THIS Is Why Will & Kate's Wedding Was Such A Big Deal

Photo: Tom Hevezi/AP Photo.
Five years ago, the most traditional and celebratory display of matrimony of our modern age had us entranced. The royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was watched by many millions around the globe. (While there is lots of data for individual platforms and countries, the worldwide tallies vary widely between 300 million and an astonishing two billion.) No matter how many zeros are tacked on to ratings numbers, the event was a phenomenon.

And now, we're celebrating Will and Kate's fifth year anniversary — and taking a look at the particular combination of cultural forces that made the 2011 royal wedding the highest-rated fairy-tale wedding of our time. Here's what we found.
1 of 7
Photo: Jenny Goodall / Daily Mail /REX/Shutterstock.
Royal Weddings Are Fucking Fabulous Affairs

From the cake and flowers to the venue and guest-list (hey Posh and David Beckham), Will and Kate's wedding was an opulent event. The bride rolled up to the vaulted halls of Westminster Abbey in a Rolls Royce Phantom VI, while the groom fancied a 20-ft Bentley. She walked a 300-ft red carpet in a custom Alexander McQueen with an 8-ft, 8-in train that reportedly cost $400,000. In addition to the fabulous florals, the Abbey was decorated with eight 20-ft high trees. After the ceremony, select guests enjoyed an $80,000 cake.

Overall, the day is estimated to have cost around $16,000,000, with groom and brides' families bearing the brunt of the cost — much to the relief of English taxpayers (though they likely footed the $5,000,000 security bill).
2 of 7
Photo: British Sky Broadcasting Ltd/REX/Shutterstock.
British Royalmania Is Alive & Well

Let's get the obvious out of the way: British people are obsessed with the Royal family in ways that we Americans will never understand. And since it was the first royal wedding in 30 years (the last being Charles and Diana's in 1981), Brits were chomping at the bit for an opportunity to patriotically celebrate their first family.

The wedding day was designated an official bank holiday in the U.K. Over 5,000 street parties were held, while one million people lined the carriage route in London. Roughly, 34 million Brits (over half the population) tuned in to the coverage at some point. As Prime Minister David Cameron put it, "We're quite a reserved lot, the British. But when we go for it, we really go for it."
3 of 7
America Totally Wishes It Had Royalty

Hold up — even though we bucked the monarchy centuries ago, the U.S. came down with a serious case of royal fever in 2011. Around 23 million Americans tuned in to the wedding, putting us right behind the Brits. And 14 TV channels broadcast the nuptials, which were perfectly timed with the early morning news, when female viewership is the highest. The Today Show even ran a "countdown to the kiss" clock.

As NPR's Eric Deggans observed, "[Americans] have a 200-plus-year tradition of resisting monarchies and the sense of inborn entitlement they represent. Yet, we secretly dream of royal-level luxury and prestige, happy to watch it on display in a country where we're not footing the bill."
4 of 7
Photo: Willi Schneider/REX/Shutterstock.
Kate Was A Nontraditional, Modern Bride

A 29-year-old single woman may be totally commonplace for your average American — but for a British royal, that's spinster status. Kate was the oldest first-time bride of a future king in the history of the Crown, and nine years older than Diana was when wed Charles. And while the Middleton family has done quite well for themselves, Kate is also the first commoner to marry a prince so high up in the line to the throne since a scandalous midnight elopement in 1660.

Her wedding day look was just as unconventional — the bride actually did her own makeup (gasp!) and wore a custom Alexander McQueen that was copied the world over (and still causing a stir five years later).

5 of 7
YouTube Let The World Watch

The Monarchy decided to livestream the entire event via The Royal Channel on YouTube, so that anyone in the world with internet access could watch the affair. Wise move, Crown. According to Google (which owns YouTube), there were 72 million livestreams in 188 countries. Additional streaming later in the day brought the total to a staggering 100 million. Apparently, at the of moment the 10-second Royal kiss, traffic surged by 100,000 streams.
6 of 7
Photo: Via Twitpic.
People Went Batshit On Social Media

The Royal Wedding had all the trappings of a viral event, and social media did not fail to deliver. People logged on Twitter and Facebook to react to the broadcast, while the few lucky attendees fulfilled their patriotic duty to share the experience live. Even Clarence House, the Prince of Wales' official residence, formally live-documented the affair on Twitter. Twitter calculated that users were posting over 300 tweets per second about the wedding during the vows. Trending hashtags including #rw2011 and #proudtobebritish dominated the Twittersphere.

Meanwhile, Facebook calculated that 2.8 million people in Britain and America had status updates about the royal wedding in the 24 hours preceding the service. And some lone genius created an instantly popular Facebook page dedicated to "Princess Beatrice's Ridiculous Royal Wedding Hat."
7 of 7
Photo: Back Page Images/REX/Shutterstock.
We All Love A Good Romance

At the end of the day, one simple reason trumps the rest. Such a singular, magnificent public show of love is a rare occasion, and one the whole world can connect with — and tune in to. As lavish as the event was, the lure at its core was simple: A storybook romance in the 21st century.