With thousands of guests, millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of people watching from home, and the future of the British royal family on the line, royal weddings are a big deal. When Princess Diana married Prince Charles in 1981 it was deemed “the wedding of the century“. The glamorous event was like nothing the world had seen. Thirty years later, their son Prince William married Kate Middleton with tens of millions watching and “the Kate effect” hitting the fashion world. Both weddings were filled with tradition but each bride added her personal touch.
Princess Diana’s Engagement Ring
For her engagement ring, reportedly, Princess Diana was given a selection of Garrard and Co. rings to choose from. (Some believe the Queen chose it for Diana.) And she selected the now-famous 12-carat oval sapphire ring. The large precious gemstone is surrounded by 14 diamonds and sits on a white gold band.
At the time, the ring cost £47,000, the equivalent of $60,000. But instead of being a completely custom and unique ring, Garrard jewelers sold rings of the same design to the public, too. The royal family didn’t want anyone else having the same ring, of course. But Diana got the ring she wanted.
Kate’s Engagement Ring
Although Prince Charles and Princess Diana divorced in 1996, Diana continued to wear her blue sapphire engagement ring. When she tragically passed away, her younger son Prince Harry inherited the ring.
After eight years of dating, Prince William announced his engagement to Kate Middleton on November 16, 2010. He had popped the question while they were on vacation in Kenya. Harry had offered the ring to his brother, and William was honored to give their late mother’s ring to Kate, saying, “Obviously, she’s not going to be around to share in all the fun and excitement, so this is my way of keeping her close to it all.”
The Royal Wedding Gowns
Designed by husband-and-wife David and Elizabeth Emanuel, Princess Diana’s dramatic wedding gown became one of the most famous dresses in history. Prior to the wedding, the design became one of the best-kept secrets in fashion. It was made of ivory silk taffeta and antique lace and was adorned with 10,000 pearls, costing $115,000.
Kate’s dress was designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander Mcqueen, which was kept a secret until just hours before the ceremony. Kate wanted a traditional look with a modern touch for her wedding gown. The gown reportedly cost $434,000.
The Bride’s Tiara
Everything about Princess Diana’s wedding day look sent people into a frenzy. Her tiara, known as the Spencer Tiara, had been in her family for almost a century. Its original design was first made in 1919 for Diana’s grandmother and includes diamonds dating back to the 1870s. Diana’s two sisters wore the Spencer Tiara on their wedding days before she did.
The tiara that Kate wore on her wedding day belonged to the Queen. Designed by Cartier, the Queen was given the Halo Tiara as an 18th birthday gift. Before that, it was purchased by King George VI as a gift to the Queen Mother in 1936.
The Brides’ Trains
Princess Diana had an incredible train on her wedding gown. Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the train spanned 25 feet and was made of tulle veil. Her bridesmaids India Hicks and Sarah Armstrong-Jones followed Diana on her wedding day, helping her in and out of the carriage to make sure nothing happened to the train.
Kate’s train was nine feet long and carried by her younger sister Pippa as she walked down the aisle. It was designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.
The Wedding Veil
Princess Diana’s veil was anything but simple. Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the veil was longer than Diana’s train! It stretched 153 yards, compared to the 25-foot train. It was made of tulle and connected to her tiara.
Designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding veil was equal parts elegant and stylish. The veil was created from silk ivory tulle, accented with hand-embroidered flowers.
The Bride’s Bouquet
Diana’s bouquet was designed by Longmans Florist and gifted to her by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. There were reportedly ten different varieties of flowers in the bouquet including orchids, gardenias, freesias, and lily of the valley.
Kate’s bouquet was designed by Shane Connolly. Each of the types of white flowers included in the bouquet held special meanings of what William and Kate hoped for in their marriage, including steady love and happiness. Like Diana, she also held lily of the valley, along with hyacinths and Sweet William flowers, as a nod to her new husband.
The Wedding Vows
One of the ways that Princess Diana put her personal touch on her wedding day was by famously omitting “obey” in her wedding vows to Charles. The young bride’s nerves were so rattled, she mistakenly called her husband “Philip Charles Arthur George” rather than his given name Charles Philip Arthur George.
Following Diana, Kate also decided to omit “obey” from her wedding vows to William. Otherwise, they recited the traditional wedding vows from the Book of Common Prayer.
The Newly-Wed Kiss
It’s against the rules and traditions for couples in the British royal family to show PDA. The biggest exception, of course, is on their wedding day. The palace frowns upon even married couples to kiss, cuddle, or merely hold hands.
When they’re appearing at events, royals are fulfilling their duties, and essentially are on the job. This makes it unprofessional for royals to show affection at events, as their attention should be paid to the people. Their wedding day, however, is a different story!
The Bridesmaids And Maid Of Honor
For her wedding, Princess Diana had five bridesmaids, all of whom come from royal lineage. They were Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, India Hicks, Catherine Cameron, Sarah-Jane Gaselee, and Clementine Hambro, a descendent of Winston Churchill.
For her wedding, Kate Middleton’s younger sister Pippa acted as her Maid of Honor. The sisters are very close and shared an apartment together before Kate’s marriage to Prince William. Pippa carried Kate’s train down the aisle at Westminster Abbey.
The Bride Walks Down The Aisle
Princess Diana’s father Earl John Spencer walked her down the aisle on her big day. The Spencer family had close ties to the British royal family long before their wedding day and Diana is one of five children.
