Local companies seek royal wedding fans

 

By Hannah Sampson | hsampson@miamiherald.com

No formal invitation to the royal wedding? No problem.

With fancy invites, themed deals and life-sized cutouts, South Florida businesses are looking to cash in on Anglophiles and British expats who want to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on this side of the pond.

Fans of the royal nuptials can choose from princess-themed spa packages (champagne and butler service included), a high tea etiquette class, a “royal wedding” aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship or live viewing parties featuring English breakfasts and oversized hats.

When the wedding ceremony at London’s Westminster Abbey begins at 11 a.m. Friday — that’s 6 a.m. Miami time — John Clarke and Martin Lynch will be ready to serve a traditional English breakfast at JohnMartin’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, which will be decked out in Union Jacks.

“My grandfather might turn in his grave,” joked Lynch, who is Irish.

Taking the theme to extremes, the pub has hired a Queen Elizabeth II lookalike, ordered life-sized cutouts of William, Kate and a palace guard and brought souvenirs back from the UK to give patrons with the best wedding guest costumes.

University of Miami marketing professor Arun Sharma said such wedding watch parties will likely draw those who have an interest in the British royal family — but few others, considering the early hour. The built-in audience is sizeable: Florida is home to some 400,000 United Kingdom nationals and hosts more than a million British tourists a year, according to the British Consulate-General in Miami.Still, Sharma said, pitching wedding-themed hotel offers and “pampering fit for a princess” could be a savvy business strategy even if those packages don’t bring in huge revenues because they get plenty of attention.

“The sharper marketing folks at these places are the first ones out of the gate with these products and services,” Sharma said.

That explains the $149 “Royal Rub Down Package” at the spa at the Newport Beachside Hotel in Sunny Isles Beach; the $2,904 royal wedding package on Royal Caribbean ships and the $100 viewing and high tea etiquette party at Veronica’s Dollhouse in South Miami.

Using the date as a guide, Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles Beach created a $429 “royal treatment” spa package as well as a $429 room rate on the night of the wedding for those who book the spa offer. The hotel often has guests from Europe — including one from England who is staying there during the wedding.

“I’m sure they wanted to get away because London is probably going to be a little hectic,” said general manager SaseGjorsovski.

Norwegian Cruise Line will show the wedding live on all of its ships but Norwegian Sky (which doesn’t have BBC World News) will hold a Prince and Princess Brunch for $15 a head and a $10 Royal High Tea. The ceremony will be followed by a British street party set to Beatles tribute music.

The National Hotel in South Beach is promoting a “royal treatment” giveaway on its Facebook fan page, which includes a two-night stay. The winner will be announced at the hotel’s $24 breakfast and viewing party on Friday, where the guest “in the best Kate Middleton hat” wins a free kir royale cocktail.

“With all the dire news in the world, it’s nice to be able to share a little bit of happiness and enjoy this fairy tale wedding,” said Florent Gateau, the hotel’s consulting managing director. He added: “We all need a little royalty in our life.”

According to the British culture secretary, about two billion people agree with Gateau. That’s the number of wedding viewers expected worldwide. More than 750 million people are believed to have watched the wedding of Prince William’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, in another early-morning ceremony in 1981.

Deborah Cohen, who teaches British history at Northwestern University, said there is less general interest in this wedding than the last. But the media landscape has exploded, with supermarket tabloids, hours of cable coverage and iPhone apps devoted to the wedding.

“They were the first celebrities,” Cohen said. “Even before there were movie stars, there was royalty. They still retain that glamour. They are like the ultimate reality TV show.”

Pinecrest resident Nancy Stein has been fascinated by the royals since she stumbled upon the wedding of Charles and Diana.

“All the world was watching it,” she said. “It just seemed so ridiculous.”

Thirty years after that accidental viewing, Stein is more prepared: She will host eight or nine friends before work for a light breakfast. English tea and scones will be served. Plus coffee, this being America.

“I’m another generation now,” Stein said. “But I think it’s amazing. Everyone’s going to watch it. In light of everything that goes on in the world, that billions of people are going to watch it, it’s amazing.”

“I don’t quite get it,” she added. “But I’m right there with them.”

Events

A sampling of royal wedding events:

• National Hotel, 1677 Collins Ave., Miami Beach: Breakfast and live viewing party at the Blues Bar from 6-11 a.m. $24. Big hats encouraged. 305-532-2311.

• JohnMartin’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, 253 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables: Breakfast and live viewing party with costume contest starting at 5:45 a.m. and a rebroadcast at lunch. 305-445-3777.

• Kingshead Pub, 2692 N. University Dr., Sunrise: Breakfast and live viewing party starting at 5:30 a.m. featuring scones, tea and “the same cake recipe as the Royal Wedding Cake.” Reservations encouraged. 954-572-5933.

• Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables: English tea and viewing of post-nuptial events from 1-3 p.m. $30. 305-445-1926.

• Veronica’s Dollhouse, 7221 SW 57th Ct., South Miami: Viewing and high tea etiquette party from 6-9 p.m. $100 per person. 305-662-2966.

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