.
I read the story of The Princess and the Pea during my formative years where a lady is tested to see if she is a princess by having a pea placed under her mattress.
Only a true princess would be unable to sleep all night because she was bothered by the pea.
Consequently I spent every night performing a charade of getting into bed, trying to find a comfortable position, then getting out of bed to check underneath my mattress for that ever elusive pea that would signal my ascension from commoner to princess.
Now we don’t happen to stumble upon princesses at the supermarket or on the tube, but the traditional European style white wedding definitely ticks all the boxes of being a princess.
Let’s review the evidence:
•Huge gown made of silk, taffeta or organza – check;
•Crown or tiara laden with precious jewels - the diamonds could be real, crystal or cubic zirconium to suit any budget;
•Prince Charming – fingers crossed he stays that way after you tie the knot;
•The adoration of your loyal subjects – well...family and friends;
•Living happily ever after – fingers crossed on your other hand;
There is only one person who is responsible for this Princess epidemic that runs rife amongst the female population of the world – Walt Disney.
Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty were only happy when they wed their prince.
Girls everywhere sigh in delight at their fantastic gowns and diamond encrusted tiaras that glint in the fairytale sunlight leading the way to their happy ever after.
Unfortunately we don’t know if their ‘ever after’ was even happy.
Maybe poor Cinderella married the prince who kept her in worse servitude than her evil stepmother ever did by making her scrub the palace from top to bottom on her hands and knees single-handed.
Maybe she toiled so hard that her feet became too swollen to fit into the glass slippers ever again.
Maybe Sleeping Beauty, refreshed after years of sleep, developed an addiction to sleeping pills in an attempt to escape from her dull husband who droned on and on about his dragon slaying adventures.
The truth of the matter is that I don’t really care about the happy ever after; all I’m interested in is the dress and the Princess Day.
I know that I am not alone in this.
In fact, it’s only a matter of time before wedding related TV programmes take over the Ghanaian networks as they have done in the UK.
Don’t Tell the Bride, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and Four Weddings are staples of the UK television schedule.
This programme displays an integral part of the British psyche known as keeping up with the Joneses.
Only in this new millennium, keeping up with them just isn’t enough; those pesky Joneses need to be well and truly shown who is on top.
According to The Guardian newspaper the average cost of a UK wedding is £21,000 (about Gh¢52,000).
Now bear in mind that I said average.
One of my university colleagues of Nigerian origin tied the knot in London a couple of years ago and judging by the day it must have cost over £100,000.
Surely if the couple has the time, the desire and most importantly the money to hold such a spectacular wedding, then why shouldn’t they splash the cash?
After all the dress, the groom’s suit, the car, the church, the reception venue, the flowers, the bouquet, the bridesmaid’s dresses and shoes, the confetti, the wedding favours, the meal paid for per head, the champagne, the cake, the DJ, the band, the photographer, the videographer and the driver all need to be paid for.
Let’s not even factor in the honeymoon!
In fact it is becoming increasingly popular for British couples to request donations to their honeymoon pot rather than appliances and decorations for their new marital home.
The European tradition of the bride’s family footing the bill for the entire wedding is diminishing in these modern times where women marry at a later age (on average at age 30) and have built up careers and savings so that they and their husbands can pool their respective financial resources to afford the wedding of their dreams.
The problem comes when people go into debt merely to fund their dream of being treated like royalty.
A survey by The Association of Business Recovery Professionals published this week states that the typical newly married couple takes on average 3 years to repay their wedding related debts.
Celebrities like David and Victoria ‘Posh Spice’ Beckham also have their role to play in the extravagant weddings that have become the norm in the UK.
Their wedding photographs showed the couple sitting on plush thrones.
Pictures of excessive celebrity and society weddings are in magazines and newspapers on a weekly basis, so why shouldn’t a normal person want a similar wedding?
The cost should be enough to deter most people but the ‘ because I’m worth it culture’ that is so endemic in the West is slowly creeping its way down the Greenwich Mean Time Line to Ghana.
I was perusing the Ghanaian weekend newspapers on my recent visit and chanced upon the wedding section where I was greeted by the happy sight of five pairs of newlyweds.
Only one couple was wearing traditional Ghanaian outfits; surely this proves my point?
I watched the Royal wedding in Ghana with four male relatives.
I warned them that their future fiancées may decide that they would like a similar wedding albeit on a more modest scale.
Three of them stated that they would absolutely refuse and even call off the engagement, but one agreed that he would comply because he would do anything to give his intended the day of her dreams.
The Royal wedding brought out mixed emotions in people just like all weddings – a family loses their daughter or son, but gains an in-law and extended family.
While watching Catherine Middleton walk up the aisle on the arm of her father and then walk back down on the arm of Prince William, I know that young girls everywhere thought ‘I want that to be me when I grow up’, while older women wistfully sighed ‘it should have been me’.
It comes down to this, every woman has a right to her Princess Day but only a few people have the financial means of a princess to spend such a sum on one single day.
Ladies, if your wedding costs ¢100,000, ¢10,000 or even ¢10, put your commoner’s clothes away for one day to reach for that beautiful white gown and revel in your very own Princess Day.
Adwoa Oforiwaa a Ghanaian - born British Journalist residing in London.