On her wedding day, the Duchess of Cambridge walked down the aisle escorted by her father Michael Middleton. After seven years of dating and a six-month engagement, Kate and William’s families were very close by the time the big day arrived.
The Royal Wedding Cake
Diana and Charles had no fewer than 27 cakes made for their wedding, to feed their 3,500 guests. The official royal wedding cake was made by the head baker of the Naval Armed Forces and took 14 weeks to make. An identical cake was also made and on stand-by, in case something happened to the original.
As for Prince William and Kate’s wedding day, they hired Fiona Cairns to create a stunning eight-tier cake. The official cake was a fruitcake, but the couple also had a chocolate one made, in case guests didn’t like fruitcake. Together, the two cakes cost $160,000.
The Groom’s Suit
It’s an important tradition for members of the British royal family to serve in the military, as Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry have all done. Prince Charles wore his Royal Navy commander’s full dress uniform to his wedding.
On his wedding day, Prince William chose to wear his Trooping the Colour military uniform. He was honored with the title of colonel in February 2011 and has several medals and a sash adorning his uniform, including Royal Air Force wings, symbolizing his time spent as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Air Force.
The Cost Of The Wedding
At the time of their wedding, Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ big day cost $48 million. Adjusted for inflation, the wedding of the century totaled up to an estimated $135 million today. The event was so big, it was declared a national holiday in England, with 750 million people around the world watching from home. That day a crowd of 600,000 people flooded the streets of London to celebrate.
Although Prince William’s wedding was a big deal, it didn’t reach the same threshold as his late mother’s in cost or viewership. William and Kate’s wedding cost a reported $34 million, with 22.8 million people watching from home.
Leaving The Ceremony Together
The difference in the body language between these two images is apparent. On the left, Princess Diana still has her veil down, and she’s walking arm-in-arm with Prince Charles. The couple had only dated for six months and had seen each other 13 times total before becoming engaged.
Kate and Prince William are seen holding hands as they walk out of the church. Her veil is back and they’re having their first conversation as husband and wife. Their wedding day comes after seven years together.
Waving From The Carriage As A Married Couple
Princess Diana was just 20 years old on her wedding day to Prince Charles. Leaving the wedding, Diana was now a very senior member of the British royal family, and could someday become the Queen consort.
After saying her vows, Kate Middleton became the Duchess of Cambridge at 29 years old. Her husband Prince William, Duke of Cambridge is second in line to the throne, with only his father Prince Charles before him. Their first child, George, is third in line.
Prince Charles’ Military Uniform
Born three years after the end of World War II, Prince Charles never saw any action while he served in the military. Unlike royals before him, he attended university before entering into the military. For five years in the 1970s, Charles served in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, being trained as a jet pilot.
Prince Charles wore his Royal Navy commander’s full dress uniform both for his wedding in 1981 and the wedding of William and Kate. He never saw any combat, and his medals include the Queen’s Coronation Medal, a white enameled Maltese Cross, and the star emblem as a Knight of Most Noble Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle Star.
The Queen’s Attire
Queen Elizabeth II jokes that she wears bright colors or otherwise no one would know who she is. But on her son and grandson’s wedding days, she toned it down just a bit. In 1981 she wore a Tiffany blue shift dress with a matching hat, white elbow-length gloves, and pearls.
At Prince William and Kate’s wedding, the Queen wore a primrose yellow long sleeve dress with a matching hat and again, elbow-length gloves and pearls.
Mother Of The Bride
At the time of Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding, Diana’s parents were divorced. While her father walked her down the aisle, Diana’s mother Frances Shand Kydd attended the event, rode in a carriage, and appeared in pictures. Her periwinkle blue dress with pearls and a matching hat was beautifully on par with the style at the time.
Kate’s mother Carole Middleton was already recognized as an elite member of British society before the wedding day. She wore a pale blue dress, designed by Catherine Walker, to Kate and William’s spring season wedding.
Leaving The Wedding Ceremony
Pictured here are the two couples leaving their respective wedding ceremonies. Diana and Charles held their wedding at St. Paul’s cathedral. On their walk out, you can see that their body language suggests they’re not entirely feeling united as one. Following their divorce, experts cited many instances that showed Diana and Charles’ discomfort in their marriage, and it started even before the wedding day.
On the other hand, seeing William and Kate leaving Westminister Abbey, their eyes are lovingly locked, sharing their first moments together as husband and wife.
Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones’ Outfits
The daughter of Princess Margaret and niece of Queen Elizabeth II, Lady Sarah appeared as a bridesmaid in Princess Diana’s wedding to Charles. When she was born, Sarah was seventh in the line of succession to the British throne. As of December 2021, she’s 28th.
Thirty years after Diana and Charles’ royal wedding, Lady Sarah attended the wedding of Kate and William as a guest. Because she isn’t a senior member of the royal family, Lady Sarah isn’t seen at as many events as some of the other royals.
The Wedding Day Crowds
Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding day in 1981 was declared a national holiday in the UK, and 600,000 poured out into the streets to celebrate. People gathered outside of St. Paul’s cathedral and around the carriage route, camping out ahead of the big event.
The wedding of Prince William and Kate was highly anticipated, as they became the faces of the next generation of the British royal family. By 7:00 am on their wedding day, people were already lined up by the barricades, hoping to catch a glimpse of the royal couple on their carriage ride to the reception.