There's a familiar pattern, which cognitive psychologists know all about.
1) Decide to do something.
2) Make some preparations.
3) Realise it's a terrible idea.
4) Feel compelled to go through with it anyway.
5) Convince yourself it's a good idea, somehow.
6) Do the thing.
7) Realise again it really was a terrible idea.
8) Convince yourself it was a success after all, or if you can't do that,
8a) Blame someone.
It works on an individual level, but also with families, workplaces, and entire nations. The royal wedding gave us lots of examples.
Nationally, it looked like this:
1) The world's in recession, our mid-eastern allies are all being topped, and everyone hates the government - what we need is a big state occasion. Something sentimental, nationalistic and happy - something shiny to distract the little people. How about a royal marriage? It worked last time.
2) Find a royal with a girlfriend, and persuade them to get hitched. Announce it, and wait for the nation to rejoice.
3) Realise the public don't much care. They're not even using it as an excuse for a street party.
4) Hide your annoyance at the plebs.
5) Get the independent, objective media to push the wedding hard. Solid coverage for a month. Hopefully, a few weeks of being told everyone's ecstatic about the wedding will persuade everyone they are ecstatic. Waive the rules on organising street parties, hoping it'll motivate people to have them.
6) Have the wedding. Make it look really plush and don't mention the cost - or that anything else is happening in the world. Find a dozen crazy people who camped out in London to see the procession, and interview them incessantly as vox pops.
7) Grit your teeth to make the best of a bad deal.
8) Continue the blanket coverage, now in retrospect. And/or,
8a) Blame the politically correct student radical types for spoiling it for everyone else.
Here's how it affected my life:
1) My street has an annual party - with barbecue, raffle, and a few dozen people trying to remember each other's names from the previous party. The organising committee - chaired by my esteemed father - were thinking of not bothering this year. But seeing as there was an excuse this time, they decided to go ahead.
2) Put invitations through all the letterboxes. Dig out the home made wine.
3) Note the growing list of names who had other things to do on that day - including two who'd been asked to unblock a relative's drains that day.
4) Decide it's more trouble to cancel than to press on. Don't explain how.
5) Get some cheap plastic flags and patriotically decorated paper cups - just to make it royal themed.
6) On the day, turn up, eat too much, drink too much, and make light conversation with virtual strangers.
7) Take home most of the food and have it for your evening meal.
8) Say things like "That went as well as could be expected" and "At least it didn't rain".
And so, on the occasion of whatshisface marrying whatshername, here's a picture summarising everything it meant to me: