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British royal wedding: Take a break from breaking news

Watch William marry Kate with GlobalPost's Michael Goldfarb, who takes these things with a grain of salt.

(Full coverage of the British royal wedding here.)

4:55 AM

The great day has arrived, although the bride and groom have yet to make an appearance. Since 8:15 a.m. local time, Westminster Abbey has been slowly filling up with the 1,900 people who have been invited to attend the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The ordinary guests — people like the Beckhams and Sir Elton John and a mass of people whose physiognomies display generations of good breeding — were the first to arrive. The more professional guests will be arriving any minute. Here is a quick rundown down of the news so far:

First of all, the weather: Paradigm English. Not great, but not as bad as had been predicted. Slate gray sky, cool but dry.

Big news of the morning so far: the new titles. Royal weddings mean you get a new title from the Queen. Prince William is now the Duke of Cambridge and Catherine (no more Kate) Middleton is Duchess of Cambridge. However she has not yet been given the title of Princess. Don't ask me why, very few of us are privy to the arcana of royal titling.

There is a hint of an answer to the question of the day: the DRESS. Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen, is reported to have been seen dashing into the Goring Hotel where the Duchess of Cambridge is staying before heading for the Abbey to tie the knot.

So far everything is going according to plan, as it has for several weeks. All the traditions of Big Royal Occasions have been observed starting with the rules of journalism going out the window. First, numbers in the billions get thrown around without any way to verify them. Two billion people will be watching — how can anyone know? The event is costing the British economy 6.9 billion pounds (more than $10 billion), and amount that is up about 5 billion in the last two weeks from initial estimates reported in the Daily Telegraph. Again, how can anyone know?

Second, sources: I've covered royal weddings, divorces and deaths and believe me there are virtually no sources for most stories. A handful of "royal observers" get spoonfed unattributable gossip that somehow leaks out to a handful of reporters, mostly at Britain's tabloids, and thus a narrative is constructed that other journalists with deadlines to meet quote without independently checking things out.

Finally, there is the continual use of the cliche that Britain is good at this sort of pomp and circumstance thing. "We do these things very well," Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated the cliche on Sky News this morning. Although this is one cliche that has an element of truth in it. They really are good at it — although it would be nice if they could apply the same kind of organizational precision to running London's transport system.

Another tradition being observed is there has to be controversy. This time around there are two and they have real news value. The complete diplomatic corps was invited to the event. But yesterday, Foreign Secretary William Hague withdrew the invitation of Syria's ambassador, Dr. Sami Khiyami. The Foreign Office issued a statement that said, "In the light of this week's attacks against civilians by the Syrian security forces … the Foreign Secretary has decided that the presence of the Syrian ambassador at the royal wedding would be unacceptable and that he should not attend."

The other controversy is more important and demonstrates to the outside world just how political this allegedly apolitical, ceremonial monarchy actually is. While all three living Conservative prime ministers were invited to the event, neither of Labour's living prime ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, were.

For security reasons, the guest list wasn't made available until a few days ago so there was no time for the snub to get legs as a news story. But the various excuses for the two men not being invited, they aren't Knights of the Garter (don't laugh, this stuff counts for something here), or that the marriage isn't a state occasion, it's a family event, don't wash. Not when there are 1,900 people in the Abbey. Not when the Queen met with each man once a week