By DAVID BAUDER
NEW YORK — Like guests who whisper asides to their friends from the back pews, the commoners in the media kept the mood lighthearted Friday as cameras captured every angle of the royal wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Millions followed the event throughout the world on television, their computers and hand-held devices. The media enabled anyone who cared to become a wedding guest.
“At this moment every woman in the world envies Kate,” a blogger who writes under the pen name Xiao Luolo said on China’s Internet news portal Sohu.
Without a royal title, royal friendship or celebrity pedigree, few made it into the ceremony in person. Yet the cameras made it a remarkably intimate event: You could see William struggle slightly to fit a ring on his new wife’s finger and the choir singer who neglected to shave in the morning. You wondered whether William’s heavy eyelids indicated he would drift off during the service. He didn’t.
See William & Kate’s Vows:
Even the private moments truly weren’t. Media members used lip-readers to suggest that William joked on the altar to his father-in-law, “We were supposed to have just a small family affair.”
“I’ve been crying,” said Jenny Crwys-Williams of South Africa’s Radio 702, where the wedding dominated the media in early afternoon there. “I don’t think anyone who’s watching the ceremony hasn’t been crying.”
Media members studied up on royal trivia, and commentators stood at the ready to opine on Middleton’s dress and tiara. The verdict was mostly thumbs-up, with magazine editor Tina Brown, working for ABC News in the U.S., calling the gown “deceptively sexy.”
“Doesn’t she look gorgeous?” asked ABC’s Barbara Walters.
The bride’s always a star on her wedding day, so much so that NBC’s Martin Bashir even seemed impressed that Middleton could hold a bouquet in one hand and wave with the other as she was driven through the crowds to Westminster Abbey.
During the ceremony, a cheer from the crowd outside could faintly be heard at the moment the couple officially married.
“We hope you could hear the roar of England at that moment,” ABC’s Diane Sawyer said.
Wedding coverage started at 4 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast, and was a late-late night affair out West. Commentators kept mostly quiet during the ceremony, usually adding brief asides – like when CBS’ Katie Couric noted that William wouldn’t be wearing a ring, unlike his wife.
After the ceremony and the carriage rides to Buckingham Palace, things got a little giddy. NBC’s “Today” show ran a ticking “countdown to the kiss” clock for when William and Kate were expected to appear on a balcony and share a smooch for the crowd below. Then it happened so quickly the cameras almost missed it.
“That was a peck!” complained Meredith Vieira.
NBC ran a slow-motion replay of the kiss before the couple bowed to pressure from the chanting crowd to kiss again. “Yeah, that’s it,” an approving Vieira said.
Watch The Kiss:
Television networks viewed the event as a respite, and the world’s woes rarely intruded upon their coverage. NBC’s top anchor Brian Williams was absent, however, after flying back to the United States before the wedding to anchor news coverage of the South’s deadly tornado outbreak.
Couric wore a striking pink jacket for what is likely her last major news event at CBS (she’s stepping down as anchor in the coming weeks). She looked comfortable in a setting that reflected her time on morning television at the “Today” show and allowed her to flash some irreverence. She reported about the queen conferring long new titles upon her grandson and his bride.
“What the heck does that mean?” she asked a dour-faced historian sitting beside her.
Her former NBC colleague, Matt Lauer, read the titles and joked that it was going to require “a business card seven and a half inches long. It’s going to be huge.” Befitting their status as American television’s most popular morning show, the “Today” team sat behind a desk decorated with their show’s name topped by a crown.
Brits brought on to the American networks were noticeably most excited by the event. ABC’s “royal correspondent” Katie Nicholl seemed heavily caffeinated next to Sawyer and Walters. Former London tabloid editor Piers Morgan, Larry King’s replacement in CNN’s prime time, was the centerpiece for the news network’s coverage.
“I actually got goose bumps,” Morgan said, noting that his 13-year-old son had just texted “happy wedding day” to him.
Fashion was a central focus as the royal guests arrived. Fox News Channel’s Shepard Smith noted the tall blue perch of a woman who arrived at the abbey with a man who looked like actor Rainn Wilson of “The Office.”
“I don’t know where she got that hat, but you know it’s going to be a big seller,” said the jaunty Smith, who earlier adopted what seemed to be an exaggerated Winston Churchill impersonation in asking Steve Doocy to fill him in on the weather for “this royal morning here across the pond.”
On CNN, Morgan announced the breaking news update that soccer star David Beckham was wearing a Ralph Lauren suit.
“As am I,” broadcast partner Anderson Cooper interjected.
ABC’s team, seemingly armed with books full of facts, chatted about wedding trains worn by royal brides in the past. Brown noted the trouble that Williams’ mother, Princess Diana, had with the large headgear she wore for her wedding.
“The bridesmaids were told, time and time again, not to trod on the train,” she said.
CBS took a different approach to avoid much of the dead time of small talk as guests were arriving. It broke away for an extended look back at Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding in 1981.
Diana’s wedding provided an important backdrop to coverage in the former British colony of Hong Kong, where the wedding was telecast in the late afternoon and early evening.
“It is exactly because Princess Diana provided the first installment, people realized, `Oh, marrying into the royal family isn’t that great,'” Anny Chong said on Hong Kong’s Cantonese-language Cable TV. “Firstly, now everyone wants to compare Prince William to his mother and secondly, people want to see if Kate will end up like her mother-in-law after becoming a duchess. There is a lot of suspense.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Associated Press correspondents Min Lee in Hong Kong, Alexa Olesen in Beijing and Donna Bryson in Johannesburg contributed to this report.