The romantic and regal nuptials of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton played out under breezy and sun-spotted skies Friday, with the couple exchanging vows before 1,900 guests at Westminster Abbey and the world soaking in the pageantry of the highly anticipated union.

Thirty years after the wedding of William's parents — Prince Charles and Diana, later the Princess of Wales — the dashing prince took the hand of Kate, a commoner with wealthy roots, as up to a million people lined the streets of London and an estimated two billion worldwide television viewers watched.

Kate and William, who is second in line to the throne, met in 2001 in an art history class at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland. They were engaged in November 2010.

The wedding day began when the couple, now to be known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, made their way separately to the historic London church.

Outside, thousands who had been camping out for days in hopes of catching glimpses of royalty and celebrated guests screamed and waved as William arrived first, accompanied by his brother and best man, Prince Harry.

The princes were soon followed by Kate, who emerged from a Rolls-Royce wearing a classic fitted white V-neck gown, with a long-sleeved lace overlay and nearly three-metre train held by her sister and maid of honour, Pippa Middleton.

The elegant number was designed by Sarah Burton, creative director at the British fashion house of the late Alexander McQueen.

Replay

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John Stillwell/Reuters

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Kate also wore a 1936 Cartier "halo" tiara, a loan from her grandmother-in-law the Queen, under a veil as she was walked up the aisle by her father, Michael Middleton. The historic walk was performed to the strains of I Was Glad, composed by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. (The same anthem was sung at the wedding of William's parents as well.)

William, 28, wore the red uniform of Colonel of the Irish Guards, an honorary title granted to him in February. The uniform's features include a gold and crimson sash. His hat bore an inscription of the regiment's motto, Quis separabit — Latin for "Who shall separate us?"

Kate did not promise to "obey" her new husband in her vows, but instead said she will "love, comfort, honour and keep" William. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams then pronounced them husband and wife.

Crowd content with 'glimpses'

CBC's Adrienne Arsenault, on the streets near Buckingham Palace, said many outside onlookers were able to hear the event, which was pumped through loudspeakers, but could not see anything because of "the royal bottleneck."

"You get a little glimpse of somebody's elbow," she said, adding that nobody complained. People sang along with the hymns and took pictures of each other.

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William, the Duke of Cambridge, drives his wife, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, on The Mall in London in his father's Aston Martin Volante on their way to Clarence House after their wedding. ((Max Nash/Associated Press))

At the historic church, chimes rang out for more than three hours after the end of the ceremony. A peal of more than 5,000 chimes was planned, which is only used on special royal or national occasions. 

After signing the register in a private room, the couple walked out of the abbey and rode in an open carriage, the 1902 State Landau, from the church to Buckingham Palace.

Before a throng of cheering well-wishers, the couple finally emerged on the balcony there, surrounded by both families — including Prince Charles; his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall; and the Queen — and all the children in the wedding party.

William and Kate gave their jubilant followers exactly what they had hoped for and more — not just one royal kiss, but two.

Seven Royal Air Force planes, both vintage and modern, also performed a flyover during their balcony appearance.

The Queen, the last to arrive at the wedding before the bride, wore an Angela Kelly-designed single crepe wool primrose dress with hand-sewn beading at the neck in the shape of sunrays, as well as a matching double crepe wool tailored primrose coat, according to the official royal wedding website.

Among the friends, dignitaries and celebrities who attended the ceremony and who were dressed in colourful hats and formal morning coats were Prince Harry's on-again, off-again girlfriend, Chelsy Davy; British music legend Elton John and his partner, Canadian David Furnish; and soccer star David Beckham and his wife, Victoria.

Other guests included Charles Spencer, the brother of William's late mother; as well as former British prime minister John Major and Canadian Gov.-Gen. David Johnston, who tweeted Friday morning that William would wear the Canadian Forces Decoration at the wedding ceremony. The decoration is normally awarded to Canadian Forces members who have completed 12 years of service.

"A special relationship with our regiments," the tweet said.

Queen's lunch

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Kieran Doherty/Reuters

Some of the canapés on Buckingham Palace's lunchtime menu:

  • Cornish crab salad on lemon blini.
  • Pressed duck terrine with fruit chutney.
  • Quail eggs with celery salt.
  • Bubble and squeak with confit shoulder of lamb.
  • Scottish langoustines with lemon mayonnaise, pressed confit of pork belly with crayfish and crackling.  

Following the balcony appearance, the Queen gave a lunchtime reception with 650 guests from the wedding service's congregation. The lunch included 10,000 canapés prepared by a team of 21 chefs.

The royal couple left the palace in a dark-blue Aston Martin convertible loaned by Prince Charles, before attending an evening reception and dinner hosted by Prince Charles with 300 guests.

As they arrived for the event, Kate spoke briefly with a photographer saying "I am glad the weather held off. We had a great day."

Prince Harry was to host a party afterward that he hoped would stretch to 6 a.m. local time.

William and Kate were to spend their first night as newlyweds in the palace's Belgian Suite.

The couple's new titles  of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were revealed by Buckingham Palace a few hours before the ceremony.

The palace statement said William was also named the Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus, making Middleton the Countess of Strathearn and Baroness Carrickfergus.

Baron Carrickfergus is a little-used title that refers to one of the oldest towns in Northern Ireland. Strathearn ties William and Middleton to Scotland, where the pair met and fell in love.

Zoom in on the crowds

Take a closer look at the celebrations and the ceremony by selecting the image below.

Buckingham Palace
With files from CBC's Daniel Schwartz and The Associated Press