British Expats watching live telecast of the royal wedding at Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club on Friday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

London: They wore Kate and William face masks in Hong Kong, donned plastic tiaras and wedding dresses in Sydney and knocked back jugs of Pimm's and roast beef served on red, white and blue plates in Paris.

As thousands packed the streets of London to celebrate the wedding of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton yesterday, millions more around the world joined in the fun.

Royal-themed parties were held from Beijing to New York, while up to two billion people worldwide were expected to watch the wedding on television, the British government estimated.


In Australia, a Queen Elizabeth look-a-like greeted crowds glued to a large outdoor screen in Sydney and a Melbourne hotel offered "wedding guests" traditional British food and drink, such as Yorkshire pudding, gin and tonic and Pimm's, a fruity alcoholic drink.

Sydney's gays and lesbians held a same-sex royal wedding party, with guests enjoying slices of a giant wedding cake baked by Gaycakes and a gift bag containing a booklet on same-sex marriages.

Flying the flag

In the former British colony of Hong Kong, which switched from British to Chinese rule in 1997, pubs and bars were decked out in Union Jacks as live footage of the celebrations were beamed to champagne-sipping party-goers.

"It's bigger than the World Cup final," said Edward Stockreisser, a British expatriate watching the wedding with his fiancee.

"We're in an Irish pub in Hong Kong and everyone's watching the TV...people really care about them."\


In a shopping mall on Kowloon, on the other side of the harbour, crowds of locals wore red, white and blue hats and waved flags. Some wore William and Kate masks.

Royal wedding fans braved an early morning in New York to mark the big day with street celebrations and to watch three couples tie the knot in Times Square.

Cable TV station TLC sought to boost ratings by organising the weddings on a stage erected above the busy intersection in Manhattan.

"It's amazing it's the same day, it feels a little bit for them," said groom Hector Abreu, 27. "No, it's for us," butted in his future bride Candice Chapman.

Princess Diana

For much of Prince William's life, the character of his mother, Diana, has loomed larger than most mothers, whether during her bitter marriage while she lived, or in the aftermath of her death, in which William's role was that of tragic young pallbearer.

On Friday, royal wedding watchers in Dubai agreed that while the princess' spirit has threatened to dominate the event, in the end the ceremony's modernity and the clear love between the young newlyweds meant it was squarely rooted in the present, and Diana's memory played but a small, if touching, role.

"I think Diana's day came and went, and sad as it was, I think she never quite fitted the royal family. I feel they've moved on and everybody else has. It was just about them," said Enid Rodgers, visiting Dubai from the UK, who was watching the wedding at the Dubai Equestrian and Polo Club.

"At the end it came to a traditional family event, which is very special, family is very important. It's all we have."

Richard Holmes, a Dubai resident for four years, agreed. "It was absolutely about them. I feel sad that his mum can't be here with him today, but I genuinely think that him and his brother, there's something inside them that they are doing it because of her. They know how proud she'd be. Today is about them."

While many said they'd thought of Diana during the ceremony, especially as William and Catherine pulled away from the Abbey in a horse and carriage as a newly-married couple, the shadows cast by the ill-fated marriage of William's parents Charles and Diana never threatened to darken the joyous occasion.

"I didn't feel there was any pressure of Diana and what happened with her wedding," said Donna Tomblin. "I felt it was totally unique. She didn't feel any pressure to be like Diana, she was beautiful in her own right,"

- With inputs from Natalie Long, tabloid! Editor