Royal Wedding: Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall

When Zara Phillips, Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter, marries Mike Tindall in Edinburgh on Saturday, the ceremony will be—by royal standards—a modest affair.

The queen will be sitting at the front, and there will be plenty of royals elsewhere in the church. One of the happy pair at the altar will have royal blood in her veins; the other comes from middle-class stock. Wedding guests will gather afterward at a nearby royal palace, and there’ll be police marksmen in place to cover the event.

But that’s where the similarities to this year’s big royal wedding end. Forget the media hoo-ha that surrounded the nuptials of William and Kate. When the queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips marries her longstanding boyfriend, Mike Tindall, in Edinburgh on Saturday, the occasion will be as private and low-key as any part-royal couple can reasonably expect.

There’ll be no gaping worldwide television audience of billions, no foreign dignitaries invited for reasons of protocol, no swooning crowds outside. Instead, there’ll be just 300 friends and family at the 17th Canongate Kirk in the ancient center of Edinburgh, the queen’s usual place of worship when she’s in the city.

Her fiancé is a 32-year-old star player on England’s Rugby World Cup team who has broken his nose eight times on the rugby pitch and is nicknamed Fridge for his bulk. His father is a former bank official now employed as a finance officer in a prison. His mother is a social worker.

Sure, the couple hasn’t forsworn all the advantages that go with royalty. The pre-wedding party for 150 guests was held on the royal yacht Britannia, decommissioned in 1997 and now a tourist attraction moored in Leith, the port of Edinburgh. The reception will be held at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the queen’s official residence in Scotland.

If their backgrounds are very different, the pair are united by sport. Together for eight years, they met for the first time in a bar in Sydney, Australia, during the 2003 Rugby World Cup tournament. There’ll be no honeymoon after the wedding because Tindall is training for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and Phillips will be competing in the Gatcombe Park international horse trials next month.

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