By Athena Mekis
Large British flags softly blew down entire streets as I rode past downtown London on the Green Line coach bus, which led me in the same direction as everyone else’s footsteps.
“Congratulations, Wills and Kate,” read the marquee at the Baker street cinema as I walked toward the Royal Parks. The crowds increased; I was close to the celebration.
One man yelled, “Royal Wedding flags!” Another yelled, “Royal Wedding magazine!” And another yelled, “Royal Wedding cupcakes!” These were the people attempting to make a small fortune from the crowds in London, which almost reached one million, according to several British news agencies.
The largest royal park, Hyde Park, held 80,000 people, according to Horticulture Week, a weekly business website. And the proud-to-be-British sentiment was clearly displayed by their ability to sew, paint, glue, and tie the British flag onto every garment available. The men in wedding gowns and tiaras got the most attention.
“I’m impressed with the long traditional dress. It shows purity and it’s how it’s supposed to be done,” said Londoner Edna Salami, 38. “Too many people want to get married in a park or on a beach. They’re doing it right from the beginning– with God’s blessing.”
Londoner Jonny O’Neil, 25, said he wasn’t excited all week, but on the morning of the wedding, he had a “fizzy moment.”
Davina Murphy, 47, from Leicestershire booked a hotel in January primarily for her son, “so that he can say he watched his future king get married,” she said.
With nearly one million people ambling the downtown area, Londoner Neil Tymlin, 29, enjoyed the bustling crowds.
“It’s not often that London gets shut down,” he said.
According to Broadcast Audience Research Board, a UK media gathering company, around 26 million Brits watched the Royal Wedding. That’s 42 percent.
And, according to the Nielson Company, a US media gathering company, around 23 million Americans watched the Royal Wedding. That’s 7.3 percent.
The wedding was the fifth-most viewed event of all time in the UK, falling 2 million viewers shy of topping Prince Charles’s and Lady Diana’s wedding.
The British Broadcasting Corporation had the most access. Their wedding footage was played at Hyde Park, Green Park and Trafalgar Square with live commentary throughout.
They had access inside the Westminster Abbey, inside the quadrangle and on the roof at Buckingham Palace, and they had cameramen in lift booms along the procession route and in front of the balcony.
While at Hyde Park, it became apparent that Prince Harry is a crowd favorite. Every time he appeared on the screen and gave his small but charming smile, the crowd gave back infatuated cheers.
“I enjoyed watching Harry try to keep a straight face,” O’Neil said. “Nobody knows what he’s going to do. It makes him more colorful.”
Even 58-year-old Sue Duffel from Hampshire said her second-favorite part of the wedding was seeing Harry wave in her direction as he passed by– watching the horses trot through the archway where she stood was her first favorite part of the wedding.
As the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge bowed and curtsied to the queen before walking down the aisle hand in hand, blasts of red, white and blue confetti shot into the air at Hyde Park, and the small rectangles of paper lightly graced my face as they shimmied down.
I listened to BBC news anchor Huw Edwards repeat, “This is it” or similar variations such as “This is what it’s all about,” and “This is what this day’s about,” as I made my way to Green Park for the balcony kiss.
Vendors lined the park boundaries with treats and souvenirs for the big event so I bought a Mango Express smoothie and sucked it down as the newlyweds stepped onto the balcony to share their first kiss with the world.
Cindy Chiu, 38, from New Zealand rushed to the gates at Buckingham Palace moments before when the guards let down the barricades and allowed the crowds to gather at the Palace gates and around the Queen Victoria Memorial.
“When [Prince William] grabbed her hand, you could hear a loud ‘Awww,’” she said.
After admirers were bestowed with two kisses, much of the crowd at Buckingham Palace headed toward the pubs for celebratory ales or the parks for music and sunshine.
At that point, I made my way to the Palace and seized my opportunity to glimpse the newlyweds as they drove Prince Charles’s convertible Aston Martin, adorned with balloons, streamers, bows and a license plate that read, “Ju5t Wed.”
With the sun occasionally shining through the ever-present London clouds and the 68-degree weather, many people relaxed in the Royal Parks, sharing their love and happiness with the royal couple.
Athena Mekis currently lives in Hatfield, England, 10 miles north of London, where she is enjoying a study-abroad semester at the University of Hertfordshire. In 2008, when her grandfather, Nick Mekis, who was a Signal Hill council member in the 1970s, learned that she wanted to be a reporter, he directed her to the Signal Tribune, where she has been a contributing writer ever since.