It's an engagement that's been hotly anticipated by Brits and Anglophiles alike: Prince William, heir to the British throne, has announced he will marry his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, in London next year. The couple, who met at college in Scotland, have been together for eight years. Though the prince actually popped the question to his fiancée while on vacation in Kenya last month, the royal family kept the betrothal a secret until this morning — and American pundits have been quick to weigh in. Here, 5 things the royal wedding signifies:

A rare chance for gloomy Brits to celebrate: This wedding will provide a "much-needed feel-good boost" for the people of recession-struck Britain, says John Crowley at The Wall Street Journal. When William's mother and father married in 1981, "impromptu street celebrations" broke out across the nation. While it's doubtful that will be repeated, Britain "will have the license to party like it hasn't done in years."

A tourism windfall: At a time when the British government is enacting "sweeping budget cuts," says Robert Mackey at The New York Times, monarchists will be wondering how to defend the cost of a lavish royal wedding. Perhaps they can brand it as a "stimulus package for the British tourism industry."

An opportunity for wedding fanatics to obsess: Let the "frenzy" begin, says Tara Lewis at Newsweek. The royal couple now faces "a kind of wedding planning the likes of which we mortals can't even imagine." First will come an "investiture" at Buckingham Palace, then an official announcement from the Lord Chancellor, then a "flurry of media appearances and interviews." And that's before the wedding even happens.

A chance to dissect Kate: The future bride is a "professional and romantic blank slate," says Caroline Howard at Forbes. She's dated William since she was 20, and has "never really had a job." No wonder the tabloids call her "Waity Katy." If this is going to be the "made-for-Disney marriage," as so many hope, then Middleton needs to "find something to do" before the tabloids properly descend.

A chance to dream again: Back in 1981, the U.S. gawked at Charles and Diana's wedding, says Linda Holmes at NPR, treating it "like a live-action Disney cartoon." Of course, a happy ending was not forthcoming. Now, their kids are starting to go through the same cycle — and the "hopeful sighs" begin again.