Australia, New Zealand in royal wedding fever
Australians may pride themselves on their fiercely independent spirit, but the nation indulged royally in wedding fever Friday as Britain's -- and their -- future king prepared to tie the knot.
With Prime Minister Julia Gillard in London to attend Prince William's marriage to Kate Middleton, the country's newspapers devoted front pages and pull-outs to the couple's upcoming marriage.
"United in hope for their kingdom," ran the headline in the Sydney Morning Herald above a photograph of a glowing William and Kate and smaller images of the prince's hugely popular late mother, Diana.
"Today the world will see the wedding that proves that fairytales can, and do, happen," wrote Andrew Rule from London in Sydney's Daily Telegraph tabloid, which reserved its first five pages for the wedding.
"It's a Cinderella story to make Hollywood drool."
The wedding at Westminster Abbey, which takes place in the evening Sydney time, will be covered by state broadcaster ABC as well as two of the three major commercial networks, in addition to radio coverage.
Although republican sentiment is strong in Australia, Queen Elizabeth II is a much loved figure and many believe she will remain Australia's head of state until her death.
Prince William has also revived interest in the monarchy during two recent visits, showing his mother's charm while meeting with Aborigines in Sydney's infamous ghetto-like 'Block' in 2010 and with flood survivors this year.
Hundreds of devoted monarchists gathered for celebratory lunches across the country, joining for a champagne toast, wedding cake and slideshows of the royal family and soon-to-be newlyweds.
"I think most people are very warm to it, if you look at the polls as anything to go by there's significant interest, and particularly amongst young people," Jai Martinkovits, a 24-year-old monarchist, told AFP at a luncheon at Sydney's Parliament House to mark the nuptials.
Neighbouring New Zealand was also celebrating the event, with the national New Zealand Herald declaring it the "Happiest day of our lives" on its front page, which was emblazoned with a picture of the young couple.
"I'll be watching it at home with my granddaughters (aged six and nine)," Kip Marshall told AFP at Wellington's bustling Lambton Quay shopping district.
"We'll dress up a bit, put on some plastic crowns and fluffy boas or something. It's an occasion, who knows when they'll see another one. They'll probably see another royal divorce before another royal wedding."
Prominent royal watcher Diana Fisher said there was a soft spot for William in Australia, a country colonised by the British more than 200 years ago.
"If we could have had street parties we would have, I'm sure some are," said Fisher, who has commentated on every royal wedding since 1960.
"(It's) the ceremony, always the way that England does this great occasion. The might, the majesty, the pomp, the ceremony, the music -- everything that goes with it.
"And then, of course, the dress."
Private parties are expected to be held across Australia and New Zealand as people gather around the television, while screens in public areas in Sydney are expected to draw large crowds.
"I love weddings and I love the Olympics. This is like a combination of the two," said Stacy Farrar from Sydney, who was planning a television marathon complete with British culinary trimmings, despite her republican leanings.
Some said it was just another excuse for a party, with drinking games circulating on social networking sites requiring swigs whenever the Queen is shown, previous royal weddings are mentioned or the word "future" is said.
Others were annoyed that Friday night's prime-time football had taken a back seat in the normally sports-mad nations.
"Rugby!" shouted patrons at Wellington's Bull and Bear pub, when asked what they wanted on the bar's television screens.
© 2011 AFP