If the upcoming Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle on Saturday, May 19, doesn’t strike you as a drinking-heavy holiday, perhaps you’re unfamiliar with Great Britain.
The United Kingdom, home to more than 50,000 pubs, has a penchant for drink, ranking 12th out of 185 nations by total alcohol consumption per capita, according to the World Bank. And the royal wedding is as good an occasion as any to raise a glass — or two, or three.
The U.K. Parliament recognized as much earlier this month when it essentially paved the way for a royal wedding toast of epic proportions. It approved extended hours for pubs for the Royal Wedding. Public houses, a bastion of British social life, will be allowed to stay open two extra hours — until 1 a.m. rather than the typical 11 p.m. — on the Friday and Saturday of the royal wedding weekend. The government’s rationale? It “considers the Royal Wedding an event of national significance and wishes for everyone to be able to celebrate fully.”
Those extra hours are expected to jolt the industry, with the British Beer & Pub Association predicting that the royal weekend will rack up £20 million — roughly $27 million — in additional sales, with a 5% bump in beer sold and an 8% increase in food for a roughly 6% bump overall. On the average weekend, British pubs take in £350 million in sales.
The last time Parliament extended pub hours was for the World Cup in 2014. Before that, it was for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
For Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton in 2011, Parliament granted extra pub hours, which corresponded with the same size sales increase the Beer & Pub Association is expecting this coming weekend: a 5% uptick in beer sales and an 8% increase in food sales.
A combined four extra pub hours may seem insignificant to a nation that buys 26.9 million barrels of beer per year, but drinking establishments in Britain will take any help they can get. They’ve suffered of late with the 50,300 pubs in operation in 2016 marking a 14% drop from a decade earlier. The decline has been attributed to a number of reasons — taxes on beer, a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces (including pubs) that went into effect in 2007, the higher price of food and drink, and the 2008 recession.
Another factor may be a shift in how beer is consumed. Amid the reduction in pubs, there’s been a surge in beer sold in grocery stores. In 2015, volume of “off-trade” or supermarket beer sales surpassed the volume of “on-trade” beer sold in pubs, clubs, and restaurant for the first time.
Those looking to toast Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding at home have their choice of beers specially brewed to honor the occasion. CraftedCans.com is selling a limited edition royal wedding-themed IPA called “Markle & Spencer” (Spencer is a reference to Prince Harry’s maternal lineage).
Then there’s the “Harry & Meghan’s Windsor Knot” beer from the Windsor & Eton brewery located near Windsor Castle, where the couple will marry on Saturday.