How 'intimate' can a royal wedding be?

Prince William and Kate Middleton Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The couple, who live a quiet life in Wales, will have to adjust to a more public profile

With a guest list of nearly 2,000 and a predicted worldwide audience of billions, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton would seem to be anything but private, however much the couple themselves would like it to be. But as royalty - or soon-to-be royalty in Miss Middleton's case - it is an unavoidable reality.

At first glance it appears to be an odd word to be using about an occasion which has attracted so much attention at home and around the world. But, apparently the watchword in Palace corridors these past few months, as officials have prepared for the day, has been "intimacy".

How do you achieve that when Mr Wales from London and Anglesey will one day, as things stand, be this country's king? The choice of church helps.

Westminster Abbey, despite its grandeur and history, shouldn't feel too daunting when the couple are up at the High Altar and obscured from view by some in the congregation, who will have to rely on TV screens to watch the proceedings.

As the seating plan reveals, Prince William and Kate Middleton have also ensured that those closest to them are their families and friends. Back in 1981, William's mother bemoaned the fact that when selecting her personal guests, she had to cross some names off her list. "It was", Diana told an interviewer, "quite difficult on my side".

Not for the first time, the prince - who's admitted he can be stubborn at times - has shown he's determined to learn from history and not repeat it.

Unfamiliar faces

But, like many couples getting married, they haven't had it all their own way. With the Windsors, as with other families, certain people come as a job lot. For the British monarchy, it's the representatives of other monarchies - even if they've long since been "de-throned" in the lands where they were born and where they once reigned.

So, 44 foreign royals will be seated close to 51 members of the Queen's extended family.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The world's media is in town for the royal nuptials

There'll be relief in royal circles that the Crown Prince of Bahrain has pulled out, but the King of Swaziland (who recently clamped down on pro-democracy protests in his country) is still due to take a pew.

Now that the guest list is sorted - and the exclusion of two former Labour prime ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown has provoked some mutterings - will we ever know if these words uttered by a senior royal official a few months ago stand true for this occasion?

"There are certain people at your wedding," he informed reporters, "whom you are very happy to see, but who aren't necessarily at the top of your list."

Of course, all this talk of intimacy and achieving the couple's wishes is only one aspect of the day. With William Arthur Philip Louis, the personal and the professional sit side by side, not always comfortably.

Renewing the royal family

When William and Kate formalise their union before God and the watching world, they will be making a personal commitment to each other.

The hope will be that their relationship, unlike others in recent royal history, will survive and endure. They will also be renewing the ancient family Kate Middleton is about to enter.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption After nearly 60 years as monarch, the Queen is still popular with the public

The royals survive on being noticed. They would wither if ignored. So, marriages are important moments for them. They re-invigorate a centuries-old institution; they generate fresh interest in its activities; and they offer the promise of another generation to come to sustain the House of Windsor.

Despite remarkable changes in attitudes since the Queen was crowned, polls show a majority of the population still favour the status quo.

With the wedding nearly upon us, there are many questions about the future which remain unanswered: what sort of charitable work will Kate, adorned with a post-marriage title, take on?

How will the couple cope with the demand for them to be more visible as the octogenarian monarch inevitably slows down? And what are the risks of the fresh-faced couple overshadowing the man who will be the next king, Charles?

The answers will emerge in the coming months and years. For now, the unremitting focus of the royal households is on the wedding.

Like those of some of his relatives, Prince William's marriage is taking place at a time of austerity. It won't be too extravagant - but it will be full of pomp and solemnity. This after all, is the marriage of a couple who represent the future of the British monarchy.