Express & Star

Let's get this Royal Wedding party started

Royal Wedding fever was sweeping the West Midlands today with 24 hours to go until the historic spectacle.


Royal Wedding fever was sweeping the West Midlands today with 24 hours to go until the historic spectacle.

From pubs supplying special ales to parties in schools and a church giving people the chance to renew their vows tonight, people across the region are getting in the swing of the momentous occasion.

Click on the image on the right to see more pictures.

Final preparations were under way in London and the couple last night held a wedding rehearsal at Westminster Abbey with best man Prince Harry and the Middleton family.

After months of painstaking planning, senior clergy members walked the group through everything to ensure tomorrow's ceremony is executed perfectly.

Tonight, the 28-year-old Prince will enjoy his last hours as a single man with the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry at Clarence House, their official London home.

Less than a minute's drive away, Miss Middleton will be with her family at the exclusive Goring hotel in Belgravia, where the Middletons arrived yesterday.

Coaches and trains carrying Royal watchers determined to get a good vantage point were heading down from the West Midlands.

A coach organised by Star Extra Travel, the Express & Star's travel department and Diamond Holidays, left Wolverhampton's Faulkland Street coach station at 9.15am for a three-day excursion which will end with a trip to Windsor on Saturday.

Peter Benford, aged 79, and his wife Sandra, from Shifnal, were among the passengers.

Mrs Benford, aged 68, said: "We live 100 miles from London and we've never been to anything really big. You get to a time in life when you just think, 'I want to be part of something like this'.

"We'll hopefully be in the Mall and we're hoping to get as close to Westminster Abbey as we can."

Tracey Sellman, 49, from Long Knowle, Wednesfield, was taking her 11-year-old daughter Rebecca to London.

"My daughter has been allowed out of school because it's a once in a lifetime chance to see the future King of England getting married," she said.

Day trippers Margaret Thomas, 69, from Kingswinford, Joan Dodson, 59, from Wordsley, Margaret Sefton, 78, from Amblecote and Janet Lanchbury, 75, and Runa Price, 74, both from Wollaston, travelled to the capital yesterday to watch the last minute preparations in full swing along the Royal Wedding route but were coming home to watch the wedding on TV.

Janet said: "We are very excited. We have come up to soak up the atmosphere and we are absolutely loving it and having a great time."

The big day has prompted people to enjoy a little nostalgia as they remember their own special occasions.

Wedding dresses and marriage memorabilia were on display at St Andrew's Church in Shifnal as part of a festival.

One of the gowns included in the exhibition was once worn by Doris Gadd, 70, when she married husband Howard, 74, on October 16, 1965. Mrs Gadd, who lives in Silvermere Park and also helped organise the wedding festival, said: "We are hoping for lots of visitors to the church over the coming days. There is a wonderful display of dresses and people will enjoy themselves if they come along."

Tonight, couples are invited to renew their vows at the church at 7.30pm.

The wedding extravaganza takes a break tomorrow for the big day, and continues on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Reverend Chris Thorpe added: "I very much wanted the church to be involved in the Royal Wedding, it's a big event in the life of the country and the marriage of the future King. We wanted something to coincide with such a positive thing."

There will be royal wedding beers and bunting at pubs in the Black Country which are expected to be packed out with people toasting the happy couple.

The Jolly Collier on Junction Street, Oldbury, is holding a Royal Wedding beer festival with a host of aptly named ales for the occasion.

Landlady Wendy Yale, 51, said customers will be able to toast the happy couple with beers sourced from Black Country breweries, designed and named specially for the occasion. They include beers called English Pride, Royal Flush, May Queen and Royal Spice.

She said: "It will be a real family fun event. The beer garden will be open and it has a zip wire for the children. We will be opening from 11am and the wedding will be screened in the pub. We are going to be open all weekend, or until the beer runs out."

Ales with names including Kiss Me Kate and Windsor Knot are ready to flow at a four-day royal beer festival in the Plough Inn, Bridgnorth Road, Stourbridge.

A large screen has been set up to show the Royal Wedding in a marquee in the beer garden tomorrow. Licensee Andrew Smith has lined up eight different barrels of real ales for visitors to sample and other attractions will include craft stalls and a stand selling royal-themed cakes.

Children at a primary school in Walsall were transformed into princes and princesses for the day as they celebrated the Royal Wedding. St Michael's C of E Primary in Pelsall marked the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in style.

Pupils, staff and parents made food and eye-catching decorations ahead of a huge party taking place today.

Cheslyn Hay Primary School put on its own Royal Wedding. Youngsters Luke Bayley and Neve Osborne, both aged five, played the bride and groom in a wedding ceremony at St Mark's Church in Great Wyrley while others took the roles of bridesmaids, best man and parents.

As well as being a celebration of the Royal Wedding, the event was also organised to teach the children about marriage.

Not to be outdone by the youngsters dozens of pensioners were preparing to get together in a joint celebration of the Royal Wedding and St George's Day in Walsall.

About 60 members of the Coalpool Methodist Church congregation and their families will be heading to the church hall in Coalpool Lane on Saturday.

There will be a fish and chip supper, sweets, coffee and a performance from stand-up Black Country comedian John Andrews at the hall — lavishly decorated in red, white and blue — from about 7pm.

The Parkfields Over 50s Club put on a street-party style event to raise a glass to Prince William and Kate Middleton ahead of tomorrow's big day.

A total of 54 people sat down to play bingo and wave their Union flags at St Martin's Church Hall in Dixon Street yesterday.

The Stourbridge branch of Soroptimist International held a pretend Royal Wedding yesterday to raise money for The Edward's Trust, and a tea dance took place at Richardson Hall in Wordsley on Tuesday, with guests all decked out in red, white and blue.

A pub in Great Barr is offering people a free meal to celebrate the wedding if they can prove their dedication to the royals.

The Malt Shovel, in Great Barr, was offering free food to anyone who brings a commemorative plate from a previous Royal Wedding to the pub today. Wedding plates being accepted by the pub include Prince Edward's marriage to Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999 and Prince Charles's wedding to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

There will be a party in the beer garden of the Bell and Bear in Gorsty Hill Road, Rowley Regis, from 1pm tomorrow and a fun day at Church Hill Social Club in St Mary's Road, Wednesbury from 10.30am.

Children who are spending tomorrow in Birmingham Children's Hospital will get the chance to join in the Royal Wedding celebrations, thanks to street party being laid on by staff and volunteers.

Youngsters from across the hospital will be invited to watch the royal occasion on a big screen TV in the hospital's conservatory — after which a street party will be laid on with activities stretching into the afternoon.

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