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Royal fans Gemma and Jeanette Freeman from western England hold their position on the pavement near Westminster Abbey in London, Wednesday, April 27, 2011. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press)
Royal fans Gemma and Jeanette Freeman from western England hold their position on the pavement near Westminster Abbey in London, Wednesday, April 27, 2011. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press)

Pomp, pageantry, and parties: Your complete royal wedding primer Add to ...

You've been following the preparations for the royal wedding for months. You've been checking the royal Flickr account, Facebook page and Twitter feed for regular updates. You've set your alarm for 4 a.m. ET to catch a live broadcast. But lest you miss anything as you wipe the sleep from your eyes, here's a recap of what to expect on the big day.

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Who's Who

Prince Harry and Pippa Middleton (Kate's sister) will be the most recognizable members of the wedding party, as best man and maid of honour. Joining them will be four young bridesmaids and two page boys: Lady Louise Windsor, 7, Prince William's first cousin and daughter of Prince Edward; Margarita Armstrong-Jones, 8, the groom's second cousin; Eliza Lopes, 3, the granddaughter of Prince Charles's wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; the groom's godchildren Grace van Cutsem, 3, and Tom Pettifer, 8; and William Lowther-Pinkerton, 10, the son of Prince William's and Prince Harry's private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton.

From the controversial guest list, watch out for Prince Mohamed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and King Mswati III of Swaziland. And although they're not mentioned on the shortened guest list released to the public, ambassadors from Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe are rumoured to have been invited.

The bride and groom's decision to invite their exes has raised eyebrows. Ms. Middleton's former sweethearts Rupert Finch and Willem Marx, as well as Prince William's former girlfriends Jecca Craig, Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, Arabella Musgrave and Rose Farquhar are expected to attend, according to The Telegraph.

Read the Globe's guide to watching our live coverage

Likely to be seated among family and friends of the bride, Gary Goldsmith, known as Ms. Middleton's "black sheep" uncle, will be under pressure to be on his best behaviour.

Celebrities include soccer star David Beckham and his wife Victoria, musicians Sir Elton John and his Canadian husband David Furnish, director Guy Ritchie, actor Rowan Atkinson and Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe. High-profile Canadians - Governor-General David Johnston and his wife Sharon Johnston, and retail magnate Galen Weston and his wife Hilary Weston - will also be among the 1,900 guests.

The Dress Code

The royal invitations - and etiquette - dictate that guests should wear "uniform, morning coat or lounge suit." According to British etiquette authority Debrett's Ltd., civilian men should wear a traditional grey or black single-breasted morning coat, striped trousers, a grey or otherwise plain-coloured waistcoat, and black lace-up shoes. Women should wear an elegant suit or dress, but avoid head-to-toe outfits of white, cream or black. Hats are traditional for weddings, Debrett's says on its website, but it advises against wide brims.

Some have speculated Prince William may wear his Royal Air Force uniform, following the lead of his father Prince Charles and uncle Prince Andrew, who both wore military attire when they wed. Others have suggested he may wear a scarlet uniform to reflect his recent appointment as Colonel of the Irish Guards.

Regardless, all eyes will be on Ms. Middleton's dress, whose design and designer have been a closely guarded secret, despite imaginative guesswork. Will the bride walk down the aisle in a gown from a high-profile British fashion house like Alexander McQueen? One from a lesser-known designer? Or perhaps, as the Daily Mail suggested, one of her own creation?

The Service

Bucking tradition, Ms. Middleton plans to arrive at Westminster Abbey in a Rolls-Royce Phantom VI rather than a horse-drawn carriage. She will be riding with her father, Michael Middleton, from the luxurious Goring Hotel, where she is expected to stay the night before the wedding.

After nearly three hours of lead-up, the service is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. BST (6 a.m. EST, 3 a.m. PST) and last a little more than an hour. Dr. John Hall, the dean of Westminster Abbey, will introduce and conduct the service and give the blessing.

