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14 Fun Facts About Princess Diana’s Wedding

When Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer exchanged vows on July 29, 1981, it was a moment that captured the world's attention. The wedding of the century, as it came to be known, was a...

When Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer exchanged vows on July 29, 1981, it was a moment that captured the world's attention. The wedding of the century, as it came to be known, was a blend of fairy tale romance and reality. But behind the scenes, there were doubts and conflicts that foreshadowed the eventual dissolution of their relationship. Here are some intriguing facts about Princess Diana's wedding that you may not know.

1. The Couple's Limited Meetings

Did you know that Diana and Charles only met 13 times before getting married? Their initial encounter took place in 1977 when Charles was dating Diana's older sister, Lady Sarah. But it wasn't until 1980 that Charles began to view Diana as a potential girlfriend. It was her sympathy for the loss of his great-uncle that captured his heart. However, the majority of their meetings were in group settings, so they hardly knew each other at all.

Charles and Diana at Balmoral in May 1981

  • Charles and Diana at Balmoral in May 1981 (Photo by MSI / Mirrorpix / Getty Images)

2. Doubts Before the Wedding

Both Diana and Charles expressed doubts about their relationship before their wedding day. Charles reportedly proposed to Diana after receiving a memo from his father, Prince Philip, urging him to make a decision. Signs of trouble appeared during their televised engagement announcement when Charles expressed lackluster sentiments about love. Diana's doubts increased when she discovered Charles had given a gift to Camilla. Despite these misgivings, the pressure to go ahead with the wedding prevailed.

3. A British Citizen Marrying the Heir

Diana was the first British citizen to marry the heir to the throne since 1660. In previous centuries, royal marriages were often arranged for political or strategic reasons, rather than love. But Charles and Diana's union marked a break from tradition, with love being the driving force behind their marriage. Diana's role as a British citizen marrying into the royal family was significant and hadn't occurred in over 300 years.

Anne Hyde

  • Anne Hyde married the future James II but died of breast cancer 14 years before her husband took the throne (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

4. St. Paul's Cathedral: A Break from Tradition

The royal wedding took place at St. Paul's Cathedral, a departure from the usual venue of Westminster Abbey. St. Paul's offered a greater seating capacity of 3,500, compared to Westminster's 2,200 guests. The last royal wedding held at St. Paul's prior to Charles and Diana's was in 1501 when Arthur, Prince of Wales, married Catherine of Aragon. This change in location added a touch of uniqueness to the wedding.

5. A Global Audience

The royal wedding captivated the world, with an estimated 750 million people in 74 countries tuning in to watch the ceremony. It surpassed the viewership of previous televised royal weddings, including Princess Margaret's and Princess Anne's. The event became a global phenomenon, and thousands of people flooded the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the royal couple during their carriage procession.

6. The Cost of the Fairytale

Adjusted for inflation, the wedding cost an estimated $135 million. The extensive security measures alone amounted to $1.7 million. Diana's iconic wedding dress, custom-designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, was a significant expense. The gown featured ivory silk taffeta, frilled lace, sequins, pearls, and a 25-foot-long train. The total bill for the wedding, including various other expenses, made it one of the most expensive royal weddings in history.

7. A Feast Fit for Royalty

Guests at the wedding were treated to a lavish meal, including 27 wedding cakes. The official cake, a five-foot-tall fruitcake, stole the show. The menu featured gourmet dishes, such as "Princess of Wales Chicken Supreme." Compared to previous royal weddings, Charles and Diana's menu was simpler, reflecting a more modern approach to dining. The wedding meal was enjoyed by a select number of attendees, including prominent figures like First Lady Nancy Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Diana and Charles wedding cake

  • The official wedding cake stood five feet tall (Photo by David Levenson / Getty Images)

8. Untraditional Vows

Diana's wedding vows were untraditional in more ways than one. With Charles' support, she requested to omit the word "obey" from her vows, which was unprecedented in royal weddings. This decision symbolized a departure from traditional gender roles. However, even the couple's actual vows on their wedding day included some stumbling. Diana mixed up Charles' names, and Charles mistakenly said "thy goods" instead of "my worldly goods." These small mishaps added a touch of humanity and authenticity to the ceremony.

9. A Missed Kiss

As the ceremony concluded, Charles forgot to kiss Diana at the altar. This innocent mistake would later be seen as a sign of the troubles that lay ahead in their marital journey. However, they made up for the missed kiss with a symbolic balcony kiss at Buckingham Palace. This moment on the balcony became an iconic image and led to a new tradition, as subsequent royal couples have followed suit.

10. The Dress of a Lifetime

Diana's wedding dress was a masterpiece designed to make her a fairytale princess. Created by Elizabeth and David Emanuel, the ivory silk taffeta gown featured intricate lace, sequins, and 10,000 pearls. Its highlight was the 25-foot-long train, the longest of any royal wedding dress. The designers even sewed a small blue bow into the dress' waistband as the "something blue" tradition. The gown has become legendary and is an enduring symbol of Diana's style and elegance.

11. A Lucky Surprise

The designers added an 18-karat gold horseshoe studded with diamonds to the gown's label for good luck. Diana discovered this surprise on her wedding day, and it touched her deeply. The hidden horseshoe was a traditional symbol of good fortune, and its inclusion in the dress added an extra layer of symbolism and sentiment to the occasion.

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in "The Crown"

  • Emma Corrin as Princess Diana in "The Crown" (Photo by Des Willie / Netflix)

12. A Perfumed Mishap

Shortly before the wedding, Diana accidentally spilled perfume on her dress while trying to apply it to her wrists. To hide the stain, she held the area as if lifting the fabric to avoid stepping on the train. This small mishap showcases the human side of Diana and adds a touch of relatability to her fairytale wedding.

13. Something Old, Something New...

Diana incorporated the tradition of "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" into her wedding day. The "something old" was a piece of antique lace previously owned by Mary of Teck, Charles' great-grandmother. The "something borrowed" was the Spencer family's tiara, passed down through generations. Its final appearance featured diamonds shaped into tulips and stars. The "something new" was the newly spun silk for her gown, while the small blue bow added the element of "something blue."

14. Mixed Feelings

In the years following her wedding, Diana openly expressed her unhappiness. In previously unreleased recordings from 1992 and 1993, Diana described her wedding day as the "worst day of my life." Her marriage was fraught with difficulties, and she often felt like a sacrificial lamb in a loveless union. Despite the grandeur of the wedding, Diana's personal experience was far from the fairytale image portrayed to the world.

Princess Diana's wedding was a spectacle that captured the world's imagination. But behind the scenes, there were hidden complexities and conflicts. The story of their wedding serves as a reminder that even fairy tales have their own cast of characters, and not all happy endings are as they seem.