Kelly Todd: Royal wedding trip was truly worth it

Kelly Todd

If someone had told me I would have been to London this time last year, I would have told them they were out of their minds. My next overseas trip was to be to London for the 2012 Olympics. When William and Catherine became engaged in November 2010, my mom gave me the push to go earlier. Then after a few phone calls, one of my best friends, Adelaide Yoder, and I were on to go across the pond!

In the days leading up to the event, Adelaide and I updated friends and family through our YouTube channel, AdelaideKellyUK. We staked out spots at Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, documenting what preparations were taking place for the wedding.

Adelaide and I wanted to show every aspect we could to our group back home  -- including the giant three-level temporary structure that seemed to rival Buckingham Palace.

 One of our most favorite things to bring to our viewing audience were the latest commemorative items we had seen for sale. There were tea cups, plates, flags, paper doll sets, masks and even underwear with the couple's faces on them. Anything one could imagine their faces on, it could be found in the plentiful gift shops of London.

We seemed to bump into people from across the United States. There was a mother-daughter duo from South Dakota who we met at the Changing of the Guard on Thursday; a husband and wife from Virginia who helped us get on the set for ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday, along with sisters from Pittsburgh and three generations of family from Arkansas. Washington was represented as well when we stopped to film a quick update on the Mall. On the train to the airport on the way home, we met a woman from Philadelphia and another from Atlanta who traded contact information with us for clips of the processional.

On the day of the royal wedding, Adelaide and I endeavored to take the first tube train into the city by waking up at 4 a.m. Decked out in our fancy dresses, tights, and fascinators (fancy hairclips or hats worn for special occasions), we headed out into the chilly morning air and wondered what it would be like. We ended up on the Mall between Buckingham Palace and Clarence House on the Green Park Side, six people back from the barricades.

 Many people we talked to had camped out the night before or taken a taxi in the early hours of the morning to get a good spot. Media attention focused on people who had started camping out for a spot in front of Westminster Abbey four days before the event. On the television the night before, we could see people packing into sidewalks near Parliament Square at 9 p.m. The low temperatures, threat of downpours, and lack of camping materials had us staying in our rented flat (apartment) for four hours sleep. Partake in the great British sleepover? Maybe next time.

When we arrived just past 6 a.m, we slowly built up a bond with those around us. Directly in front of us in camp chairs was the wonderful Australian couple, Caroline and Stuart, who are currently based in the United Kingdom for Stuart's work. Behind us, a family from Lancashire, had flown in especially for the event. The husband and wife with their teenage daughters had thought ahead, bringing small step-stools and a cellphone that could get TV signals for a live broadcast of the event. We were offered use of the step-stools and shared in the cellphone viewing. The mother was able to tell us who was in the upcoming car and when our group should have our cameras  ready to go. After the ceremony, Stuart and Caroline graciously offered us champagne and cookies, straight from the commemorative tin, of course.

There was a strong sense of camaraderie in the crowd even though we weren't all British, neighbors, or familiar with each other previously. Everyone was having a wonderful time, chatting about what we did when we weren't waiting for the next caravan full of royalty to march down the Mall.

The flag of the United Kingdom was heavily prevalent through the Mall, but we did see the Spanish flag, Mexican flag, Brazilian flag -- enough to see that people weren't just flocking from the U.S. or the U.K., but from around the world.

Even with all of the security forces and rumors of arrests on the day of the wedding, I never once felt threatened or endangered in any way. The police force did their job well and were very friendly. On our way back, one of the officers quipped "You look tired!" I managed to reply that we'd been up since 4 a.m., but I was sure they had been up long before. He nodded and we walked on.

With the pomp and circumstance now over, I can honestly say I'm glad I spent the money I was saving on this event. It's a once-in-a-lifetime event to see a royal get married and experience everything there is live and in person, rather than waking up to watch television coverage. It truly was worth it.

Oak Ridger