INDIANAPOLIS — With dining chairs forming makeshift pews and tacky “Royal Wedding” T-shirts in lieu of formalwear, Jen Barnette and five bleary-eyed friends settled in her living room before dawn on Friday to watch Britain’s Prince William marry his longtime sweetheart, Kate Middleton.
The festivities at Barnette’s Indianapolis home kicked off Thursday night, with a round of trivia — “How much older is Cougar Catherine than William?” Answer: Five months — and “Kate-tails,” a sapphire-blue vodka concoction served in a glass with a sugared rim, to match the colors of Middleton’s engagement ring.
The friends were among an estimated 2 billion people worldwide who tuned in for the spectacle and pageantry of a royal wedding, including many in the U.S. who pulled all-nighters or dragged themselves out of bed to watch.
“This is our Super Bowl,” said the 24-year-old Barnette.
Some of the East Coast parties kicked off at 4 a.m., two hours before the start of the ceremony in London’s Westminster Abbey.
Hundreds of people, some waving small British flags and wearing fancy hats, watched the newest royal couple exchange their vows on the massive screen overlooking New York’s Times Square.
Heather Mauro, a 28-year-old occupational therapist from Rockaway, N.Y., came with her mother and aunt. She wore a big round beige hat with gold trim.
“I thought she looked absolutely wonderful,” Mauro said of the bride. “It brought me back to my wedding. It brought tears to my eyes. Everything was perfect, prim and proper, just like the English do.”
A cheer went up at Walt Disney World’s party in Orlando when Middleton emerged from her limousine outside the church and took her father’s arm. About 300 guests, nearly all of them women and many wearing pajamas and tiaras, watched the ceremony in the park’s Wedding Pavilion, which looks out on Cinderella’s castle.
Orlando resident Angela Vanderjagt, 46, said she remembers watching Prince William’s parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, get married in 1981. The newlyweds’ union will be compared, fairly or not, to Charles and Diana’s, which crumbled in spectacular fashion before her death in a Paris car crash in 1997.
“Diana would be thinking how proud she is of her son and how well he turned out, even with all the pressure. Unlike her, I think he’s marrying for love. They’re both marrying for love,” Vanderjagt said.
About 220 miles above Earth, U.S. astronaut Catherine Coleman made sure NASA broadcast the live wedding coverage to the space station so that the crew could watch.
Michelle Ertel asked her husband to wear his tuxedo and act as a butler for about two dozen members of her women’s club in Oviedo, Fla. Two large-screen televisions showed the wedding and Ertel, a 43-year-old communications consultant, asked her guests to each donate a special occasion dress for charity.
When Middleton got out of her car and revealed her ivory-and-white satin dress, which had a train over 2 yards long, Ertel’s guests started cheering.
“We all just got goose bumps,” Ertel said. “Her dress was simple and beautiful. It was amazing, and she did not look nervous.”
Restaurants and bars in many cities, including The Globe Pub in Chicago and the Rittenhouse Hotel restaurant in Philadelphia, hosted viewing parties. Some venues hung Union Jack flags or bunting, served traditional English fare and hawked royals-inspired cocktails such as “The Windsor Knot” and “The Bitter Queen.”
More than two dozen people gathered at The Londoner, in Dallas, many wearing hats fit for a royal wedding or sequined tiaras provided by the pub.
After the newlyweds kissed on the palace balcony one person shouted “Kiss her again, Will!”
And he did.
Episcopal and Anglican churches, too, opened their doors to those who wanted a more contemplative atmosphere to watch the wedding.
At the Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan, which has centuries-old ties to the Church of England, congregants sat in pews and watched the event on a jumbo screen set up at the altar.
“Very tasteful,” New Yorker Elise Salinger, 22, said of the bride’s dress. “I’m glad it’s a classic style, not ultramodern, off the shoulder or a halter.”
Dozens of people gathered at Chicago’s Episcopal Church of Our Saviour to watch what they consider a major event in the Anglican religion.
“After the wedding was over with, we used one of the prayers for the royal family,” parishioner Roger Gumm said. “It was lovely.”
Barnette, who put her professional skills as an event planner to the test by staying up all night to turn her Indianapolis living room into her version of Westminster Abbey, said she believes many Americans are fascinated by Britain’s royals because they are an indelible part of the British identity, and there is no American equivalent.
“I think because we don’t have that here … it’s just something completely foreign to us,” she said.
Caryn Rousseau reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Mitch Stacy in Orlando, Fla., Ula Ilnytzky in New York, Jamie Stengle in Dallas and Patrick Walters in Philadelphia contributed to this report. AP video reporter Ted Shaffrey also contributed.