Here’s the first thing you need to know: I don’t care about the royal family. I really don’t. I don’t follow their every move in the tabloids, and I don’t want to know what any of them wore, ate, or said in India. New pictures of the royal baby? I’ll pass. But none of that mattered back in April 2011. I was like pretty much every other person on the planet. I joined the unyielding frenzy surrounding the pending nuptials of Prince William and the Duchess formerly known as Kate Middleton. It’s been five years since they tied the knot, and they've had two perfect royal babies and managed to live happily ever after. To this day, some outlets report that two billion people watched the royal wedding live. Almost 23 million people in the U.S. alone watched the nuptials on networks like CNN, NBC, ABC, Telemundo, and CBS. That means millions of us woke up early one morning — some Americans as early as 5 a.m. — to watch two strangers say “I do” and share a kiss on a castle balcony. That’s insanity! In the years that have followed, I’ve tried to make sense of how and why I got caught up in the spectacle of the royal wedding. Why did so many of us feel drawn to this one event? With their five-year anniversary creeping around the corner, I’ve decided to reexamine the stages of royal-wedding frenzy that I experienced — and find an answer.
Stage 1: Meet KateThe hype began in November 2010. I woke up one morning to wall-to-wall coverage of the royal couple on every morning talk show, with banners that read “Prince William Engaged!” I immediately rolled my eyes, but kept watching in case there was any real news. Suddenly, William and Kate walked out into a gaggle of press at St. James' Palace. The cameras started flashing at such a rapid pace that it looked like someone had turned on a strobe light. I felt for Kate Middleton. This ordinary (albeit extraordinarily beautiful) woman stepped out into a room in a simple blue wrap dress and was being hounded with personal questions about her proposal, the prospect of being a member of the royal family, their vacation, and whether Will got down on one knee. She stumbled while speaking, and kept looking at her new fiancé whenever she got nervous or was at a loss for words. I decided, as normal people watching celebrities often do, that these traits — nervousness, nice wrap dress, sweet smile — were endearing. I liked her. I had no idea who she was, or how long they had dated, or where she was from. But it didn’t matter. The press conference was enough.
Stage 2: Experience Princess Diana NostalgiaIn the days that followed, Buckingham Palace announced the official wedding date: April 29, 2011. In the weeks after that, Kate Middleton’s blue wrap dress was sold out, and we all got to see the couple’s official portrait. I was still fairly indifferent on the matter. Until I read an article about Kate’s engagement ring. This was the moment that clinched it for me. While I have no interest in the royal family overall, I have very fond childhood memories of Princess Diana. I remember watching her help sick children, and talk about AIDS on nightly newscasts. I remember reading a children’s pop-up book at my grandmother’s house that was all about her royal wedding. And I remember exactly where I was in 1997 when the world learned that she had died in a car crash in Paris. Because I loved Princess Diana, I was very happy to read that the engagement ring on Kate’s finger was the exact same engagement ring that Prince Charles had given to Princess Diana when he proposed. It was a glorious 18-carat oval sapphire, surrounded by 14 diamonds and set in 18-karat white gold. It was starting to feel like a fairy tale again, wasn’t it? I started to remember flipping through that pop-up book, looking at the image of an animated Princess Diana riding in a horse-drawn carriage, surrounded by fairies (which was clearly true to life). And it just happened — I started thinking that I wanted to see that kind of large-scale, fairy-tale wedding in my lifetime if it ever happened again. It was history in the making, after all.