NEW YORK -- Thousands gathered in London under gray skies Friday to watch Prince William wed Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey, as hundreds of thousands more crowded the city's streets to catch a glimpse of the action.
The bride wore a dress by Sarah Burton, creative director at the late Alexander McQueen's fashion house. The intricate gown, which she paired with a tiara borrowed from the queen, had lace sleeves, a plunging neckline and a two-meter train.
Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican denomination, officiated the nuptials. When his bride arrived at the altar, William appeared to whisper in her ear, "you look beautiful."
The couple comfortably recited their vows without so much as a stumble or stutter. Keeping with Anglican tradition, both the bride and groom pronounced "I will" after stating their vows. But instead of pledging to "obey" her husband, Middleton vowed to "love, honor, comfort and keep" him.
The royal ceremony began with the hymn "Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer" and, after the couple exchanged vows, continued with "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling." In a subtle tribute to the groom's mother, the initial hymn was also played at the late Princess Diana's funeral.
William slipped a wedding ring made of rare Welsh gold on his bride's finger. The band was crafted by the Wartski company, a shop founded in Wales in 1865 and long associated with the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II gave the jewelry to her grandson shortly after he announced his engagement in November, and both she and Diana also wore wedding rings made of Welsh gold. Like his father, Prince Charles (when he wed Diana), and grandfather, Prince Phillip, William will not wear a wedding band.
The wedding party consisted of family and close friends. Middleton's younger sister, Pippa, 27, served as her maid of honor, while Harry, 26, acted as best man to his older brother.
Middleton had spent the previous night with her immediate family at the century-old five-star Goring Hotel. Following a strict schedule, she left the hotel nine minutes before the ceremony, traveling in a purple Rolls-Royce with her father, Michael.
Before her arrival, members of the royal family as well as her own drove to the Abbey in ascending order of royal rank. Their Bentleys, Rolls-Royces and Jaguars snaked through throngs of cheering spectators, many of whom had camped out days before the big event to secure a spot.
The groom, clad in a bright red military uniform as Colonel of the Irish Guards, traveled to the ceremony site in a Bentley limousine from his father's residence, the Clarence House. His younger brother, Prince Harry, accompanied him.
Guests began arriving hours before the ceremony. Victoria Beckham stepped out with her husband David wearing a dark sheath from her own collection and a pillbox hat by Irish milliner Philip Treacy. Other celebrity attendees included Sir Elton John, filmmaker Guy Ritchie and comedian Rowan Atkinson, most famous for his role as Mr. Bean.
Middleton's mother, Carole, wore a sky blue dress and coat by the late Catherine Walker, a favorite designer of Princess Diana. The queen donned a yellow wool primrose dress and matching coat and hat by Angela Kelly.
After the ceremony, the royal couple rode a 1902 State Landau open carriage from the Abbey to Buckingham Palace, where they exchanged a kiss on the balcony. Onlookers begged for a repeat performance, chanting "Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!" The newlyweds obliged.
"It's quite exciting," British Prime Minister David Cameron, who attended the event with his wife, Samantha, told the New York Times. "We are quite reserved a lot, the British, but when we go for it, we go for it."
The queen announced Friday that Prince William, 28, will become His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus and his wife, 29, will become Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, according to an official press release. British protocol prohibits the bride from being called Princess Catherine because she was not born a princess.
The two first met in 2001 while attending the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and have been together since 2003. Many have speculated their union signifies the birth of a more "populist" monarchy, as the marriage marks the first time in 350 years that a member of senior royalty has chosen a middle class partner. In another breach of custom, the couple lived together before their marriage on the island of Anglesey, a remote Royal Air Force Base where William works as a search-and-rescue pilot.
As such, some of the wedding gifts may reflect the change in tradition. London Mayor Boris Johnson, for example, presented the newlyweds with a tandem bicycle. "I'm very proud to be invited," he told the AP. "I'll be going to Trafalgar Square later to give a toast to the royal couple."
Watch Prince William and Kate exchange their vows: