If I thought my friends and I were devoted fans for committing one sleepless night to witness the spectacle, I was bound to be surprised by the hundreds that had been camped out since Tuesday and Wednesday in tents and sleeping bags along the streets of London.
We made our way past Parliament to Westminster Abbey and scouted for a coveted place to stand near the Abbey entrance, stepping over sleeping guests and lawn chairs. British police troops were present to enforce order at all times; directing us and advising where the best views may be.
Emotion and anticipation ran high in the masses. Coupled with exhaustion and crowding, this did not make for the best situation. Minor tiffs were witnessed as wedding fans were collectively pushed and forced to move forward and backward depending on breathing room. Thankfully, nothing reached the extremes of a Black Friday stampede. But all of these arguments were immediately forgotten when the Abbey bells began to chime after hours of waiting, and the guests started to arrive.
The first recognizable cheer from the crowd was for Prime Minister David Cameron. Following his arrival, the most anticipated guests began strolling in for the celebratory event. Catherine’s mother and sister arrived well before the bride. Prince William and Prince Harry were the first of the Royal family to appear, greeted by elation from the streets. Soon after, it was Prince Charles and Camilla, with Queen Elizabeth soon to follow. Other noted guests included David and Victoria Beckham and Elton John. The fashion was a spectacle in itself: everyone adorned in their Royal best, wearing spring colors and extravagant church hats. The men of the family — especially Prince William — looked perfectly ceremonial in military uniform.
The most anticipated arrival of all, of course, was Kate, who pulled in to Westminster Abbey accompanied by her father just after 11 a.m. The very moment that her car was spotted pulling into the square, the sun peeked its head out from behind the clouds, making Kate’s grand entrance all the more ethereal. Carol Hennessey, an American student, described this as the most emotional moment of the wedding, saying that she could “feel the spirit of Diana shining through in those few seconds.”
Kate stepped into the public looking like a dream. She wore a breathtaking ivory Alexander McQueen gown with long lace sleeves and a classic form-fitting cut. She was directly out of the storybooks, looking quite the part of the family she was moments away from marrying into: a splendid medley of regal, divine and modernism.
My excitement for the arrival of the guests was paired by great frustration from standing on tiptoes for seven hours attempting — and often failing — to catch amomentary glimpse of a dress or a hat or the bridal veil (because at 5-foot-3-inches-tall, I did not have the best view in the house). But any disappointment that I felt melted away when the crowd quieted to hear Will and Kate exchange their vows, which were broadcasted through the square. That was the moment that it felt most real, as I watched the crowd tear up listening to the sincerity and gravity in the Royal couple’s voices.
Following the ceremony, much of the crowd flocked to Buckingham Palace to witness the “balcony kiss,” which was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Here, we joined the other half of the masses who had chosen to be stationed there overnight instead of outside the Abbey. After more pushing and shouting and general impatience by the horde below, the Royal Family stepped out onto the platform, gave a picture-perfect stately wave, and William and Kate disappeared back into the Palace moments after two quick public kisses.
For all the weeks of anticipation, the wedding certainly seemed to be over too quickly.
It was an incredible experience, and I feel so lucky to have participated in this beautiful moment of history. Despite the urgency of the crowds, it was magnificent to see all of London unite over this regal romance. What better than a wedding to bring the world together? Everyone sends their warmest regards to the newly appointed Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the titles that were bestowed upon the couple by Queen Elizabeth on Friday.
Will and Kate will never leave the spotlight, but the world now lies in waiting for the next Royal Wedding to excite itself over ... Prince Harry, we’re waiting for you.