The July 29, 1981 ceremony was watched by an estimated global TV audience of 750 million. And a crowd of two million lined the route of Diana’s procession from Clarence House to the cathedral to catch a glimpse of the stunning bride.
From start to finish, the wedding was every bit the fairy tale. The princess bride arrived to the ceremony in a glass couch, one of the principal horse-drawn carriages of the British monarch built in 1881.
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The 20-year-old then made the three-and-a-half-minute walk down the red-carpeted aisle with her breathtaking 25-foot train trailing behind.
Despite the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the traditional event, the modern bride did make one notable change to the ceremony. Diana did not promise to “obey” Charles as part of the traditional vows. She promised to “love, comfort, honor and keep.” The word “obey” was eliminated at the couple’s request, which caused a sensation at the time. (Princess Kate followed Diana’s lead in her wedding vows to Prince William, in which she also ditched the word “obey.”)
It was Diana’s wedding dress that stole much of the spotlight that day. Valued at $12,000 (equivalent to $41,000 today), the stunning gown, which was designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel, was made of ivory silk taffeta and embellished with lace, hand embroidery, sequins and 10,000 pearls.
The epic train was made of ivory taffeta and antique lace. (The lace used to trim the dress had belonged to Queen Mary.) She topped her bridal look off with the Spencer family heirloom tiara. Charles looked dashing beside his bride in his full dress naval commander uniform.
Diana’s dream dress set quite the trend. Large puffed sleeves and a full skirt became popular requests among brides around the world.
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The iconic bridal gown was given to Prince William and Prince Harry in 2014, as determined by their late mother’s will, which stipulated that her sons should take ownership of the gown once they both turn 30.
Ten years after their fairy tale wedding, rumors circulated about the state of Charles and Diana’s marriage. They announced their separation in December 1992, but continued to carry out their royal duties. Then, in August 1996, they formally divorced. Just one year later, on August 31, 1997, the beloved princess was killed in a car accident in Paris.