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In the pre-dawn hours, a bit of Merry Old England in Columbia

The sun wasn't even up yet, but the partying had already started at Union Jack's in Columbia. Royal weddings, after all, come along only once in a generation.

"A wedding like this, it's history," said Union Jack's owner Gary Ouellette, whose restaurant was packed with more than 100 star-struck royal watchers by the time the London wedding ceremony of Prince William and Kate Middleton started at 6 a.m. "We may not see anything quite like this again in our lifetime."

Don't say that to Mary Anne Johnson, Frances Thomas and Cathy Graham. For these three women, watching royal weddings is old hat.

"We all got together to watch Diana's wedding 30 years ago," Johnson said, recalling the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, William's parents. "At the time, we all had new babies. And 30 years from now, we'll probably all be here in our wheelchairs."

For some in the largely female crowd — there might have been a dozen men present, and that included the waiters — watching the wedding was all about history. For others, there was the rare opportunity to try out a little royal-wedding finery, like the elaborate hats many were wearing. (Although the headwear paled alongside what was being worn in London, it looked pretty impressive for Columbia.) And for some, it was just a chance to watch a wedding and gush, big-time.

"Kate just looked exquisite," said Kirstan Banfield. Sue Medicus, who brought along her daughter and niece for company, agreed. "She was a beautiful bride. That's the best part."

"That's the fun of it," said Betsy Koch, who wore an elaborate brown hat ringed with a white scarf. "That and the hope, the love. They're a lovely couple."

With more than a dozen televisions ringing the restaurant walls, everyone at Union Jack's had a good view of the ceremony and celebration. And with a menu that offered tea and scones, plus a traditional English breakfast of fried eggs, baked beans, ham and toast, they got to enjoy many of the benefits of living English for a day without having to fly across the ocean.

Elizabeth Aragona of Columbia said she hoped to pick up a few pointers to use at her own wedding, set for Sept. 10. Watching Middleton walk down the aisle, she couldn't help but dream a little. "The makeup, her hair, the flowers — she's beautiful," Aragona said as her chosen matron of honor, Kim Spalding Bush, looked on and beamed.

Brian Price, one of the few men to show up, was attracted by the almost singular nature of an event like the royal wedding. "I don't think we can really relate it to anything in our society," he said.

Then again, not everyone was thrilled, especially given the pre-dawn starting time.

"It wasn't real popular with the staff," Ouellette acknowledged with a smile.

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