From across the world, crowds gather as William and Kate wed
Clutching Union Jack flags, they had come from all over the world, rising before dawn or camping overnight for the royal wedding, and they were finally rewarded Friday as Prince William and Kate Middleton were declared husband and wife at Westminster Abbey.
Despite their long wait on the pavements of London, thousands of royal fans were in high spirits as they chanted "We want Kate, we want Kate" in the moments before the Rolls-Royce Phantom carrying her from the Goring Hotel arrived at the abbey.
Sitting next to her father Michael, Kate acknowledged the crowds who waved flags and cheered their support.
There was a rush of fans across Parliament Square in the hope of seeing the Rolls-Royce carrying the bride in her elegant dress - an ivory gown with lace applique floral detail designed by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen fashion house.
The crowds then settled to listen to the service, which was broadcast on loudspeakers across the square.
"They are the most glamorous and classy couple. They are a new face for the monarchy," gushed Katie Oresko, a student from Chicago who joined hundreds of thousands of well-wishers lining the wedding procession route through London.
"I wish I were Kate but just for the day. I don't want to become a queen, but it's every girl's dream to become a princess," sighed her friend Kate More, 20, donning a paper crown as she joined the crowd outside Buckingham Palace.
Outside the abbey, where some royal fans had been camped out since Monday, the road was packed with well-wishers.
Haytham Khalaf, a 35-year-old university researcher from Jordan, said the wedding was a "once in a lifetime" event, adding: "I could have watched it on TV but up close it is so much better. And you meet people too."
Many of the millions of enthusiasts expected on Friday were on The Mall, the wide tree-lined avenue leading to Buckingham Palace down which the newlyweds will travel in a horse-drawn carriage after the ceremony.
They will appear for the first time as husband and wife on the palace balcony, and are expected to treat the crowds to a kiss.
Australian Sam Harburg, 27, dressed in a pink tie and dark blue jacket, arrived with a friend at 4:00 am equipped with a cool box with beer and two bottles of champagne, "one for the procession and one for the royal kiss".
"I can tell my friends in Australia that I was here," he said.
The crowd was a riot of colour -- there were little girls in princess dresses, women sporting paper crowns and plastic tiaras, men in William paper masks and an ocean of red, white and blue Union Jack flags.
One couple came dressed as daffodils, the national flower of Wales, where William and Kate will live after their marriage, while two women wore wedding dresses with signs on their backs saying "It should have been me!".
Outside the abbey, Kim Ratcliffe, 37, wore a spectacular hat on top of her blonde hair. "I came prepared just in case they would invite me in!" she said, pushing her two daughters, both dressed as princesses, in their pram.
Nearby, 21-year-old London student Mina Best said she loved the fact that the couple had met at university like so many other ordinary people.
"They're pretty normal people, genuine people. Not what you would expect from the royal family," she said.
Most in the crowd were hopeful that the marriage would last, unlike William's parents Diana and Prince Charles.
"She's much older than Diana, and much more mature -- and they marry for love. Charles was under pressure from his family," said Sandra Russell, 65, adding: "You know people here, they're still angry at him."
About 5,500 street parties are expected across Britain on Friday, including in the Scottish university of St Andrews, where William and Kate met, and where about 1,000 people gathered for festivities involving Scottish dancing.
In Bucklebury, the village where Kate grew up west of London, marquees were set up on the green for a huge party with a hog roast, stalls and games as residents put on a big show for their most famous daughter.
"It's an opportunity for everybody to get together and have a great time celebrating a really wonderful occasion," said John Millard, 70, who has known the Middleton family on and off for years.
Elizabeth Peplow, co-host of the village's main royal wedding party, added: "It's an experience for us all that we have never seen and will probably never see again."
© 2011 AFP