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Princess Diana's Wedding

Fairy-Tale Day Gives Few Hints of Sad Future

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Princess Diana's 1981 wedding dress by Elizabeth Emanuel

Sketch of Princess Diana's 1981 wedding dress designed by Elizabeth Emanuel

Getty Images / Central Press

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. Diana was 20 years old, Charles 32 years old.

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.

Officiants at the wedding of Diana and Charles included the Archbishop of Canterbury and 25 other clerics, some of other denominations. The service was a traditional Church of England wedding service.

There were 3,500 people in the congregation at St. Paul's Cathedral. Another 750 million people watched the ceremony worldwide; this figure 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.

Diana 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 wedding dress, with huge puffed sleeves and a frilly neckline. The dress was made of silk taffeta, decorated with lace, hand embroidery, sequins, and 10,000 pearls. It was designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel, and had a 25-foot train.

Charles wore his full dress naval commander uniform.

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.

Diana was the first British citizen to marry an heir to the British throne in 300 years.

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

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