"A real-life fairy tale": American merrymakers and pubgoers watch the royal wedding

The royal wedding ceremony in full

NEW YORK -- 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. 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." 

People gathered Saturday for wedding watch parties -- some before dawn -- at locations ranging from a Hollywood pub to New York's swanky Plaza hotel to spots in the Rocky Mountains.

At a home 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.

Some viewers wiped away tears as they watched the wedding from Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, 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."

Across the country, Varinda Missett and Ellen Polkes donned hats, gloves and bejeweled high heels and went to the Plaza early in the morning because they "wanted to see a California girl become a princess," Missett said. 

American couple attends royal wedding

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.

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. 

Royal wedding recap: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's big day

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?"

It was the most anticipated wedding of the year. Prince Charles walked Markle down the aisle, at least part of the way, and the ceremony managed to meld centuries of British tradition with a distinctly contemporary American feel.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby presided over the ceremony, and presiding Bishop of the American Episcopalian Church Michael Curry delivered an address, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., on "the power of love."

You can watch the full wedding ceremony in the video player at the top of this story.