March 28, 2011 / 11:09 PM / in 6 years

UK palace staff lift lid on wedding preparations

<p>Mounted Guardsmen ride past Buckingham Palace during the Changing the Guard ceremony, in London March 11, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett</p>

LONDON (Reuters) - Staff at Buckingham Palace have lifted the lid on preparations for Prince William’s wedding next month, giving an insight into what guests can expect and the amount of work needed to make it a success.

From cooks and hospitality planners to cloakroom attendants, employees at Queen Elizabeth’s London residence are finalizing plans for the reception which will follow William’s marriage to girlfriend Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29.

“For a lot of people it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Mark Flanagan, the queen’s head chef.

Flanagan, who has worked with some of the world’s top chefs such as Raymond Blanc, and his 21-strong team will be responsible for preparing dishes for the 600 guests invited to the reception.

While he declined to say what canapes and dishes he would be serving up, 43-year-old Flanagan said it would show off the “best of British produce.”

The kitchen staff usually create on average 550 meals a day for the most junior staff to the queen herself, with much of the produce sourced from the monarch’s estates around Britain.

Edward Griffiths, the Deputy Master of the Household who is responsible for hospitality, catering and housekeeping at the palace, said he had been working on plans since the couple announced their engagement last November.

“It’s a very joyous occasion and preparations are going very well,” he said.

The palace handles receptions, lunches, dinners, and parties for some 50,000 people a year and Griffiths said the 60 staff on duty on April 29 would be well-drilled in their duties, which would range from serving food to opening car doors.

“Like all receptions, people will be given a drink and served food (from trays) from the moment they arrive and at the reception we will serve champagne, wine and soft drinks.”

While the guests -- royalty, family, friends and dignitaries -- tuck into the food and drink, they will be able to enjoy the surroundings of one of the most opulent buildings in the world, said Jennifer Scott, assistant curator of paintings at the Royal Collection.

“The 19 state rooms, which are used during state functions, drip with opulence. They really are intended to make people think ‘wow, this is an incredible palace’,” she said.

The focus of the reception will be in the palace’s picture gallery where the wedding cake is likely to be on display surrounded by paintings by the likes of Canaletto, Rembrandt and Rubens which the British monarchy has collected over centuries.

“Whenever we have a special event at Buckingham Palace, we make sure that the greatest artworks are on display,” said Scott. “When you get an idea of (the) special quality of this place, it’s magical, it really oozes history.”

Additional reporting by Stefano Ambrogi, editing by Mike Collett-White and Paul Casciato

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