Written on 11:20 PM by yahoo
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London (CNN) -- Much of the world will grind to a noisy, flag-waving halt Friday morning as Britain's Prince William, second-in-line to the throne, marries his college sweetheart Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey.
But the weather seems unlikely to co-operate with the meticulously choreographed, carefully rehearsed event that will be attended by kings and queens, politicians and priests, and celebrities ranging from Elton John to David Beckham.
Showers are predicted, a possible dampener on street parties being held across the United Kingdom, as well as protests threatened by Muslim radicals, anarchists and anti-royalists.
About 5,000 police officers will be on the streets, including 110 on horseback and 35 with sniffer dogs -- but the world's media have deployed even more resources, with at least 8,000 staff working in London for the event.
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British Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has predicted the ceremony will be seen by an estimated two billion people worldwide.
After the ceremony the newlyweds will be taken by carriage from the abbey to Buckingham Palace, cheered on by thousands of wellwishers. Later the couple will kiss on the balcony of the palace in front of the crowds while Royal Air Force jets fly overhead to mark the celebrations.
William announced his engagement to Middleton in November after proposing secretly in a rustic cabin in Kenya in October.
He's the older son of Prince Charles and the late Diana, princess of Wales; the most famous grandson of Queen Elizabeth II; a military search-and-rescue helicopter pilot and, by one recent measure, the most popular member of the royal family.
She's an art history graduate and the eldest child of self-made millionaires who run a party-supplies company.
They met as college students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, sharing an apartment with a circle of friends before they began dating. She first caught his eye when she modelled in a student fashion show wearing a see-through dress over her underwear, British reports have said -- though there's no chance she'll wear anything similar when her much-anticipated wedding dress, the last major secret element of the wedding, is finally revealed.
The couple will be married in front of nearly 2,000 guests at Westminster Abbey, where British monarchs are crowned, sometimes married, and often buried, alongside major figures from British history including Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Isaac Newton and George Frederic Handel.
The guests will include "Mr. Bean" actor Rowan Atkinson, a personal friend of Prince Charles, and Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, a friend of Prince William. Singer Joss Stone will be there, as will former British Prime Minister John Major.
But the guest list is as notable for who isn't on it as who is. Former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have not been invited, leading to accusations that the royal family favors the Conservative party over Labour. Buckingham Palace responded that Major was invited not because he was a Tory, but because he was appointed guardian of Prince William and his younger brother Prince Harry when their mother Diana died in a car crash in 1997.
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Prince William of Wales
Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative and the other living former prime minister, declined the invitation. She failed to appear at a Downing Street event in her honor last year because of ill health.
United States President Barack Obama also wasn't invited, raising some eyebrows. The royal family explained that as a matter of protocol, presidents were not invited. The U.S. Ambassador to London is on the guest list, as are most members of London's diplomatic corps.
But Syria's ambassador was uninvited just a day before the wedding in light of his government's current crackdown on protesters. The Crown Prince of Bahrain, whose country is also clamping down on demonstrations, was invited but on Sunday decided not to attend.
The controversies and the couple aside, the wedding looks set to be a very traditional British event in some respects.
It will include the Lord's Prayer, hymns and Bible readings typical of English nuptials, and the always nervous moment when the priest asks that if anyone present knows of a lawful impediment to the marriage, he speak now or "hereafter forever hold his peace."
Of course, the priest asking that question Friday will be Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the titular head of the worldwide Anglican church.
And while it's not unheard of for British weddings to include a singing of "God Save the Queen," this one will be unusual in that the monarch in question will actually be standing in the front row for it.
William will give Middleton a ring of Welsh gold, but she won't return the favour -- and she will not, in her vows, promise to obey him. They will exchange identical vows to love, comfort, honor and keep each other.
Of course, if William does some day become king, Middleton will then presumably have to obey him.
A ComRes poll for CNN when the engagement was announced in November found that just over half of British adults thought William would make a better king than his father Prince Charles, heir to the throne; 58 percent said Middleton would make a better queen than Charles's second wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
But the online poll's 2,015 respondents were split on the largely theoretical question of whether the crown should actually skip a generation and pass directly to William when his grandmother Queen Elizabeth dies. Forty-five percent said it should, while 41 percent said it should not. If you enjoyed this post Subscribe to our feed