In a world plagued by war, earthquakes, falling economies and soaring gas prices, tomorrow's nuptials of Prince William and Catherine Middleton offer a welcome bit of fizz -- and to the British royal family, just the tonic to help drag the fusty monarchy into the Twittering, Facebooking, live-streaming 21st century.
Here is a guide to the royal wedding and what to be looking for:
Get me to the church
With 1,900 guests awaiting, Kate arrives at Westminster Abbey at 11 a.m. (6 a.m. New York time) in a Rolls-Royce Phantom IV. But the day's big wheels belong to the horse-drawn State Landau Coach. The carriage that ferried newly wed Charles and Diana also will take William and Catherine back to Buckingham Palace. (For rain, the royal family's Glass Coach is polished.)
Though it's been around for a millennium, Westminster Abbey has hosted barely a dozen royal weddings, the last of them Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. The archbishop of Canterbury will officiate, and the Royal Chapel Boys' Choir will sing like angels. Root for the bride to be less tongue-twisted than Diana, who reversed the order of Charles' names in her vows.
The Beckhams are in. So are Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, the owner of Kate's favorite pub and William's Royal Air Force search-and-rescue squad. But far more delicious is the list of the notably-not-invited, including the Obamas (Michelle's not a hat person anyway), the Clintons (ditto Hillary), and, of course, Sarah Ferguson. Even if they deny it, don't believe they don't give a royal fig.
Forget frock fights! The wedding attendants are a gaggle of moppets -- among them, Camilla Parker Bowles' granddaughter -- too young and well-bred for diva fits. Hoping not to be upstaged by the rampant cuteness, maid of honor Pipa Middleton and best man Prince Harry.
Will Kate wear Sophie Cranston? Bruce Oldfield? Alexander McQueen? Will she design her own gown? The only thing that's certain is that we won't know for God-Save-The-Queen sure until the big white reveal at Westminster Abbey. Think red carpet fever on steroids, with sharp-penciled copyists at the ready.
All the trimmings
Though Kate's dress will have the tabloids raving and ripping for years, expect lots more intrigue, from her head (will she wear a tiara, like the "Cambridge Lovers Knot" that Elizabeth gave Diana?) to her toes (WWD says she'll wear hosiery by Aristoc, a Brit brand born with the slogan, "The Aristocrat of Silk Stockings").
Put a ring on it
While royal tradition holds that the bride's wedding band be fashioned from a nugget of Welsh gold, William will remain ring-less -- as if anyone won't know he's hitched.
The official reception, hosted by the queen, starts at 1:30 p.m., with 600 family, friends and heads-of-state nibbling on 10,000 canapes, everything from beetroot blinis to quail eggs. The real bash, though, is a p.m. soiree for 300. With Liz and Philip off to Windsor Castle, the palace will transformed into disco explosion, with a bar and a DJ who'll spin the music of Duran-Duran (for him) and ABBA (for her). For anyone left standing: Prince Harry's 6 a.m. post-nup breakfast.
Sweets for the sweets
Pastry chef Fiona Cairns turns out 1,000 wedding cakes each year, but none will compare to the couple's soaring brandy-laced fruitcake. More intriguing: the chocolate biscuit groom's cake, which Di's onetime chef Darren McGrady says combines sweets and sweet memories. "The Queen would request the cake . . . for Sunday tea when she knew her grandson William would be joining her from Eton."