William and Kate all smiles in flawless ceremony

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Prince William and his bride Kate overcame any wedding nerves as they sailed through their marriage ceremony with a polished, well-rehearsed and regal performance.

William has in the past compared the couple to a pair of ducks -- calm on the surface but with little feet paddling away furiously beneath the water.

That spirit seemed in evidence as they calmly got through their vows with 1,900 guests watching on in Westminster Abbey, including all the senior royals and several foreign leaders, not to mention billions watching worldwide.

Having waved to the crowds lining The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace, William and his best man, brother Prince Harry, seemed in jovial mood as they arrived at the abbey.

Plain old Kate Middleton, as she was then, drew huge cheers as she drove from her hotel through the London streets.

Steadily guided by her father Michael, she walked slowly and calmly up the aisle ready for the eagerly-awaited ceremony to begin.

Harry, rocking on his feet in his military uniform from the Blues and Royals regiment, turned to look as they made their way through the choir towards the altar.

When Kate arrived at her groom's side, William turned to greet his bride and appeared to say "you look beautiful" before the congregation launched straight into the hymn "Guide me, O thou great Redeemer".

They stood just five steps away from where the coffin of William's mother Diana, princess of Wales was placed at her funeral in 1997.

William sounded nervous when he spoke for the first time to say "I will".

As Kate said her vows in a quiet voice, William seemed to be fighting back a smile.

With the service relayed to the crowds outside the abbey, huge cheers erupted each time they spoke.

Back inside the abbey, Kate slightly swallowed one of William's middle names, Arthur. However, garbling a royal groom's lengthy names is a British royal tradition, with Diana getting Prince Charles's in the wrong order at their wedding in 1981.

When William put the ring on Kate's finger, he struggled at the knuckle despite his steady hands.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, seemed very comfortable as he read through the marriage service.

When he pronounced them man and wife, the thousands gathered outside the abbey, some of whom had camped out for days, roared their approval with a huge cheer that was audible inside the church.

At the second hymn, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg sang much of "Love divine, all loves excelling" from memory, though his Spanish wife needed to read through the order of service.

The bride's brother James Middleton read the lesson, a section from Romans chapter 12, in a slow and purposeful delivery.

Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, began his sermon with a flourish, quoting St Catherine of Siena, whose festival day coincides with the wedding.

The bishop was in his element as he spoke from the pulpit towards the newlywed couple, telling them: "This is a joyful day."

William was listening intently, but his concentration was broken while the Duchess of Cambridge, as Kate will be known with her new title, exchanged a cheeky glance with him, a smile breaking across William's lips.

But by that point, they had been man and wife for only a matter of minutes and could be forgiven letting the joy of the moment break through.

© 2011 AFP

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