Royal wedding crowds: days like this 'put the great into Britain'

Ms Markle's father pulled out of the wedding after it emerged he had staged

Ms Markle's father pulled out of the wedding after it emerged he had staged

The big day has finally come for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The service officially began about 11pm NZT, conducted by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were declared husband and wife at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Meghan is now a Duchess and the wedding was a dramatic and kinda awesome break from Royal tradition.

After days of discussion over who would escort her to the altar, the bride made her way down the aisle of St. George's Chapel on her own in a striking show of independence. Meghan Markle emerged wearing a stunning dress designed by Clare Waight Keller, the first female artistic director at French fashion house Givenchy. Harry kept his full red beard intact. Harry and Meghan chose the colloquial texts of Common Worship, the standard Church of England liturgy published in 2000, over the distinctly more austere phrasing of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer used for the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.

Among the host of famous guests who witnessed the ceremony were Oprah Winfrey, George and Amal Clooney - dressed in an eye-catching yellow dress and hat - tennis star Serena Williams, actor Idris Elba and singer James Blunt.

When the carriage carrying Prince Harry and Meghan makes its first big turn onto the streets of Windsor after their wedding today, Janice Cox and her family will have a prime view. Prince Harry was in his military attire for the wedding.

Meghan's father, Thomas Markle Sr., was supposed to attend until health concerns ruled him out.

There was no promise by Markle to "obey" her husband. As she reached his side, Harry appeared to say: "You look unbelievable". Rev. Michael Curry of the US stirred the congregation from its fairy-tale reverie, quoting Martin Luther King in in a sermon that had some reaching for hankies and others shifting in their chairs.

Educated at the exclusive Eton College, a stone's throw from Windsor, Harry, the younger son of the late Princess Diana, gained a reputation as a royal wild child.

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Two of Harry's ex-girlfriends were at the chapel - Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas - as was Sarah Ferguson, the ex-wife of Harry's uncle, Prince Andrew. Thousands lined the the carriage route around the small town as well as the grand processional Long Walk to the castle. Irene Bowdry, a lawyer from California, was aboard the jammed early train to Windsor.

Meghan was all smiles as she said her vows and gave Harry his wedding ring. He says he's pleased to welcome Meghan into the family "in this way".

The weather was balmy and clear, bathing the ancient stones of Windsor Castle in a lovely spring light. "There are cardboard cutouts of Meghan and Harry in every shop window, virtually. I've never seen so many people in the streets of Windsor". The royal brothers' father, Prince Charles, doesn't wear one, either, but he did opt for a signet ring at his 2005 wedding. But in remarks to the United States celebrity website TMZ, he said his daughter looked "beautiful" and described her wedding as "emotional and joyful". "This woman will be able to handle anything, she's just incredible".

The family tableau will play out on the broadest possible stage. Security was tight and visitors had to pass through police search points set up around the castle, home to 39 English monarchs since 1066.

British reserve crisscrossed with American verve in a service that broke molds and created new ones.

It was followed by a performance of the Ben E. King classic "Stand by me" by the Kingdom Choir, a group of 20 gospel singers.

Markle will be accompanied by her mother, Doria Ragland, when she is driven to the chapel, and many of her closest friends and some co-stars from "Suits" will be in the audience.

Harry will be joined by some of his buddies from his 10 years of military service - an experience that included tours of duty in Afghanistan - and from numerous charities he supports, which have focused on helping wounded veterans or encouraging a more open discussion of mental health issues. "They're not stuffy. They're adapting to societal changes", she said. "That's why 2 billion people are watching them".

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