LONDON — Prince William and Catherine Middleton sealed their wedding vows with a traditional kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace Friday as millions in London and around the world roared their approval.
The short peck — and a slightly longer smooch a couple of minutes later — followed a glittering service at Westminster Abbey in which the prince and the newly created Duchess of Cambridge were pronounced husband and wife.
The kisses were followed by a traditional fly-by of vintage and modern planes from Britain's Royal Air Force.
About two hours later, the couple surprised crowds gathered outside the palace by emerging in a blue convertible Aston Martin and driving around for a few minutes. The car was decorated with a multicolored ribbon across the hood and dragged what appeared to be tin cans, a traditional British touch.
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The couple took their vows at about 11:15 a.m. (6:15 a.m. ET) with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, officiating.
The prince, 28, dressed in the resplendent red tunic of the Irish Guards, appeared to initially struggle to get the wedding ring, made of Welsh gold, onto the elegant, tiara-bedecked Middleton's finger.
William said "I will" in a clear confident voice, when asked if he would "love, comfort, honor and keep" Middleton, 29. She appeared slightly emotional as she repeated her vows.
The prince was spotted winking at his new bride — the first "commoner" to marry a prince in close proximity to the throne in more than 350 years — after they exchanged vows.Slideshow: Will and Kate's royal wedding (on this page)
Middleton had arrived at the abbey on time at 11 a.m. and, as soon as she did, Buckingham Palace issued the long-awaited details of what she was wearing: a long-sleeved lace gown and veil, designed by Sarah Burton, creative director for Alexander McQueen.
According to the U.K.'s Press Association, Prince William told a joke at the altar before the ceremony, saying: "We were supposed to have just a small family affair."Video: Prince William shakes off nerves with humor (on this page)
The line was spotted by Tina Lannin, lipreader for O'Malley Communications, the Press Association said. She also spotted Prince Harry, William's best man, nervously comment "Right, she is here now," as Middleton arrived.
An estimated million well-wishers — as well as some protesters — flooded into the areas surrounding Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and other London landmarks.
Some were up at dawn waving flags for television cameras under steely gray skies and cool temperatures.
Cheers erupted as huge television screens showing the service began broadcasting at Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park.
'She is beautiful'
Brenda Hunt-Stevenson, a 56-year-old retired teacher from Newfoundland, Canada, said there was only one thing on her mind.
"I want to see that kiss on that balcony. That's going to clinch it for me. I don't care what Kate wears. She is beautiful anyway," she said.
Even astronauts on the International Space Station offered best wishes to the couple in a video posted on YouTube.
Some 8,000 reporters and support staff have descended on the capital to capture the occasion in words and images, and, while some question a British government estimate of a global audience of two billion, hundreds of millions are certain to tune in.
Security was tight and as of 11 a.m. local time, police reported 18 arrests had been made for a variety of offenses including, possessing an offensive weapon, sexual assault, assault, criminal damage, a drug offense and being drunk and disorderly, NBC News reported.
The ceremony ended at about 12 noon (7 a.m. ET) and the newly wed couple traveled along street lined with even more ecstatic crowds in an open carriage.
Both smiled and waved as they made the journey, surrounded by cavalry soldiers in dress uniforms to Buckingham Palace.
The palace announced early Friday that the couple would be known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Middleton will now be "Her Royal Highness" and also Princess William of Wales, but the latter title will not be used.
The second duke of Cambridge, Prince Adolphus Frederick, was the seventh son of King George III. Defying the Royal Marriage Act, he married his mistress, Sarah Louisa Fairbrother, an actress and a commoner, in 1847. Since the marriage wasn't legal, his children were all illegitimate.Video: Queen Elizabeth reigns over royal nuptials (on this page)
In contrast to the clamor outside, inside the abbey all was airy and calm during the service. The long aisle leading to the altar was lined with maple and hornbeam trees as light streamed in through the high arched windows.Video: Royal groom, best man arrive for nuptials
Some 1,900 guests filed into the abbey before the wedding, the vast majority of women in hats, some a full two feet across or high. Some looked like dinner plates.
One woman wore a bright red fascinator that resembled a flame licking her cheek. A BBC commentator noted there were some "very odd choices" in fashion walking through the abbey's door.
The guests included some 50 heads of state, British Prime Minister David Cameron, diplomats from around the world, along with celebrities such as Elton John, David Beckham and even the comic actor Rowan Atkinson, known for his portrayal of "Mr. Bean."
The marriage is providing some welcome light relief amid general economic gloom in the U.K.
The year-old Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is in the process of introducing swinging spending cuts designed to cut the deficit.
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New figures for the first three months of 2011 showed that the U.K.'s GDP grew by just 0.5 percent, prompting the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Ed Miliband, to claim Wednesday that the economy had "flat-lined."
But while the wedding might lift the spirits of many in the country, some slightly dour economists have estimated that the extra public holiday created to allow people to join in the celebrations will cost billions of pounds, with one even saying it will knock a quarter of a percentage point off second-quarter GDP growth.
And not all Britons are celebrating. An Ipsos MORI poll for Reuters this month found 47 percent of Britons were either not very or not at all interested.
"It's just a wedding," said 25-year-old Ivan Smith. "Everyone is going mad about it. I couldn't care less."Video: Why are ex-lovers invited to wedding?
However, for the majority, the marriage between William, second in line to the throne, and Middleton, dubbed "Waity Katie" for their long courtship, has cemented a recovery in the monarchy's popularity.
Three-quarters of those polled by Ipsos MORI on the wedding said they favored Britain remaining a monarchy.
A series of scandals involving senior royals, Britain's economic difficulties and Princess Diana's death in 1997 aged 36 in a car crash after her divorce from Prince Charles led many to question the future of an institution rooted in the imperial past.
But William's image as a more rounded, less distant figure than his father, and the fact that Middleton is the first "commoner" to marry a prince in close proximity to the throne in over 350 years, appear to have worked in the monarchy's favor.
William has deliberately tried to keep the memory of his mother alive and gave Middleton his mother's sapphire and diamond engagement ring.
"Their marriage will breathe new life into the monarchy as the queen enters the twilight of her reign, bringing new blood and a fresh perspective to an institution that faces criticism for being elitist and out of touch," royal biographer Claudia Joseph told Reuters.
Reuters, The Associated Press and NBC News contributed to this report.