LONDON (Reuters) - They wore Kate and William face masks in Hong Kong, donned plastic tiaras and wedding dresses in Sydney and knocked back jugs of Pimm’s and roast beef served on red, white and blue plates in Paris.
As thousands packed the streets of London to celebrate the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton on Friday, millions more around the world joined in the fun.
Royal-themed parties were held from Beijing to New York, while up to 2 billion people worldwide were expected to watch the wedding on television, the British government estimated.
In Australia, a Queen Elizabeth look-a-like greeted crowds glued to a large outdoor screen in Sydney and a Melbourne hotel offered “wedding guests” traditional British food and drink, such as Yorkshire pudding, gin and tonic and Pimm‘s, a fruity alcoholic drink.
Sydney’s gays and lesbians held a same-sex royal wedding party, with guests enjoying slices of a giant wedding cake baked by Gaycakes and a gift bag containing a booklet on same-sex marriages.
In the former British colony of Hong Kong, which switched from British to Chinese rule in 1997, pubs and bars were decked out in Union Jack flags as live footage of the celebrations were beamed to champagne-sipping party-goers.
“It’s bigger than the World Cup final,” said Edward Stockreisser, a British expatriate watching the wedding with his fiancee. “We’re in an Irish pub in Hong Kong and everyone’s watching the TV...people really care about them.”
In a shopping mall on Kowloon, on the other side of the harbor, crowds of locals wore red, white and blue hats and waved flags. Some wore William and Kate masks.
One of the most northerly -- and coldest -- celebrations was held by British, Canadian and American scientists working on a research project at an ice base on the frozen Arctic Ocean.
Wearing thick gloves and fur hats, members of the Catlin Arctic Survey toasted the happy couple at an outdoor breakfast.
Royal wedding fans braved an early morning in New York to mark the big day with street celebrations and to watch three couples tie the knot in Times Square. Cable TV station TLC sought to boost ratings by organizing the weddings on a stage erected above the busy intersection in Manhattan.
“It’s amazing it’s the same day, it feels a little bit for them,” said groom Hector Abreu, 27. “No, it’s for us,” butted in his future bride Candice Chapman.
About 200 people gathered in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village to watch the wedding on TV and to munch on a British breakfast in a restaurant bedecked in Union Jack flags.
In Beijing, many expatriate Britons gathered at private houses to watch the ceremony on TV, while a lucky few were invited to a garden party at the British ambassador’s house.
In cosmopolitan and wealthy Shanghai, the Langham Xintiandi hotel was hosting a gala charity dinner with British dishes.
“The dessert will be a chocolate biscuit cake similar to what Prince William himself has requested for his wedding cake,” the hotel’s communications officer, Taylor Chen, told Reuters. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was among 1,000 people at a party organized by the UK embassy in Tel Aviv. Guests enjoyed ale and strawberries as a band played Beatles classics.
In the garden of the British embassy in Dubai, around 1,200 people sat under sunshades and trees decorated with Union Jacks, watching the wedding on two large screens. They wore straw hats to protect themselves from the scorching sun and tucked into baked potatoes.
There was music, dancing and a children’s tea party in the sunny southern Spanish town of Rojales where British expatriates and locals watched the wedding on giant screens.
“It’s a huge celebration, there are about 1,200 people here, 50-50 British and Spanish,” said event organizer Linda Sage.
Around 400 guests celebrated at the British Ambassador’s residence in Paris, sipping champagne and nibbling on beef and horseradish sauce kebabs and egg sandwiches.
Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott, deputy private secretary to William’s father Prince Charles in the 1990s, told Reuters: “If Britain, by having some fun, can spread a bit of happiness around the world then great, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Tourists gathered at the Pont de l‘Alma bridge in the French capital, an unofficial monument to William’s mother Princess Diana since her death in car crash there in 1997.
A large heart-shaped frame of white carnations and roses was left with a note, saying: “Thinking of you on this special day.”
Reporting by Basil Katz in New York, Michael Perry in Sydney, Catherine Bremer in Paris, James Pomfret in Hong Kong, Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Crispian Balmer in Tel Aviv, Martina Fuchs in Dubai, Judy MacInnes and Martin Roberts in Madrid, editing by Paul Casciato