Camping overnight for Royal Wedding proves worth it
Sarah Mervosh | Saturday, April 30, 2011
I packed myself a sandwich, got my bag together and walked the same path I do every day on my way to class.
But this time, I wasn’t going to class. This was a Thursday night around 11 p.m. — the night before the Royal Wedding — and I was going to camp out overnight with fellow Observer staffer Pat Coveney.
At that time of night, with about 12 hours to go before the wedding began, access to Buckingham Palace was still unrestricted. I was surprised to be able to walk right up to the Palace without any trouble.
With our tent, blanket and sleeping bag in tow, we set out in hopes of finding the perfect spot to catch a glimpse of Prince William and Kate (now referred to by her more proper name, Catherine) Middleton. But we most definitely weren’t the only ones with the same goal in mind.
Plenty of people had gotten there before us and were lined up several rows back along The Mall, which is the long road extending in front of Buckingham Palace.
At the time of our arrival, it was too early for people to be asleep and it was not late enough for them to have lost their energy yet. Needless to say, the atmosphere was electric.
One of the first things we saw when we arrived was a group of guys hauling a full-sized mattress, which they apparently planned to sleep on. Now that’s dedication.
A group of girls wearing sparkling British-flag hats sat in a circle singing songs, while a man next to them played the bongos.
There were three guys who stood out in particular. If it wasn’t for their blonde hair, you might think they were from the Jersey Shore because they must GTL everyday. Anyway, they were wearing only British flag boxer shorts and hats, and paraded around half-naked using a large, British flag umbrella to assert their authority.
Those guys might have had more pictures taken of them Friday than William and Catherine did.
People sat huddled in blankets, their hands clasped around mugs of hot chocolate and coffee, or more likely, Irish coffee.
But mostly, people were just sitting around talking, making friends with the people who would be their neighbors for the next 12 hours or so.
Once Pat and I chose our spot, about four rows back and relatively close to Buckingham Palace, it was time to set up the tent we had borrowed from Notre Dame’s London Centre.
Trying to put up a tent in the dark without instructions in an area crowded with people is just as challenging as it sounds. How many Notre Dame students does it take to set up a tent? Well, in our case, four.
But eventually, we put together a semblance of a tent and I crawled in, tucked myself into my sleeping bag and tried to tune out the drunken screaming, loud machines and bright lights streaming from the media area.
Just a few hours later and even less hours of sleep later, a policeman was “knocking” on our tent telling us it was time to fold up our tent. This was about 6 a.m., and when we emerged sleepy-eyed and hair-ruffled, we realized we were one of the last people to awaken.
Only five hours to go until the wedding began…
It was an experience unrivaled to anything I have experienced so far in my 20 years. The only thing I can somewhat compare it to is when College GameDay came to Notre Dame. People getting up early, or not going to bed at all, waiting for what seems like forever and acting like idiots for the TV cameras.
For some reason, the hour between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. seemed like the longest. The long wait ahead of us made the chilly weather and monotonous standing seem never-ending.
But all of this waiting around made the memorable moments of the Royal Wedding all the more special.
When Queen Elizabeth II and Catherine, respectively, drove by on their way to the church, the crowd roared even though they drove so fast we were only able to catch a brief glimpse at the Queen’s yellow hat and Catherine’s white veil.
When William and Catherine said their vows (the ceremony was played over loud speakers throughout the parade route), the crowd went silent. When each said “I will,” everyone exploded into jubilant cheers.
The pop and sizzle of champagne bottles being opened for celebration could be heard all around.
People passed their iPhones around to show a picture they found on the Internet of Catherine’s dress up close. It was all “ooh”s and “aah”s over how beautiful she looked, as if she was our sister or daughter and we were personally concerned for her happiness.
Really, it is not an overstatement to say that everyone in the crowd was united in feeling overjoyed for the couple. We all felt their joy almost as if we were a part of it.
After the parade was over, Pat and I made our way to Green Park, where a big screen showed the couple’s first balcony kiss. The anticipation grew and when their lips finally met, the crowed squealed. When the couple pulled away, flushed and smiling, it was difficult not to smile and feel genuinely happy for them.
It sounds cheesy, but it’s true:
After your feet are swollen from standing for seven hours and you’re almost regretting your choice to camp overnight, seeing two people that happy together makes it all worth it.