WINDSOR (Reuters) - They may not have been in the chapel or the reception, but the 2,640 locals, community representatives and members of the public invited to witness Saturday’s royal wedding inside the walls of Windsor Castle still felt they had front-row seats.
“It’s surreal,” said Jack Liggett, 18, an air cadet from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, outside St George’s Chapel, where the queen’s grandson Prince Harry married American actress Meghan Markle.
“You want to touch it to make sure it’s not a dream because everything is just there.”
Dressed to the nines, they came equipped with camping chairs, picnics and, sometimes, sparkling wine, to enjoy the day’s sunshine and celebrations from within the palace walls.
Around half were specially-selected members of the public, the others were from charities connected to the couple, local schools, residents of the castle and members of the royal household.
Set up on the lawn directly opposite the chapel and along the roads leading to it, they chatted with their neighbours and cheered as celebrities arrived.
Around 600 public personalities including U.S. TV host Oprah Winfrey, former soccer star David Beckham and his fashion designer wife Victoria, actor Idris Elba and singer Elton John attended the ceremony itself and the reception that followed.
But the guests outside the chapel still felt involved.
“It’s been surprisingly relaxed, and you do feel as though you’re part of the day because it’s very intimate,” said Grant White, 52, nominated to attend for his work for wounded or sick members of the armed forces, done in his spare time.
“Obviously Windsor has been buzzing today anyway, but to have this ring-side seat is just priceless.”
Christina Jannetta, 57, whose husband was also invited for charity work, lives in the local area and has been to Windsor Castle many times. But she said Saturday was different: “There is a buzz going about the castle today.”
No screens were erected outside the chapel for the guests, who instead listened to the service via loudspeaker.
Many found the energetic sermon by the head of the U.S. Episcopalian church, bishop, Michael Bruce Curry, a refreshing change from the relatively stiff services of past royal weddings.
“It was very powerful and passionate,” said Katie Peacock, 52, who works at a community building organisation, describing the whole day as “spectacular”.
“The atmosphere is incredible,” agreed Alex Harman, 24, the former mayor of the southern English town of Worthing who was nominated for work in his community.
“And everyone is kind of sharing it, so that excitement is tenfold.”
Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Kevin Liffey