A royally strange engagement

April 28, 2011

I spent Monday shopping for a hat. That might not seem so unusual to some people. After all, it was a public holiday, and plenty of people were indulging in a bit of retail therapy. Plus, it’s been unusually hot in Britain for the past few weeks: so a hat would not be such an odd thing to buy. Only this was not a sun hat. It was a hat for work.

And that is strange.

I am a journalist. These days, we are rarely required to wear hats. Helmets perhaps in war zones, but they are not really a requirement in central London. And gone are the days when journalists all sported trilbies with press cards tucked into the hat band. No, this was a proper hat with feathers and netting because – and I still find this pretty hard to believe – I am going to the Royal Wedding. Not as a guest, obviously (I don’t mingle in those kinds of circles), but as a reporter, one of a few who will get to experience the ceremony first-hand. And such is the nature of this grand occasion that even the reporters have to wear hats.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. The female reporters have to wear hats. The men have to wear suits and they have a bit more choice, having been offered the option of “Morning Suit or Lounge Suit” (morning suits are the kind with tails, lounge suits more like the ones you wear to work). Ladies had no such option. For us it was “Day dress … with hat”. (I have presumed, by the way, that a day dress is anything other than a cocktail dress or ball gown since the internet wasn’t overly helpful in defining it for me and I don’t own an etiquette guide or have a Swiss-finishing school education).

Now, all of this I bought on Monday when it was roasting hot outside and everyone was full of the joys of summer even though it’s still spring. But now I have to calculate in the fact that it may actually rain on Friday and a shawl might not cut it, and that I’ve nowhere to put an umbrella – or a notebook (no laptops for us). These bizarre preparations and concerns make this without doubt one of the strangest assignments I have ever had. A financial journalist by background, my usual worry when preparing for a big story is ensuring I ask the key question or get the numbers right, not having to worry about whether I have bought the correct kind of dress, the right kind of hat, or if my bag is large enough to fit a brolly.

It could be worse though. The last time I had to dress up for a Royal Wedding was in 1981 (see picture) when Prince Charles married Diana. My Mum organised the party and I went dressed as the bride…

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