Wedding guests in elegant attire filed into Westminster Abbey and royal fans lined the streets of London by the thousands, hoping to snatch a glimpse of history as Prince William weds Kate Middleton in a marriage expected to revitalize the royal brand.
A third of the planet was forecast to be watching Friday as the future king and queen of England start their lives as husband and wife with the two simple words "I will," ending months of buildup with the most public of spectacles.
All the clamoring over every detail — the wedding dress, her hair, their titles, the romantic kiss on the balcony, the honeymoon — finally will be answered. But the biggest question won't be resolved for years: Will this royal couple live happily ever after
Will their union endure like that of William's grandparents — Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, now in its 64th year — or crumble in a spectacular and mortifying fashion like that of his own parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Recent history augurs badly: The first marriages of three of the queen's four children ended in divorce. But William and Kate seem to glow with happiness in each other's company, and unlike Charles and Diana they've had eight years to figure out that they want to be together.
Still, the fate of their marriage depends on private matters impossible for the public to gauge, for a beautiful bridal gown and a sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring do not guarantee a happy ending. Any wedding is fundamentally about two people. Will their lives together, starting with such high hopes, be blessed by good fortune, children, good health, productive work?
Much will depend on whether 28-year-old William and 29-year-old Kate can summon the things every couple needs: patience, love, wit and wisdom. But they face the twin burdens of fame and scrutiny. Money, power, beauty — it can all go wrong if not carefully nurtured.