I was the mother of the bride and I walked my daughter down the aisle
Reading the coverage in the run-up Harry and Megan's glorious wedding today and the unfolding story of her father's attendance, then non-attendance and all the speculation about who would walk her down the aisle in his absence, struck a powerful emotional chord with me.
Seeing her walk alone along the aisle in St George's Chapel, looking so beautiful, poised and elegant, and then being met by Prince Charles to be escorted to her waiting groom, watched by her proud, ever-so-slightly tearful (and equally elegant) mother brought back memories that were both heart-wrenching and heart-warming.
Nine months ago, my eldest daughter, Tash, got married. Nine months before that, her much-loved dad suddenly and completely unexpectedly, collapsed and died.
He and I had been married for 36 years, and although we had been separated for four years, we remained extremely close and we were very much a family unit with our other daughter, Emily. His death was utterly devastating to us all.
For many weeks afterwards, Tash couldn't even think about her wedding, never mind get back to work on the arrangements for it. Of course she and her wonderful husband-to-be, Ian, talked about postponing it, changing the venue, the size, the plans for the day. (The only thing he insisted couldn't be changed was the fact that she was going to marry him.) And of course, through the pain of our loss, we all reassured her that we would make the day the happiest and best it could possibly be, whatever she chose to do.
In the end she decided to go ahead with the wedding they had started to prepare because her dad had been a part of the early planning stages. He'd seen the venue, discussed the guest list (I'll leave it to you to imagine what sort of 'discussion' that was), and started to consider the wine choices.
So we tentatively, then with gradually increasing energy, returned to choosing flowers, booking suppliers, searching for the dress and all the other thousand-and-one organisational tasks that putting on a wedding involves.
The one question that she, and we, kept being asked, was who would be walking her down the aisle. The original plan had been for me and her dad to escort her, in the same way Ian's parents were going to do for him. It was a part that both of us felt honoured and emotional about playing in her special day. We had talked about which, if either, of us would manage to get to the end of the aisle without being in tears. Neither of us held out much hope of making it dry-eyed.
Various people had various suggestions. As both her grandfather's were dead, her uncles were the favoured suggested candidates. But obviously, the final decision had to be down to Tash.
With her typical thoughtfulness and consideration, Tash reflected on all the possibilities, but her choice was, she said, one of the easiest of all the ones she had to make about the day. She had wanted the people who loved and cared for her the most alongside her as she took the final steps towards becoming a wife. And that's what she still wanted.
In spite of her own heartbreak, Emily, as maid-of-honour, had been an unfailingly devoted and caring support to Tash, and me, throughout all the preparations. If Tash couldn't have her dad and mum on either side of her, she wanted her sister and me to escort her down the aisle.
And that's exactly what we did.
It may not have been a long walk, but there was enough time for me to experience a whole raft of emotions, from deep joy, to terrible heart-ache . The pride and love I felt for my wonderful daughters was almost as overwhelming as the pain of their dad's absence. But as we were throughout the whole, wonderful, day, we were all enveloped in the most powerful wave of love and support from our family and friends.
I hope Megan felt the same on her journey down the aisle today and that she and Harry are as happy together as Tash and Ian.
And did I make it down the aisle without crying? No, of course not!