It's a wedding being played out on the grandest of stages, where a once-shy prince waiting in the wings prepares to stand proudly, center stage, for the world to see.
"You never get used to it because it's something that is very alien to most people," Prince William said while attending St. Andrews, the school he attended with his future bride. "There are very few people you can talk to about it because no one really knows what it's like. Being in the center of the spotlight is kind of awkward, but it's something I've got to do."
In June 1982, he was the most famous newborn in the world. The first images of Prince William, carried out in the arms of his father, Prince Charles, were captured by cameras larger than he.
As he grew into a little boy, he got his first lessons on the price of being a prince.
"There are people in there. Look at them. See the faces. Trapped," Charles said, as William peered into a camera.
William was trapped in the role of royalty, even as his mother, Princess Diana, struggled to provide him and his younger brother, Harry, with normalcy. He went through his first day of school, took trips to amusement parks. Still, Diana fought to shield her sons.
Prince William: Diana's Son and Protector
During a ski trip, she once asked that no pictures be taken.
"As a parent, can I ask that you respect my children's space?" Diana asked.
It's been said that as a boy, William told Harry: "I want to be a policeman when I grow up and look after Mommy." And Harry responded: "You can't. You're going to be king."
And then, in 1997, the boy who wanted to protect his mother was left without her when Diana died from injuries suffered in a car crash in a Paris tunnel.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Princess Diana's family, in particular her two sons. The two boys," said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Prince William Continues Diana's Charity Work
Then, at 15 years old, Prince William grieved quietly with his brother on the long, brave walk behind their mother's casket.
While at St. Andrews University, he spoke of Diana and her gift to him: her giving nature.
"I'm so glad she gave that to us," he said. "I will never let it go."
And he did not -- cleaning toilets, building homes and working with children in Chile during a yearlong break before attending St. Andrews. It was a world away from what he'd known.
"You don't have any secrets, really," he said. "You share everything with everyone."
Prince William: 'A True Romantic'
At St. Andrews, the shy 19-year-old arrived to young women hoping to meet the prince. But it was one student a floor below him named Kate Middleton who became his friend and, later, his love.
In the fall, while in Kenya, he carried in his backpack a ring that first was introduced to the world 30 years ago by his mother.
"It was very romantic," Middleton said. "There's a true romantic in there."
Whether out of public sight or in full view, the prince seems most at ease in the company of his brother, Harry, who always has been quick to keep him grounded.
Their closeness was forged by a similar interest in charities involving children and their sense of duty. Harry is an Apache helicopter pilot and William is a Royal Air Force pilot flying search-and-rescue missions.
His flying buddies affectionately gave William a nickname, "Billy the Fish," a play on his name and a popular British comic strip.
But no amount of military training can steel the nerves of a man about to take his marital vows.
"We did rehearsals the other day," he said, "and my knees started going, tapping quite nervously. So it's quite a daunting prospect -- but quite exciting."
"We are hugely excited and we are looking forward to spending the rest of our times, the rest of our lives together and seeing what the future holds," William said.