LONDON — Prince William and Kate Middleton were sitting down with advisers Wednesday to begin planning the royal wedding that some Britons have waited years to see — as the media settled in for months of juicy speculation.
The second in line to the throne and his long-term girlfriend will marry next spring or summer, but they haven't announced a date or a venue.
All bets in Britain are for a July wedding, and bookies have stopped taking bets on any date that month after hints from the palace that it was one of the strongest possibilities, Britain's Daily Mail newspaper reported.
The paper also reported that royal aides have made "discreet overtures" to senior staff at Westminster Abbey about several dates in August.
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Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's Cathedral, where William's parents Prince Charles and Princess Diana married in 1981, are considered the front-runners.
A spokesman said the couple would be closely involved in organizing all the details of the event.
"It's very much their day like any other couple, and they will make the decisions all the way through — they want the day to be enjoyable for everybody," he said, speaking anonymously in line with palace policy.
The spokesman for William's office said "the couple are mindful of the current economic situation." He stressed the wedding would not be a state occasion — unlike the wedding for Charles and Diana — because William is not the sovereign or the heir to the throne.
"However, given his seniority, you can expect formal or ceremonial elements," he said.
Video: The story of Princess Di’s sapphire ring (on this page) Palace officials said only that the wedding would be held in London. It was too early to estimate its cost.
Funds will likely come out of the Civil List — money provided by Parliament to meet official royal expenses, the queen's household allowance, or drawn from her personal wealth. That is, unless Parliament votes to give the royal couple extra money for the wedding.
Taxpayers will, at the least, have to pay for security, which will require large numbers of police.
It's all about the dress
The biggest fashion decision Middleton faces will be her wedding dress.
Deborah Joseph, editor of Brides Magazine, said Middleton will face substantial pressure to choose an English designer. Hilary Alexander, fashion director of The Telegraph newspaper, said she expects the princess-to-be to come up with a surprising choice for a wedding dress.
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Joseph said Middleton's decision could define bridal wear for the next decade, much as Diana's choice in 1981 became the most-copied wedding dress in history.
One easy bet, however: Middleton is likely to use much softer fabric, like tulle or organza, than the stiff taffeta Diana used.
Tuesday's long-anticipated announcement by the couple was a gift for the British media and government, weary of economic uncertainty and austerity.
'The New Romantics'
As commentators dredged up memories of the dazzling nuptials of Charles and Diana, newspapers splashed pictures of Kate and William across their front pages. "The New Romantics," said The Times of London.
"They are a normal couple, they are the kind of couple you would see in a restaurant," Middleton's friend Jessica Hay told NBC's TODAY. "They adore each other, respect each other beyond belief. They suit each other, and both mesh well together."
And while the comparisons to William's mother are unavoidable, the public is hopeful that this love story will have a happy ending.
"The Charles and Diana years were crazy and William has a clearer, better view of that than anyone else," Tom Bradby, the journalist who interviewed the newly engaged pair, told TODAY. "He doesn’t want to repeat that. I would eat my hand if they got divorced... He wants to be like his grandparents, to be there through thick and thin, and they know that divorce is not an option."
Prime Minister David Cameron said the wedding would be a "great moment for national celebration" that would unite Britain.
Interactive: A history of British royal weddings (on this page) Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, said they were "absolutely delighted for them both," Buckingham Palace said. Prince Charles said he was "thrilled."
Prince Harry said he was "delighted that my brother has popped the question!" — and added that Kate was the sister he had always wanted.
"We're massively excited," William said in a televised interview that marked the first time the couple has spoken publicly about the tribulations of their love affair, which dates eight years back to their days as university students. "We're looking forward to spending the rest of our lives together."
Slideshow: A royal couple’s long courtship (on this page) William said he had given Kate his mother's sapphire and diamond engagement ring as a way of making Diana part of his special day.
"I thought it was quite nice because obviously she's not going to be around to share any of the fun and excitement of it all. This was my way of keeping her close to it all," William said.
William, wary of a media he holds partly responsible for his mother's death in a Paris car crash in 1997, said he had taken his time in proposing to give Kate a sense of what life in the royal family was like.
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Middleton acknowledged that being in the royal family was "a daunting prospect."
The interview reminded many of a similar TV appearance by Charles and Diana shortly after they became engaged. At that time, Diana seemed frightened of the limelight and withdrawn; by contrast, Middleton seemed at ease in front of the cameras. She said she wished she had met Diana.
"I would love to have met her. She's an inspirational woman," Middleton said as William looked on.
The future of the royal family depends to no small degree on the success of their union.
The royal wedding represents a chance for the Windsors to start anew. Middleton brings youth and glamour to a monarchy tarnished by divorce and scandal. The marriage will link Middleton — a wealthy commoner whose parents, self-made millionaires, founded a successful mail-order party supply business after working in the airline industry — with William, scion of one of the richest families in the world.
A strong, stable marriage — one that lasts decades and produces heirs — could go a long way toward undoing the damage from the ugly squabbling and televised confessions of adultery that marred the final years of Charles and Diana's tortured marriage.
"This is their chance to rejuvenate the dynasty," said Patrick Jephson, former private secretary to Diana. "This is an opportunity for a welcome national celebration."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.