Town prepares for wedding of the year

By James MortlockA WEDDING labelled the society event of the decade will take place in the heart of a historic town today, bringing together two of Britain's richest dynasties.

By James Mortlock

A WEDDING labelled the society event of the decade will take place in the heart of a historic town today, bringing together two of Britain's richest dynasties.

St Mary's Church in Bury St Edmunds was getting a final sweep and polish yesterday ahead of the marriage of 23-year-old Ben Goldsmith - son of the late billionaire Sir James Goldsmith - and Kate Rothschild, an heir of one of Europe's most powerful banking families.

Excitement began to mount in the town as rumours circulated that Prince William and his father's consort - Camilla Parker Bowles - were on the guest list and would turn up for the wedding.

Other well-known names thought to be on the 600-strong guest list are Camilla's son, Tom Parker Bowles, Lord Jacob Rothschild, who enjoyed a friendship with Diana, Princess of Wales, and Lord Freddie Windsor, the son of Prince Michael of Kent.

After the traditional service, thought to be scheduled for 6pm and featuring the church's renowned choir, the wedding party will move on to Rushbrooke Hall - the 21-year-old bride's family home - for a lavish reception.

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Staff at the Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds were gearing up last night to welcome some of wedding guests - including former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan and his wife Jemima, the groom's sister.

Robert Gough, who refused to be drawn on exactly who was among the dozens of wedding guests who would be staying at the hotel, said: “I know we haven't got any royalty booked in by their real names, but I believe they often use bogus names, so who knows?

“We may well be entertaining royalty. As it is, we've been scouring Who's Who to make sure we're greeting all these people correctly.”

Mr Gough said Bury St Edmunds was a buzz with speculation and added: “It's very exciting for us and the town as a whole to have a society wedding like this.

“We've had them before - last year it was Claudia Schiffer and in the past we have had some big weddings at Ickworth House, but this is the biggest for a long while.

“It's very out-of-the-ordinary and we're very much looking forward to putting our best foot forward and showing Bury in its best light.”

The Rev John Hayden, the vicar at St Mary's, who will be officiating at the ceremony, said the couple were being treated no differently from another couple who will be married earlier in the afternoon at the church.

“Every wedding is important - we have never treated people differently because of their rank or status. They are all as important as each other in God's eyes,” he added.

“Obviously they have special arrangements with the police and for the Press and photographers, but they are no different to the couple being married at 1pm.

“We will be praying for both that they will have a long happy and loving relationship with each other.”

But Mr Hayden said the Goldsmith-Rothschild wedding would be a special day for him.

“It's not a run-of-the-mill service in that the wedding will use the old prayer book, which I have never actually used in 40 years of ministry,” he added.

“The service was written in this country in the 15th Century and it's the Book of Common Prayer service. I think they wanted something very traditional and it will be interesting because the language is very different.”

A Suffolk police spokeswoman said off-duty officers had been hired to provide the security for the wedding.

She was unable to reveal how many officers would be involved, but stressed routine policing in the county would not be affected.

“It's just like a football match. The officers involved are off-duty and are being paid privately,” added the spokeswoman.

No roads will be closed in Bury St Edmunds and traffic is not expected to be affected by the wedding.

Suffolk County Council staff have allowed AA signs to be put up directing guests from St Mary's Church to the reception in Rushbrooke.