This weekend, while many across Canada are celebrating the Victoria Day long weekend, I’m excitedly reminiscing two of the most exciting days in my life, 6 years ago Saturday, I gave birth to a little boy we call Bear and one year ago Sunday, I attended the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle! Here is my story from the latter of those memorable events!
Bucket lists are tricky things! I’ve always been a “dream big, but keep expectations low” kinda gal so those next to impossible bucket list items can cause me some stress and disappointment. As an example, the top of my list, since childhood, is to give Queen Elizabeth a hug! Clearly, she is just not the hugging kind, and I am NOT Michelle Obama, but I would settle for a quick curtsy and a “Hello,OhMyGoshINeverThoughtI’dGetToMeetYou,YouAreSuchABadAss!” *huge inhale*
The rest of my bucket list is mostly filled with tattoo ideas and dream travel destinations (HELLO, Maldives!) but last year I had the opportunity to check something off my list that was so huge, I didn’t even believe in it enough to put it on the list in the first place! I attended a royal wedding! THE ROYAL FREAKING WEDDING! Ok, ok MAYBE I thought one day I might go to Prince Harry’s wedding…. but I think I had fantasized about the bride being ME! And, yes, I do realize there is a difference between “attending” this wedding as an invited guest, which I was not, (my invitation clearly got lost in the mail) and attending on the street with hundreds of thousands of other spectators… which is exactly what happened and. it. was. magic!!!
To set the stage for you, we arrived in London on May 18th, after 4 nights in Northern Ireland! While the Royal Wedding was the purpose of our detour to England, Taylor was not comfortable facing the crowds and opted not to join me in Windsor the next day. Although I was anxious, I still decided to go alone! When we arrived at our Airbnb (an adorable garden shed outfitted with a bathroom and kitchenette) our sweet host Karmen heard of my plans and tried to encourage me to stay home and watch the wedding on TV instead! “You’ll get a better view on the telly than standing 30 people back in the crowds!” I felt discouraged, but chirped back “It’s ok! I’m tall!” If I thought too hard about the crowds, solo traveling to Windsor and back, not knowing if I would be able to see, the very early morning, or extreme things like terrorism, my anxiety would start to rise. Several times, I could feel myself start to chicken out, but I knew I would NEVER forgive myself if I came this close and didn’t go to the wedding, 30 people back, or not!
I battled with my nerves all night, not getting a great rest but by 5:30 the next morning I was up and out the door! I had planned out my trip to Windsor on the bus, successfully transferring once, but running into problems when I was far enough out of town that my Oyster Card (the London transit system ticket card) was no longer accepted. A less than helpful bus driver declined to accept cash and left me stranded. Now around 6:30 am, I was close enough that a cab was relatively inexpensive and so I “cheated” and booked an Uber for the remaining part of the trip!
I arrived in Windsor somewhere around 7 am local time! It was a storybook-like town, teaming with people, military personnel and police officers! I walked through multiple checkpoints, which honestly gave me a comforting sense of security! In my mind, the best plan of action was to head toward the “Long Walk” the stretch of road surrounded by an open grassy field. I figured it would be my best chance at getting as close to the front as possible and would be the least claustrophobia-inducing spot to watch the wedding processional go by. Quickly I became sucked up in the current of people walking, towards, where? I wasn’t really sure, but there was no great way to go against it, so through back alleys and roads, I followed. At some point, after what only felt like a short distance, I found myself spit out on the street, along one of the guard rails. It suddenly didn’t feel nearly as crowded, I really couldn’t believe that there was empty space in the front row! After confirming with those around me, I planted myself front and center at the railing, and decided to stay there until it was over!
As more and more people gathered around me, we knew we were in for the long haul, and started to make friends. I was lucky enough to sit between some locals from Windsor, who provided endless information about the small city of around 30,000, and Suzanne and Claire, friends from Cheddar, the UK, who brought and shared snacks and Gin & Tonic in aluminum cans!!! (I just have a knack for making friends with the right kinda people!) We visited for hours, even getting to know the police officer who was standing watch directly in front of us! (She was engaged and planning an autumn wedding in Oxford!)
About an hour before the ceremony began, parades of soldiers and military bands made their way up and down the road! After a long day of waiting around, and some of the best people watching I’ve ever experienced, there was an instant shift in the energy of the crowd. Although I didn’t have any reference at the time, estimates say there were roughly 100,000 people on the streets with me!
Just prior to the ceremony starting I was surprised to hear over loudspeakers, a commentary of the Bride’s arrival to St. Georges Chapel. Although my particular brand of anxiety lends itself to overthinking every detail of every potential outcome, I hadn’t even considered I’d be able to hear the ceremony! It was a delightful surprise! I still get tingles watching the videos I took during the exchanging of the vows. There is something so special to be wrapped up in the crowd’s energy and excitement!
After the ceremony, which included a crowd sing-along of Stand By Me, again… goosies! It was time for the big moment! We listened as the processional began at Windsor Castle! Every turn and wave was described in audio and the anticipation of everyone around me was palpable. Although there was a specific free wifi network related to the wedding, and cell service shouldn’t have been an issue, it was challenging to get connected. The occasional post or message came or went through, but when the world seemed to be getting its first glimpses of Meghan’s wedding dress, we were left in the dark. What made this even more frustrating is I could see my friend Andrea had sent me photos, but I was unable to open them! We didn’t even know what her dress looked like!!!
Back to that anxious brain I have, I had thought for hours about whether I’d be better to take photos or video as the processional went past, and finally settled on photos as I was sure the world would be seeing the amazing quality video of the whole event! Boy, do I feel like that paid off! The street was shaped in such a way that we couldn’t see more than a few feet up the road. We relied heavily on the incredibly kind police officer to warn us to have our cameras ready!
With a quick warning, I had my phone poised and ready to go! As the carriage flew by at what felt like mach speed, I rapid fire snapped pictures as the crowds from behind pushed forwards for a better glance. Watching through the screen on my phone, with no regrets (just look at the photo I snapped) I had an instinct tell me “Look UP! You need to see it in person too!” At that moment I stopped taking photos in just enough time to see, only feet away from me, the most beautiful human I’ve ever laid eyes on! The whole scene took my breath away! Meghan was glowing, her dress so white it was almost reflective, and even a full year later, I haven’t forgotten how in awe I felt that I was able to be part of this historical moment! I’ve watched the video of their wedding online and followed closely the reporting after the fact, but nothing comes anywhere near how intensely magical it was to be there, in person on that really special day!
And just like that. They were gone, and it was done.
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, an easy train ride from Windsor to downtown London, I met Taylor at the British Museum, where he spent the day. We had considered heading to Trafalgar Square that evening, but when we sat down for dinner, my body had had enough. The emotional toll had caught up with me and mixed with pure exhaustion, I cried into my butter chicken and we decided to call it a night at around 6 pm and head back to our cozy little garden shed. When we saw Karmen the next morning, I couldn’t wait to show her the photos I had taken, and needless to say, she was happy for me after all!
Now that a year has gone by, I still am in disbelief that really happened. It was a special day I’ll never forget! I am still in touch with Claire and Suzanne, we have self-appointed ourselves as Godmothers to little Archie Harrison! And one day, when I’m telling this story to my great-grandchildren, I hope they understand what a once in a lifetime experience this was! I certainly will never take for granted how fortunate I am to have been there!