WINDSOR, England -- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle gazed into each other's eyes and pledged their lifelong love Saturday as they married in front of hundreds of royals, celebrities and friends at St. George's Chapel and millions of TV viewers around the world.
The English town of Windsor sparkled on a warm spring day as tens of thousands of people jammed its quaint roads and parks to capture their own part of the royal wedding extravaganza.
To kick off the festivities, Queen Elizabeth II honored her 33-year-old grandson with a new title: the Duke of Sussex, making American Markle the Duchess of Sussex.
The wedding was a global event, thanks to Harry's status as a senior British royal and Markle's celebrity after starring on the U.S. television series Suits for seven years. Harry is sixth in line to the British throne, behind his father, brother, two nephews and niece.
The wedding's pomp and ceremony reflected the couple's trans-Atlantic union, mixing Anglican prayers and tradition, classical music and a gospel choir with a stately horse-drawn carriage ride through Windsor in a spectacle beamed live.
The American actress -- a biracial divorcee who is three years Harry's senior -- wore a sleek, white silk, boat-necked dress by British designer Clare Waight Keller. Her sheer veil -- down to her waist in front and billowing behind her -- carried floral references to all 53 countries in the Commonwealth, the group of countries that roughly corresponds to the former British Empire and is headed by Markle's new grandmother-in-law, the queen.
The palace said that, in addition to the Commonwealth flowers, Markle selected two other plants on the veil: Wintersweet and, in a nod to the bride's birthplace, the California poppy.
Harry and best man Prince William wore white gloves and the frock coat uniforms of the Blues and Royals military regiment. Harry kept his full, red beard intact -- a style decision that had sparked British bets before the wedding.
Markle entered St. George's Chapel alone rather than being given away by her father or any other man, a departure from tradition. She was met halfway by Prince Charles and 10 young page boys and bridesmaids. As his father and his bride drew close to the altar, Harry said: "Thank you, Pa."
To Markle, Harry said: "You look amazing."
Markle seemed poised and confident as she delivered her vows. She smiled broadly as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby declared them husband and wife. Harry seemed a bit nervous, but happy.
The sermon offered a particularly rousing U.S. touch, with the leader of the American Episcopal Church quoting civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on the "redemptive power of love." The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry delivered the sermon with heartfelt emotion, occasionally going off-script, as when he prepared to share an observation from the late Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin about the power of fire and love.
"With this, I'll sit you down. We gotta get y'all married," Curry said, visibly shocking some members of the royal family.
Musical selections included versions of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" and Etta James' "Amen/This Little Light of Mine."
A host of celebrities and athletes -- including Oprah Winfrey, Idris Elba, Elton John, George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams, James Corden, and David and Victoria Beckham -- watched from the seats in the Gothic masterpiece at Windsor Castle.
Relatives in the ceremony included 4-year-old Prince George and 3-year-old Princess Charlotte, children of William and the Duchess of Cambridge. Other relatives at the church included Charles Spencer, the brother of Harry's late mother Princess Diana; and Harry's cousins Zara Tindall, and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.
Also in attendance were family members of William's wife, Kate: parents Carole and Michael Middleton, sister Pippa Middleton and brother James Middleton. Harry's ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy was there, as was Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York and ex-wife of Harry's uncle Prince Andrew.
As the newest royal couple emerged from the chapel, they kissed. The crowd cheered as Harry helped his wife fold her 16-foot-long train into the Ascot Landau carriage and they began their procession through the streets of Windsor. Harry decided to wear a wedding ring -- a break from tradition not just for the royal family but for British aristocrats in general.
Police said more than 100,000 people lined the couple's route. Their open-topped carriage was pulled by four Windsor Grey horses past crowds waving flags and holding cellphones aloft. The newlyweds smiled and waved.
Arlene Prinsloo had flown from South Africa -- just to be in Windsor for the event.
"I went to William and Kate's wedding, but this is a completely different vibe," she said. "It's much more relaxed, and I think that reflects who Harry is."
Irene Bowdry, a lawyer from California, was among those who jammed the early train to Windsor. She booked her trip to England as soon as the wedding date was announced.
"An American in the royal family, isn't that so exciting?" she said.
And it seemed to be a time of joy for the 92-year-old queen and her 96-year-old husband, Prince Philip, who was well enough to attend the ceremony. Seated directly opposite the queen at the ceremony was Markle's mother, Doria Ragland, a descendant of slaves in the American South.
"One of the children of slaves is marrying a royal whose forerunners sanctioned slavery; the lion is lying down with the lamb," said Denise Crawford, a court stenographer from Brooklyn, N.Y. "I just want to be here to observe the changing of the guard and the changing of the British Empire. Today is a day that history will never forget."
Information for this article was contributed by Gregory Katz, Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless of The Associated Press; and by Ellen Barry of The New York Times.
Spectators gather Saturday along the Long Walk avenue that leads to Windsor Castle.
Meghan Markle walks down the aisle of St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, England, before she and Prince Harry exchange vows Saturday.
A Section on 05/20/2018
Print Headline: American Markle, Prince Harry wed in splendor