When Prince William and Kate Middleton get married next year, they will have a lot to live up to – namely, the example set by William’s parents, Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, whose marriage on the morning of July 29, 1981, has long been deemed the “wedding of the century.”
Some 600,000 people choked the streets of London beneath gray, overcast skies that day to catch a glimpse of Charles and Diana, while an estimated global audience of 750 million tuned in on television. An invited congregation of 3,500 witnessed the ceremony itself at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Diana, then 20, traveled to St. Paul’s from Clarence House, a royal home in London, in a glass coach, accompanied by her father, Earl Spencer. She arrived on time for the 11:20 a.m. wedding in an ivory taffeta and antique lace gown, with a 25-foot train, designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel.
Charles, 32, wore the full dress uniform of a naval commander.
Diana had five young bridesmaids, led by Charles’s cousin, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, the de facto maid of honor, who was 17 at the time. The youngest bridesmaid was 5 years old. Charles’s brothers Andrew and Edward served as his groomsmen.
Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, led the traditional Church of England service, though clergymen from many denominations took part in the ceremony.
Both bride and groom famously showed their jitters while speaking their vows. Diana called her future husband Philip Charles Arthur George, rather than Charles Philip Arthur George. And Charles said “thy goods” instead of “my worldly goods.”
After the ceremony, the couple rode an open-topped coach to Buckingham Palace. At 1:10 p.m., they emerged on the balcony and kissed for the adoring crowds. Following that, they enjoyed private toasts and a wedding meal with 120 family guests before taking a train to Hampshire to begin their honeymoon.
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