LONDON- Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton married at Westminster Abbey on Friday in a sumptuous show of British pageantry that attracted a huge world audience and breathed new life into the monarchy.
Hundreds of thousands of people waving flags and banners poured down London's Mall Boulevard to cheer the newlyweds as they kissed twice on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Then they went back in, the glass doors closed and the spectacle was over.
"This kind of royal wedding happens just once in a lifetime, so I thought I had to come and see," said Seong Jiyong, a South Korean student studying English. "The monarchy is like our Hollywood, the movies, for us," said Californian Diane Weltz.
Middleton, who wore a laced ivory colored dress with a long train for the ceremony, became the first "commoner" to marry a prince in close proximity to the throne in more than 350 years.
The 29-year-old, whose mother's family has coal mining roots, has brought a sense of modernity to the monarchy and helped restore popularity to an institution tarnished by the death of William's hugely popular mother Princess Diana in 1997.
Fans from Asia to the United States camped overnight outside the abbey to catch a glimpse of the future king and queen, whose marriage has fuelled a feel-good factor that has briefly lifted Britain from its economic gloom.
Huge crowds looked on as military bands in black bearskin hats and household cavalrymen in shining breastplates escorted the beaming couple in a 1902 open-topped state landau carriage.
More than 8,000 journalists descended on London for the event, and the ceremony was streamed live on You Tube, ensuring a global audience expected to run into the hundreds of millions.
Sealed with kisses
The crowd entered into the festive spirit on a day when threatened rain failed to materialize by wearing national flags, outlandish costumes and even fake wedding dresses and tiaras.
Hundreds of police officers, some armed, dotted the royal routes in a major security operation. Plain clothes officers mixed with the masses who were packed behind rails to watch the couple seal their marriage with one sheepish kiss, then another.
"That was well worth the seven-hour wait," said Sue Brace, a 48-year-old bar manager from the south coast city of Portsmouth.
"She looked really happy, beautiful. I am so happy now."
World War Two and modern warplanes flew over the waving royals before they headed inside for a reception for 600 guests held in the palace's 19 state rooms. The day ends with a more intimate dinner for 300 close friends and family.
Their honeymoon starts on Saturday and the venue has been kept virtually a state secret.
The exuberance of royal fans was not shared throughout Britain. For some, the biggest royal wedding since Diana married Charles in 1981 was an event to forget, reflecting divided opinion about the monarchy.
In the economically depressed northern city of Bradford, for example, businessman Waheed Yunus said: "its two young people getting married. It's as simple as that. It happens throughout the whole world every single day.
"There are much more pressing issues. There are much more important things going on in the world."
The marriage between William, 28, and Middleton, dubbed "Waity Katie" for their long courtship, have cemented a recovery in the monarchy's popularity. (Reuters)