Princess Diana's Wedding

Fairy-Tale Day Gives Few Hints of Sad Future

Charles and Diana at St Paul's Cathedral, London
Charles and Diana at St Paul's Cathedral, London. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Called the "wedding of the century," the wedding of Lady Diana Frances Spencer to Charles, Prince of Wales, took place on July 29, 1981, at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Diana was 20 years old, Charles 32 years old.

The Courtship of Charles and Diana

Charles had previously dated Diana's older sister, Sarah. Diane and Charles had met several times before they were re-introduced at a barbecue in 1979, and Charles began to pursue a relationship.  Diana and Charles had been seeing each other for about six months, when he proposed on February 3, 1981, at a dinner for two at Buckingham Palace. He knew she planned a vacation for the next week and hoped she'd use the time to consider her answer.  They were together only 12 or 13 times before the wedding, scheduled for July.

Wedding Facts

The wedding day of Prince Charles and Lady Diana was considered a national holiday.

Officiants at the wedding of Diana and Charles included the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverence Robert Runcie, and 25 other clerics, some of other denominations. The service itself was the traditional Church of England wedding ceremony, but without the word "obey" at the couple's request.

There were 3,500 people in the congregation at St. Paul's Cathedral. Another 750 million people watched the ceremony worldwide, according to BBC figures on the broadcast shown in 74 countries.  This number rose to a billion when the radio audience is added in. Two million spectators lined the route of Diana's procession from Clarence House, with 4,000 police and 2,200 military officers to manage the crowds.

Most of the crowned heads of Europe attended, and also most of the elected heads of state of European nations. Also among the guests: Camilla Parker Bowles.

Diana and her father, Earl Spencer, arrived at St. Paul's Cathedral in a glass coach, escorted by five mounted military police officers. The carriage was too small to comfortably hold Diana's father and Diana in her dress and train.

Diana's wedding dress was a puff ball meringue dress, with huge puffed sleeves and a frilly neckline. The dress was ivory, made of silk taffeta, decorated with antique lace, hand embroidery, sequins, and 10,000 pearls. It was designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel and had a 25-foot train, the longest train in royal wedding history.  The tiara that she wore was a Spencer family heirloom.

Charles wore his full dress naval commander uniform.

Three choirs and three orchestras took part in the ceremony at St. Paul's.

In the vows, the couple omitted "obey" from the bride's vows, the first royal marriage to do so.  When Prince William married in 2011, the couple also omitted "obey."  Diana called her husband "Philip Charles Arthur George" during the vows, instead of "Charles Philip Arthur George."  Charles said "thy goods" instead of "my worldly goods."

After the ceremony, the couple went to Buckingham Palace for a small dinner for 120. Appearing on a balcony, Diana and Charles pleased the crowd by kissing.

There were 27 wedding cakes, with the official cake by David Avery.

Diana was the first British citizen to marry an heir to the British throne in 300 years.  (Charles' grandmother was a British citizen, but his grandfather was not the heir at the time of their marriage.)

Diana and Charles left for their honeymoon, first going to Broadlands -- Charles' two brothers decorated their car with a "Just Married" sign.  The couple then went to Gibralter and from there on a Mediterranean cruise and then to Scotland, joining the royal family at Balmoral Castle.

Diana and Charles separated in 1992 and divorced four years later.

Note: Though she was known widely as Princess Diana, Diana's proper title at the time of her death was Diana, Princess of Wales.