Reporting: Mulenga Hornsby, Katherine Robinson, Ian Cowley, Gemma Strong and Alexandra Light
For eight years a nation had wondered whether this match would be.
Now, finally with Friday's joyous celebration in Westminster Abbey the hopes of royal fans have been realised, and Prince William and Kate Middleton are man and wife.
The couple sealed their love in a beautiful ceremony which combined pomp and pageantry with the most personal of touches, and converted her at a stroke into Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.
Kate was clearly emotional, yet managed to stay calm and serene, her voice only faltering slightly as she exchanged vows with William.
Her composure with the eyes of the world upon her, was all the more remarkable for a young woman – who up until a few months ago had remained out of the spotlight, a virtual unknown.
The British people know her now, and, like her dashing Prince, they too seem to have fallen in love with her.
Her extraordinary appeal was clear from the hundreds of thousands who lined the route in an unending sea of Union Jacks and banners wishing the new royal poster girl well as she was conveyed on her way to become the consort of a future King.
Her last night as Miss Middleton had been spent in London's upmarket Goring Hotel with her parents Michael and Carole and siblings James and Pippa – her maid of honour.
In a break with royal tradition, the brunette beauty chose not to travel to the Abbey by horse-drawn carriage.
Instead she arrived with her father in a Rolls Royce Phantom VI given to the Queen for her Silver Jubilee. As Kate emerged she gave the world the first good look at her Sarah Burton dress.
William was still in the dark, however – as the huge screens inside the Abbey broadcasting the arrivals were switched to general shots of the congregation.
This ensured he didn't catch a glimpse of his bride before she made her spectacular entrance.
The Abbey bells had rung out for 45 minutes, but they stopped as, proceeded by her bridesmaids, Kate made the life-changing walk up the aisle by her father's side.
It had been timed to last four minutes, giving family and friends of the couple, as well as the VIP guests in the 1,900-strong congregation, plenty of time to see her in all her finery.
Following behind were Little Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor – daughter of the Earl and Countess of Wessex – was joined by the Duchess of Cornwall's three-year-old granddaughter Eliza Lopes, Viscount Linley's eight-year-old daughter Margarita, Grace Van Cutsem, three, daughter of the groom's friends.
Gorgeous in white, fairytale bespoke dresses by Nicki MacFarlane, they were led by maid of honour Pippa, her face wreathed in smiles.
Kate's sister looked stunning in another Sarah Burton creation, made to echo the bride's dress. It was fashioned from ivory satin-based crepe, with a cowl front and with the same button detail and lace trims as the Bride's.
There were also the two page boys, chosen for their parents' loyalty to William.
One was ten-year-old Billy Lowther-Pinkerton, son of Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, William's Private Secretary and the organiser of these magnificent nuptials.
The other was Tom Pettifer, eight year-old son of William's former nanny, Tiggy Pettifer, nee Legge-Bourke, who on hearing of the engagement declared that it was "fan-flaming-tastic".
The boys wore a mini uniform in the style of a Foot Guard's officer in the 1820s, featuring red and gold piping. They were created by Kasket and Partners, who also fitted William's uniform.
At the altar was Kate's handsome groom who had arrived at the Abbey 45 minutes early, smart in the distinctive uniform of the Irish Guards.
He had spent some time in a side room in quiet reflection with his best man, Prince Harry, before emerging to wait for his bride.
"Here she is now," said Harry as he saw Kate making her way up the aisle.
The look on his face said it all: Kate simply took his breath away. As the couple waited to be joined in marriage, they exchanged a few intimate words, and shy smiles, to steady their nerves.
"You look lovely, you look beautiful," he told his radiant bride, before joking: "This was suposed to be a small family affair."
Conducting the service was the Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, and marrying the couple was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
Giving the address was the Bishop of London, Richard John Carew Chartres – a personal friend of Prince Charles who has known William for many years and confirmed him into the Church of England.
He told them: "This is a joyful day. It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.
"In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with bride and groom as the king and queen of creation, making a new life together, so life can flow through them into the future.
"I pray that all of us present and the many millions watching this ceremony and sharing in your joy today will do everything in their power to support you. I pray that God will bless you in the way of life you have chosen."
His moving sermon came after the couple had pledged to love and honour each other.
William was first to go, asked by the Archbishop: "William Arthur Philip Louis, wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife, to live according to God's law in holy estate of Matrimony?"
"Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour and keep her, in sickness and in health? And, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as you both shall live?"
Then came the bride's turn to answer the same question.
Taking Kate's hand - which shook ever so slightly - the Prince then made this promise: "I, William Arthur Philip Louis, take thee, Catherine Elizabeth, to my wedded wife.
"To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health.
"To love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy law, and thereto I give thee my troth."
She responded in kind, looking deeply into William's eyes. And unlike Princess Diana, who famously muddled up the Prince of Wales' names, the response was word perfect.
As she watched from her seat in the Abbey's North Lantern, just to the left of the altar, Kate's mother Carole was brimming with emotion. Surrounding her were the Middleton family's immediate relatives and close friends.
Just opposite, seated in the South Lantern, the British royal family looked on. The Queen, obviously thrilled and elegant in a primrose-hued dress by Angela Kelly, sat with Prince Philip.
With them were Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Anne, and Princess Beatrice and Eugenie, among others.
William placed a ring of Welsh gold on Kate's wedding finger to seal their union.
The gold from which it was fashioned was a gift from the Queen on their engagement, and was taken from the same nugget which has produced the weddings bands of many of Britain's royal brides.
Among them are the Queen, Princess Anne and William's mum.
Placing it on her finger, William said: "With this ring, I thee wed; with my body I thee honour; and all my worldly goods with thee I share: In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
A roar of approval went up from the crowds listening to the service outside as they were declared man and wife.
SIGNING OF THE REGISTER
Giving the only reading of the service was Kate's brother James Middleton. The 23-year-old took his place at the Great Lectern and delivered Romans 12: 1-2, 9-18.
The 1,900-strong congregation listened intently as he read: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.
"Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour."
After prayers and a blessing there was a rendition of the National Anthem.
Then the newlyweds retired to the Chapel of St Edward the Confessor - the holiest part of the Abbey - for a private moment.
Away from the gaze of the cameras with only their parents, Harry and Pippa present, they signed the register.
Trumpeters from the RAF Central Band then played a specially composed fanfare in honour of the newlyweds.
Finally, it was off to start their married life. William took his new wife's hand, and the former university sweethearts, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge departed, paying homage to the Queen: William gave a bow, while the newest member of the royal family dipped a low curtsey.
And then the joyous peal of the bells started up again - to be heard for another three and a half hours.