Westminster Abbey has been the location of 15 royal weddings and several funerals, including the funeral of Prince William's mother, Princess Diana. The abbey will be decorated with British flowers and trees, including azaleas, rhododendrons, euphorbias, beech, wisteria and lilacs from the royal estates. London-based florist Shane Connolly was appointed for that job, and also designed the floral arrangements at Buckingham Palace. Nearly 30,000 flowers are to be used for the wedding.

The Choir of Westminster Abbey and the Choir of Her Majesty's Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace have been chosen to perform, as have The London Chamber Orchestra, band musicians from the Royal Air Force and trumpeters from the Household Cavalry. The couple have personally chosen a mix of hymns and choral works, and a few musical compositions were specially commissioned.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, will marry the couple; Bishop of London Richard Chartres will give the address.

Prince William won't wear a wedding ring himself, but his bride will be given one made of rare Welsh gold.

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The Procession

Following the service, a 15-minute procession will loop around St. James's Park, passing the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the Cenotaph and Downing Street before turning onto The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace.

A 1902 State Landau carriage, the same horse-drawn vehicle that carried Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, after their 1981 wedding service, will drive the newlyweds back to the palace. In case of "severely wet weather," which forecasters are predicting, palace officials have planned for the couple to travel in the Glass Coach, a carriage built in 1881.

Following the bride and groom will be two Ascot Landau carriages carrying the best man, maid of honour and bridesmaids. A fourth carriage, a Semi-State Landau, will transport the Queen and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and a fifth carriage, also a Semi-State Landau, will carry Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Ms. Middleton's parents.

Twenty-eight horses and riders making up the Captain's Escort will accompany the newlyweds to Buckingham Palace. An additional 116 horses and men that make up the Sovereign's Escort will travel with the Queen's carriage. Security during the quick jaunt will be tight. London's Metropolitan Police Service has announced that about 5,000 officers will be deployed, with more than 900 lining the procession route. Police will also have 35 sniffer dogs on duty, while three helicopters will survey central London ahead of the event.

The security bill for the day is estimated at anywhere between $30-million and $120-million. Potential threats range from Islamist extremists to radical Irish nationalists, anarchists and obsessed royal fans.

The Reception

About 650 guests have been invited to a lunchtime reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Queen. Guests will be served canapés, according to an official press briefing. The palace kitchen has a repertoire of 150 recipes for hot, savoury and sweet canapés, Edward Griffiths, deputy master of the household, says in an official video.

The bride and groom have also asked for two wedding cakes. British cake designer Fiona Cairns will build a multi-tiered traditional fruit cake, decorated in a British floral theme with cream and white icing covered in scrollwork, leaves and flowers. At Prince William's request, a chocolate-biscuit cake has been created by McVitie's Cake Co. for the reception.

The royal couple will make a public appearance on the balcony, along with their family members, at 1:25 p.m. BST.

To cap off the day, the Royal Air Force will stage a flypast of a Lancaster, a Spitfire and a Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and two Tornado and two Typhoon fast jets.

For 300 of the couple's closest friends and family, a private evening dinner will be held at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Prince Charles. Tabloids predict a late night of boogying to disco and 1980s dance tunes. The Sun reports dinner will include a game terrine starter, followed by beef or salmon for a main course. The DJ list, it says, will include hits by Abba, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Culture Club.

On Saturday, the newlyweds are expected to set off for their honeymoon at an undisclosed location.

Minute by minute ( All times local (British Summer Time)



8:15 - 9:45 a.m.: General congregation arrives at Westminster Abbey

From 9:50 a.m.: Arrival of government officials, diplomatic corps, distinguished guests

10:10 a.m.: Groom and Prince Harry leave Clarence House for Westminster Abbey

From 10:20 a.m.: Members of foreign royal families arrive, followed by members of the Middleton family and the Royal Family, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, and the wedding party

10:51 a.m.: The bride, accompanied by her father Michael Middleton, leave Goring Hotel for Westminster Abbey

11 a.m.: Service begins

12:15 p.m.: Carriage procession and Queen's procession leave Westminster Abbey for Buckingham Palace

From 12:40 p.m.: Lunchtime reception hosted by the Queen

1:25 p.m.: The Queen, newlyweds and family appear on the palace balcony

1:30 p.m.: Flypast by the Royal Air Force

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