Witness: Inside the abbey: garden party to hushed service

Fri Apr 29, 2011 10:17am EDT
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By Jodie Ginsberg

LONDON (Reuters) - It was almost like being at two weddings for guests at the marriage service of Britain's Prince William and long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton.

When we entered Westminster Abbey -- ushered in through cool, quiet cloisters that felt a million miles away from the noisy crowds we knew were gathered outside -- those members of the press lucky enough to have an admission card met a surprising sight.

Most of us expected to see row upon row of formally dressed guests, sitting quietly in their seats, waiting patiently for the ceremony to start.

Instead, the atmosphere was like a garden party. Groups of guests chatted in the aisles, surrounded by huge trees taken from the royal gardens which made the center of the abbey feel more like a French boulevard than a church.

Light glittered off rows of chandeliers and off enormous stained glass windows. It was surprisingly warm.

I had expected a building that has witnessed royal coronations for nearly a thousand years to be chilly, drafty - even damp. Instead, the air felt soft and cozy.

We walked along the plush red carpet that Kate and William would later tread as husband and wife.

Everyone chatted amiably. William and Kate's friends and family mingled with a broad range of guests that included royalty from around the world, global celebrities like Elton John and David Beckham, and shopkeepers from Middleton's hometown.   Continued...

<p>Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, walk up the aisle, after their wedding ceremony in Westminster Abbey, April 29, 2011. REUTERS/Dave Thompson/Pool</p>