From pubgoers in pajamas to merrymakers in finery at a posh hotel, Americans cheered and teared up Saturday as they watched Meghan Markle marry Prince Harry in a royal wedding with trans-Atlantic resonance.
People gathered at wedding watch parties — some before dawn — at a Hollywood pub and New York's swanky Plaza hotel, in oceanfront towns in Florida and spots in the Rocky Mountains, to see an American of mixed race heritage become part of Britain's royal family.
If the U.K. and the U.S. have long enjoyed a "special relationship," this gave it a whole new meaning.
"It was a real-life fairy tale," said Erin Massa, 34, who watched at a Minneapolis pub. "If someone my age from America can suddenly become a princess, essentially, anything really is possible."
Some viewers wiped away tears as they watched the wedding from Immaculate Heart High School in Los Feliz, Markle's alma mater.
"It's all my family can talk about," said 15-year-old sophomore Daniella Bueno, who got up at 3 a.m. to join dozens of students, parents and staffers for the event. "She's representing our school in such a beautiful way."
At a pajama-and-viewing party at the Cat & Fiddle Pub in Hollywood, California, British-born actor Craig Young was happy to watch a woman from his adopted hometown join the royal family in his homeland. It was something "we never thought would happen, and which we're very excited about," said the actor, 44, who wore a bathrobe and Prince Harry mask.
Several Southern Californians even traveled across the Atlantic to celebrate the wedding in person.
Robert Kovacik, a reporter with our media partner NBC4, is covering the royal union in England, where he spoke with Southern Californians who made the trip.
"There's a couple from Newport Beach that are here. There's two young women who I just talked to who graduated from Immaculate Heart High after Meghan Markle, but still feel an affinity towards her," Kovacik told KPCC. "They camped out all night on the lawn walk, talked about how freezing cold it was but it was worth every single minute."
Back on the other side of the pond, in the country in Burlington, New Jersey, Paula Jackson gasped when Markle emerged from the Rolls-Royce that brought her to St. George's Chapel in Windsor, the British royals' longtime home.
"I'm just so happy for her," said Jackson, dressed in a jeweled blazer and tiara. "She will be an example for our young, African-American women."
At gatherings around the U.S., viewers admitted Markle's beauty and naturalness. But they also marveled at the boundary-breaking union between the 33-year-old prince who has been open about how grief shadowed his life for decades after the 1997 death of his mother, Princess Diana, and the 36-year-old American actress who has spoken out about coming to terms with her biracial identity as the daughter of a black mother and white father.
Varinda Missett and Ellen Polkes donned hats, gloves and bejeweled high heels and went to New York's Plaza Hotel early in the morning because they "wanted to see a California girl become a princess," Missett said.
A crowd in fascinators and tiaras gathered for the storied hotel's first royal wedding viewing party, which came complete with deviled eggs, black pudding, Earl Grey tea butter biscuits and cake pops with champagne and flower liqueur.
"We love a great love story," said Maureen Farley, the hotel's director of hospitality. "This surely is one of the best."
If there was a certain historical irony in Americans celebrating British royalty nearly 242 years after the Declaration of Independence, it had little sway Saturday over Americans who said they were simply rallying around love.
"I think this is a wonderful new way to be royal," said Ralph Campbell, 67, who donned a three-piece dark suit and bow tie for a watch party at Brit's Pub in Minneapolis. He called the ceremony "a global wedding" and added: "I think it will only help the cause of peace in the world."
Another guest at Brit's Pub, British native Victoria Rylee, had no problem with an American marrying a British prince. After all, "I married an American," Rylee, 71, said with a laugh.
For Meghan Woods, who was at the Plaza's fete in New York, the takeaway was simple.
"There are so many terrible things going on in the world that when there's something like this— love bringing people together, a reason to celebrate," she said, "why not?"
Dalton reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis, Alexandra Villarreal in New York and Errin Haines Whack in Burlington, New Jersey, contributed to this report.