Do you have William and Kate fever?
The condition has already afflicted tens of millions around the world. Come April 29, when England's Prince William marries his fiancé, Kate Middleton, millions more are expected to succumb to its grip.
Why are so many people drawn to a fairy-tale celebration that has nothing to do with them? Is it the rare jewels, the fancy hats or the horse-drawn carriages? Could it be the peals of bells ringing from church towers or the endless sea of Union Jack flags billowing in the breeze? Maybe it's the gallantry of generations of gentry gathering around a happy couple on their wedding day.
Whatever it is, you have to admire the British and their customs. This goes whether you support the monarchy or believe it to be a sideshow that has outlived its usefulness. For all its faults -- the divorces, extravagances, elitism, etc. -- the House of Windsor understands the power of tradition. Come next week, it will be on full display for the world to see.
Expect a celebration like no other: There will be royal guests from other lands including Sultan of Brunei and the King of Jordan, and celebrities such as sirs Mick Jagger and Elton John. In addition to the famous guests, expect to see royal tiaras, beautiful processions and plenty of singing from choirs. None of this, of course, could have happened without the blessing of the Queen, whose permission Prince William had to seek in advance of asking for Kate's hand.
Next week will be a showcase of joyous, solemn and even whimsical traditions. The coach that will transport the couple after the ceremony to Buckingham Palace will be the same 1902 State Landau carriage that carried Princess Diana and Prince Charles to Buckingham Palace in 1981, for example. Likewise, the seating arrangement at the ceremony will follow the same protocol that it has for generations: Royals on the right, commoners on the left. And yes, all of the female guests will be expected to wear hats -- some, no doubt, festooned with feathers.
Tradition, the Brits believe, binds a people by reminding them of the achievements of their predecessors -- and the sacrifices that were required to attain them. It's why people from all countries erect statues, hang plaques and rename highways in their communities to honor those who have gone before. When next's week ceremony is complete, Kate will not throw her flower bouquet to a throng of wedding guests but lay it at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior instead, just as the Queen Mum did when she married in 1923.
Being steeped in tradition doesn't mean being anchored to anachronisms, however. And this couple is breaking the mold in several ways while still remaining "traditional." Unlike previous royal brides, Middleton is a commoner. She's also the first royal bride to have a college degree, and the first in a long while to be older than her prince.
Another thing different about these two? They are a true couple in the modern sense. They have been together off-and-on for the better part of a decade, through break-ups and reconciliations like everyday people who don't live a fairy-tale life.
For these and other reasons, the couple is likely to live in a style and manner that is more befitting of two people devoted to service than to luxury. What actually happens remains to be seen. But give the duo their due, at least for now. When they marry, there will be no gifts, no traditional sit-down dinner and no endless train of silk for Kate. She is establishing her own identity, and helping to shape that of her prince, too.
Holding fast to traditions while simultaneously breaking the mold might seem like a contradiction, but it's not. In this case, doing both is a prudent course of action that could actually save the royal family from itself. At a time when some are calling for an end to the monarchy, William and Kate present a perfect blend of old and new. Their nod to tradition appeals to older Britons who fondly remember the role the monarchy played during and after World War II, while their embrace of simpler ways and modern ideals is winning younger fans who have been put off by the excesses that have damaged the family's prestige.
Can revering traditions while setting new standards help others? Absolutely. This goes for those in business, politics and academia. Standards and traditions remind us of our legacy. They teach us to be more respectful and thoughtful than we otherwise might be. But they need not shackle us. Instead of dictating our actions, they should inspire them. The best traditions? They are the ones that live and breathe, providing us the benefit of history and the gift of tomorrow.
Here's to the happy couple. Long live their love as they honor the old and define the new.
Inder Sidhu is the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Planning for Worldwide Operations at Cisco, and the author of Doing Both: Capturing Today's Profits and Driving Tomorrow's Growth. Author proceeds from sales of Doing Both go to charity. Follow Inder on Twitter at @indersidhu.