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Pomp, circumstance, and Crocs: Barrie, Ont. couple's unforgettable day at Buckingham Palace

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When one is extended an invitation to the Royal Garden Party in London, England, there's undoubtedly no shortage of pomp and circumstance. Barrie, Ont. natives Megan Kirk Chang and her husband Brandon experienced just that as they entered the prestigious event hosted at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.

Canadians living in the U.K. who work in public service can apply for an invitation to the illustrious event.

The Changs were among the 30 individuals chosen for the once-in-a-lifetime honour out of over 700 hopefuls.

"I was just elated when the email said, 'Congrats, you've been successful in being invited to the Royal Garden Party," Megan said.

Megan Kirk Chang and Brandon Chang represent the Commonwealth at the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London, U.K., on Tues., May 21, 2024. (Courtesy: Megan Kirk Chang)

But things haven't always been so grand for the couple, whose home in Barrie was destroyed when a tornado touched down in 2021.

"I think this is one of the common human experiences, with the experience of grief. The world continues to move forward and I'd be lying if I said we didn't reflect on that horrific day back in July 2021 often. It still does deeply affect us, but since then we've tried to live with more intention," she explained.

Megan now works for Oxford University and, this week, represented the Commonwealth for the High Commission of Canada.

She prepared for the grand event with a fashionable pink fascinator, a long black and pink dress, and sensible black shoes. "I have to mention my shoes because they have discontinued this Crocs line."

Yes, she said Crocs.

"They don't look like Crocs. They're a wedge heel. They're really classy," Megan exclaimed. "The Crocs material is waterproof, and you can clean them right away, so I was pretty proud of my shoe choice."

Megan Kirk Chang and Brandon Chang represent the Commonwealth at the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London, U.K., on Tues., May 21, 2024. (Courtesy: Megan Kirk Chang)

Entering the gates of Buckingham Palace arm in arm with her husband was a surprisingly emotional experience for Megan.

"I got a little teary-eyed because usually, we're on the other side of the gate, so actually passing through into Buckingham Palace just felt unbelievable and surreal."

The wet weather didn't dampen the couple's mood.

"It was pouring rain, so a classic U.K. day, and when you see the royals come out, right at 4 p.m., right on time, another moment of awe," Megan said. "Just to be there in person was incredible."

One of the highlights of the day was Prince William's grand entrance to a hushed crowd.

"I think all of us were in a state of awe to see Prince William and felt a sense of privilege and pride to be able to attend," she added.

The afternoon was full of fine foods and classic English tea sandwiches, served as expected.

"They absolutely cut the crusts off. There was cucumber and cream cheese, ham and cheese, with a really nice mustard and a coronation chicken with curry mayo," Megan recalled.

English tea and desserts served at the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. (Courtesy: Megan Kirk Chang)

For the Barrie couple, this experience was more than just a lavish affair; it symbolized resilience and renewal.

"We're putting ourselves out there more, we're saying yes to more things, we're prioritizing our relationship in a different way and prioritizing joy," Megan said.

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