It was a thrilling first glimpse of Meghan Markle on her wedding day for the crowd watching the event unfold on a big screen at the Princess of Wales Theatre in her adopted home of Toronto.
Some were moved to tears.
Canadians across the country gathered in the early-morning hours for a broadcast of the lavish marriage ceremony between Markle and Prince Harry — now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Long-awaited details, such as what the bride would wear and who the guests would be, were finally revealed.
But as the bride was about to be shown in her gown for the first time, the theatre was seized with cries of shock as the live broadcast temporarily cut out, followed by sighs of relief when the feed came back on a few seconds later, just in time for the wedding dress to be revealed.
Smiles swept across the theatre as Markle emerged in a resplendent boat-neck white gown, followed by a gaggle of pageboys and bridesmaids including Ben and Jessica Mulroney’s children, who inspired ”aw”s from the crowd and a moment of levity as one of the children wiped away the sweat from their brow.
One attendee clutched her chest as Harry appeared on the screen seeming to fight back tears at the sight of his bride.
Many in the audience giggled with joy at the couple’s nervous excitement.
During Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry’s sermon, the room bellowed with laughter as the camera cut to reaction shots from the pews, with royals and celebrities alike seeming bored or bemused. Some in the crowd doubled over and pointed at the screen upon seeing the expressions of the couple.
From the front row to the balcony, a hush fell over the theatre as the couple affirmed their commitment followed by extended applause as Harry and Markle were declared husband and wife.
The cavernous theatre was packed to the brim with about 2,000 royal watchers, many bedecked in top hats, fascinators and tiaras. A line had formed before dawn, wrapping around the corner outside the theatre for the free viewing party, many of them huddled under umbrellas so they could shield their wedding best from the rain spitting from a darkened sky.
Most of the crowd rose from their red-cushioned chairs and put their hands over their hearts to join in a rendition of “God Save the Queen,” during which Ben and Jessica Mulroney could be seen near the couple. The seven-year-old Mulroney twin boys, Brian and John, had the important task of holding the train on the bridal veil, as the newlyweds exited St. George’s Chapel.
Whoops could be heard as the newlyweds shared a kiss on the steps of the chapel.
Purnima Kabir, 30, said she hadn’t slept because she was too excited for the occasion. Dressed in a royal blue sari with lace, Kabir said she had been a royal watcher since the reign of Diana, but felt particularly invested in the soon-to-be newlyweds because of Harry and Markle’s special connection to Toronto.
“I hope that they go really far, because they work really well together as a unit,” Kabir said.
Her brother, Andaleebe Kabir, said as a graduate of a British prep school, he was most excited to see Queen Elizabeth as she watched her grandson tie the knot.
“We could not resist this (event). This is the theatre named for Princess Diana, and to do this here for this day, it’s absolutely a wonderful tribute,” he said. “We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
Lorena Erazo, who was celebrating her 38th birthday in addition to the royal nuptials, wore a wedding dress so she and her white-tied husband, Mark MacLean, could vie for the grand prize in the theatre’s costume contest — a trip for two to London.
An emcee quizzed the crowd with trivia to keep them entertained during the live broadcast’s commercial breaks. Union Jacks waved in the air as the crowd clapped for the Queen’s arrival, many pulling out their smartphones to take photos of the towering screen.
In Montreal’s Burgundy Lion pub, several dozen people dined on crumpets and a full English breakfast in anticipation of the big moment.
Samantha Elfassy, 23, donned a red fascinator and pulled out a phone to snap some shots as the Queen arrived. She said she was most excited to see the monarch — and had taken bets on the length of the bride’s train.
Deborah Ayre and a handful of her long-time friends showed up in dresses and hats, ooohing and aahing and occasionally dabbing their eyes throughout the ceremony.
Ayre, who has previously watched the weddings of royal couples Charles and Diana and William and Kate, said she came to witness a historical moment.
Her favourite part was Markle’s entrance, she said, although she also appreciated the multicultural aspect to the ceremony and the apparent “true love bond” between the couple.
“I just wish them all the best, and I think they will make a really significant difference in the world because of their passion and what they care about and what they want to do,” she said.
For Paul Abraham, a retired educator watching the wedding at the Delta Halifax, the event was a can’t-miss milestone for those in The Maritimes who have a long history of affinity for the monarchy, he says.
“We’ve been a garrison city right from day one, and obviously our contributions during the major wars, and our cultural link to the U.K., united empire, loyalists, the whole nine yards, sort of deeply embeds the monarchy in our culture here in the East Coast.”
The union of Harry, who is sixth in line to the throne, and Markle has been hailed as a breath of fresh air by many Canadians who look forward to this younger generation of royals shaking up the largely ceremonial institution.
Abraham was also struck by the modern twists to the ceremony.
“It was sort of poignant to see a gospel preacher being so impassioned about the concept of love in the ancient chapel. To me it kind of pointed to the transition from the monarchy of yesterday into the monarchy of today.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated the newlyweds in a statement, saying Canada will donate $50,000 to local charity Jumpstart, which makes sports more accessible to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Sophie and I congratulate the newlyweds on behalf of the Government of Canada. We wish Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex a lifetime of happiness, and all the best as they start this new chapter together. We look forward to welcoming them on a future visit to Canada.”
With files from Percy Sherwood in Toronto, Morgan Lowrie in Montreal and Alex Cooke in Halifax
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press