LONDON (AP) - With not one but two kisses and tender whispered words, Prince William and Kate Middleton smiled and blushed Friday as they started their life as future king and queen. A day of seamless pageantry inspired hopes that this royal couple might live happily ever after.
They appeared at ease throughout their wedding day, with William fighting back giggles at times, while Kate's smile lit up television screens, especially when her new husband leaned over tosay, "You look beautiful."
A million people lined the procession route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, many crying with joy. Cheers went up as the couple exchanged the traditional kiss on the balcony, followed by chants of "One more kiss!" The couple waved and smiled and, to a frenzy of delight, obliged.
An estimated 2 billion people tuned into the live broadcast in what may have been the most-viewed event in history.
Many praised the couple's rare combination of humility, humor and grace. Kate was a commoner from a wealthy but middle-class family who actually worked for a living after university; Williamhas long had his mother's touch in connecting to the public, and surprised fans who slept on the pavement overnight by personally thanking them Thursday for braving the cold.
The 28-year-old prince even displayed a quality almost never seen among royalty: humor. Surveying the 1,900 guests filling the abbey in their wedding finery, he turned to his father-in-law,Michael Middleton, and quipped: "We're supposed to have just a small family affair."
Then after a reception at Buckingham Palace, he took his new wife for a spin, driving a dark-blue Aston Martin Volante festooned with ribbons, bows and balloons - and a license plate that read "JU5T WED."
It was the kind of display that made some wonder whether the couple just might bring the British monarchy back from the abyss.
"It's a real turning point for the royal family," Nicki Hookings, 47, said at one of thousands of street parties across Britain to celebrate the national holiday.
Crowds from Australia to Zimbabwe clasped Union Jack flags and donned hats - and wedding gowns - to show their enthusiasm. "It's one happy event in the world right now," said SanFrancisco attorney Laura Claster, who traveled to London to be with the crowds. "It gives us a day of celebration to forget the troubles in the world."
In a statement, the White House offered congratulations. "On this occasion, the American people extend heartfelt congratulations to the peoples of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth and share in their hopes for a bright future for the Royal couple."
The palace was holding two parties: one in the afternoon for 650 guests, and a dinner dance for 300 close friends. Arriving for the latter, Kate pronounced it a "great day." "I am glad the weather held off," she said, appearing radiant in a strapless white satin evening gown with a circle skirt and diamante embroidered detail around the waist, another Sarah Burton creation.
Ben Fogle, a friend of the couple and television presenter, said the mood was relaxed during afternoon festivities at Buckingham Palace with "very funny and heartfelt speeches."
The flag went down as the queen and her husband left the palace for the younger royals to party the night away - and for Harry to make his best man's speech away from his grandparents' ears.
It was rumored that Harry planned a "British fry-up" breakfast for those still standing at dawn.