William and Kate embark on historic royal wedding
The wedding of Prince William and his fairytale bride Kate Middleton began Friday with huge crowds and a global TV audience watching Britain's biggest royal celebration for three decades.
Kate, wearing an ivory and white satin wedding dress with long lace sleeves, a veil and a long flowing train waved to cheering crowds of well-wishers as she entered Westminster Abbey.
William arrived at the church 45 minutes earlier accompanied by his younger brother and best man Prince Harry. Grinning broadly, he was dressed in a scarlet military tunic with a blue sash.
It is the richest display of pageantry since William's late mother Diana married Prince Charles in 1981 and offers Britain's royal family a chance at renewal after Charles and Diana's bitterly public split.
The absence of Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, will be keenly felt throughout the day, and Prince Charles's main spokesman Paddy Harverson said she was "always" in William's thoughts.
"But I think today is about the future and about Catherine and Prince William, and it's their day and I think you'll find it will go beautifully," Harverson told BBC television.
Two billion people -- a third of the world's population -- is expected to watch Diana's eldest son wed the commoner he began dating at St Andrews university in Scotland eight years ago.
William Arthur Philip Louis -- as Diana's eldest son and the second in line to the throne will be called during the service -- waved to the crowds with one white-gloved hand as he arrived at the 1,000-year-old church.
Kate herself travelled to the abbey with her father Michael and took four minutes to walk down the aisle, which is lined with trees specially brought in to create the feel of an English garden.
Palace officials confirmed her dress was by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen.
Guests were already packed inside, including footballer David Beckham, singer Elton John and "Mr Bean" actor Rowan Atkinson. Fifty members of the royal family and dozens of foreign royals were due after William.
Queen Elizabeth II granted the couple the titles Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as a wedding gift earlier in the day.
Hundreds of thousands of campers transformed The Mall, the wide boulevard leading to Buckingham Palace, into a sea of Union Jack flags.
"They will make the monarchy fashionable again. It's good for the country," said Louise Akehurst, 25, an administrator from London.
William, a 28-year-old Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot, has long been seen as the great hope of the royal family for the future after a string of failed marriages and scandals.
Sandra Russell, 65, who is of French-British nationality, said she thought the marriage would be successful because Kate is "much older than Diana was at the time, much more mature and they are marrying for love."
"Charles was under the pressure of his family. People here are still angry at him, and Camilla (his second wife) too. I hope William will be the next king."
The Order of Service reveals that Kate will not promise to obey her husband in her marriage vows -- following in the footsteps of Diana, who married Charles on July 29, 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral.
Charles and Diana divorced 15 years later.
William and Kate's service will include a hymn played at Diana's funeral, which also took place in Westminster Abbey.
After the service, the newlyweds will travel in a horse-drawn open carriage from the abbey to Buckingham Palace where the couple will follow tradition by appearing on the balcony with the rest of the royal family and kissing.
More than 8,500 journalists and technical staff are covering the wedding for a global audience.
And the world will join in the party. New York's iconic Empire State Building will be illuminated in blue, white and red in honor of the royal couple.
© 2011 AFP