July 29th 1981 saw a global standstill. Britons enjoyed the day off to mark a commoner’s fairytale wedding to a crowned prince. In Johor Bahru, my mum’s school canceled classes, rented a projector, and arranged a screening to an impromptu assembly. A global television audience of 750 million tuned in to catch what was billed as the wedding of the century. Like me, dear reader, you might have been born a little too late to catch or remember the iconic spectacle. Next year though, we’ll be ready – for your benefit, here’s what William and Kate will have to live up to come April 29th.
Diana and Charles had been seeing each other for six months before he proposed on February 3rd 1981 at a dinner for two in Buckingham Palace without a ring. After agreeing to marriage, she picked one straight off a Garrard Jeweller’s catalog, causing quite a bit of a stir within the royal family – £30,000 aside, it wasn’t crafted especially for her, and it wasn’t even a diamond ring. But Diana was adamant, arguing that the 18-carat sapphire encrusted with 14 diamonds reminded her of her mother’s engagement ring. It took 11 days for the royal family to relent. Their engagement became official on February 24th 1981.
Her non-diamond engagement ring swiftly became the alternative standard to conventionality. The setting has since remained unbudgingly iconic, though it’s currently upswing in trend.
The wedding was held at St Paul’s. Westminster Abbey is generally the place for royal nuptials; they opted for the extra seating the cathedral had to offer. It also permitted a longer procession through London streets, a factor that proved significant considering the two million spectators, 4,000 police and 2,200 military officers lining Diana’s procession route on July 29th.
Diana journeyed to the cathedral from Clarence House in a glass coach with her father, John Spencer. She arrived in style and on time, despite the reportedly uncomfortable ride from all the space her train took up!
Diana’s wedding gown is safely still the world’s most famous, and was one of the most highly anticipated. Its entire production duration was plagued with swarms of paparazzi hoping for a glimpse, but fortunately, it was one well-guarded secret. Even the makers of the taffeta couldn’t confirm its colour because they ordered fabric in white and cream!
Diana’s gown featured a delicate bodice embellished with a ruffled collar and layers of crinoline tulle cinched at the waist. The style of the dress came to be known as meringue.
Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the gown was made of six different fabrics, including 25 yards of silk taffeta, 100 yards of tulle crinoline and lace from Queen Mary, 150 yards of veil netting, 10,000 pearls and 25 feet of silk train…
Which really is what most remember of the spectacle – the three and a half minute walk to the aisle trailed by a 25-foot-long bridal train.
Diana paired her gown with shoes, created by Clive Shilton, that featured an embroidered lattice pattern and 24-carat gold trim on low wooden heels.
Her wedding bouquet was created by Longmans Limited of London, and included a cluster of gardenias supported by Earl Mountbatten roses, orchids, stephanotis, ivy, tradescantia, myrtyle and veronica.
Following British custom, Diana’s bridal party was made up of children.
The wedding reception boasted 27 cakes; the main being a five-foot-tall masterpiece wrapped with royal icing and decorated with the Windsor royal coat of arms. It took 14 weeks to complete. Click here for the recipe.
And for the mass public, mugs were made to commemorate the event! William and Kate’s already got some on sale too!
Other brides have tried to replicate the fairytale wedding… not always to great success.
What did you love most about Diana’s wedding? Are you a fan of royal weddings? Would you tune into William and Kate’s? Do tell!
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