What It Was Really Like The Day Prince Charles And Lady Diana Got Married

When Lady Diana married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981, at the tender age of 20, she was the first British citizen in three centuries to wed an heir to the British throne, according to History. However, she wasn't exactly a commoner. Diana's parents were Edward John Spencer and Frances Ruth Burke Roche, the Viscount and Viscountess Althorp. Previously, it was common for marriages to involve alliances between countries, so royals typically married other royals. Considered the "wedding of the century," the country declared the day a national holiday.

While it may have seemed that the wedding was picture perfect, several things happened behind the scenes that in retrospect indicated some cracks in the couple's relationship. Charles, for example, wasn't sure that Diana was the one, and she was struggling with the early phases of an eating disorder. The couple was also under a lot of pressure and had to put on a good face in front of a world stage after barely getting to know one another following a brief courtship. Check out some of the details of one of history's most famous weddings.

Prince Charles reportedly had cold feet the night before the ceremony

There have been reports that Charles nearly didn't make it to the altar at St. Paul's Cathedral in London on his wedding day. According to Catherine Mayer, author of the unauthorized biography "Charles: Heart of a King," (via AmoMama) the Prince of Wales reportedly told an aide that he didn't want to go through with the wedding. One of the problems was that Charles and Diana didn't know each other very well. They had a brief five-month engagement and had only dated for a short period of time, so they hadn't really established a deep affection.

In addition, Charles learned that Diana was dealing with issues such as an eating disorder, which is tough for any partner to handle regardless of the type of relationship they have. In another book, "Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life," the author claimed that Charles cried on the eve of the wedding because he still had feelings for his ex-girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles, according to Town and Country. It doesn't seem unreasonable that Charles was nervous about marrying a woman he didn't know very well when he was still hung up on a former girlfriend, whom at the time would have been considered an unsuitable match for the future King of England. 

Charles and Camilla wound up tying the knot in 2005, several years after Diana's death

It was the worst day of Diana's life

In 2017, previously unseen footage of Diana chatting with her friend and voice coach Peter Settelen was released in a documentary. Diana talked openly about her relationship with Charles and said the pair had only gotten together 13 times before they tied the knot, reports the Independent. She revealed, "He'd ring me up every day for a week and then he wouldn't speak to me for three weeks," she said. "Very odd. And the thrill when he used to ring up was so immense and intense."

Charles didn't prioritize sex, and Diana thought it was due to his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. She commented on how Charles used to see Camilla once every three weeks before their wedding. Diana then described her wedding as the "worst day of my life." She added that if she could have written her own script about her life at the time, she would have had Charles leave with Camilla and "never come back."

The footage was never intended to be released publicly and was used as an exercise by Settleten to help Diana with her public speaking skills.

Diana lost a ton of weight before the wedding

It's not uncommon for brides to lose weight before the big day, and Diana was no exception. Unfortunately, she lost the weight due to bulimia. Only 19 years old when she got engaged, Diana started binging and purging just one week after Charles asked for her hand in marriage because of some comments he made. "My [future] husband put his hand on my waistline and said: 'Oh, a bit chubby here, aren't we?' and that triggered off something in me," she revealed to author Andrew Morton in 1991 (via the Metro). The tapes she made with Morton were the basis for his book "Diana: Her True Story."

Diana talked about feeling a "release of tension" the first time she made herself sick. She noted that when she was initially fitted for her wedding dress, she was 29 inches around the waist. On the day of her wedding, she was 23-1/2 inches. "I had shrunk into nothing from February to July," she explained.

Wedding designer Elizabeth Emanuel told People she wasn't concerned about the weight loss and noted that the princess "looked fantastic," adding, "She just walked more confidently. She just was suddenly growing up, you know?"

Diana stained her wedding gown

It can take hours for a bride to get dressed and coiffed on the day of her wedding, and Diana prepared for her big day like many women do by dabbing on some perfume before walking down the aisle. Diana chose the fragrance Quelques Fleurs, but she had a tiny mishap when applying the perfume, her makeup artist Barbara Daly told People. The 20-year-old princess was wearing her gown when she put some of the fragrance on her wrists and accidentally spilled some on the material.

Daly came to the rescue, telling Diana to hold the spot where she stained the dress while she was walking, making it look like she was carrying the front of her gown to prevent herself from stepping on it. No one appeared to notice the stain on Diana's dress when she got out of the royal carriage on her way into the church. (As for the perfume, Parisian perfume house Houbigant had initially released it in 1912, and it was a floral scent.)

They had to stuff Diana and her enormous wedding dress into the carriage

Most people didn't know what Diana's dress would look like until the day of the wedding, and it was considered the "most closely guarded secret in fashion history," according to Town and Country. The gown cost approximately $115,000 to make and featured sequins, lace, and thousands of pearls. David and Elizabeth Emanuel designed the dress, which they stored in a locked safe in their studio, reported Today. The safe was huge because it had to fit the gown's 25-foot-long train, and the safe initially couldn't fit through the studio door because it was so big. They ended up using a crane to put it in the space.

Diana traveled to St. Paul's Cathedral in a coach, and had to share the small space with her giant dress. The fabric was folded in a very specific way in order to keep it from wrinkling. It was a difficult task. Two of Diana's bridesmaids, India Hicks and Sarah Armstrong-Jones were tasked with making sure the train was properly laid out during the ceremony. The pair practiced using a long sheet to make sure they were prepared, according to Wedded Wonderland.

Diana took 3 ½ minutes to walk down the aisle

It can be nerve wracking for any bride to walk down the aisle on her wedding day, so you can imagine how Diana felt when she had 3,000 guests in attendance. Unlike most brides, her stroll was considerably longer. She was accompanied on the long walk by her father, who stood by her side despite health problems, according to PopSugar. The entire process took her 3 1/2 minutes from the carriage to the altar at St. Paul's Cathedral. You can't help but wonder what was going on in Diana's head as she was preparing to tie the knot with the future king of England.

What we do know is that she looked for Camilla Parker Bowles. Camilla had dated Charles briefly in the early 1970s, and the pair remained friends, although Diana had some suspicions about their relationship, according to Good To Know. In 1991, Diana revealed to author Andrew Morton, "So walking down the aisle, I spotted Camilla, [she was wearing a] pale grey, veiled pillbox hat. [I] saw it all, her son Tom standing on a chair. To this day, you know – vivid memory."

Diana and Charles broke tradition concerning their wedding vows

Whether intentional or not, Diana was a trailblazer when it came to her fashion, charity work, and other trends. And one of the things she altered for her wedding ceremony wound up having lasting effects for her children and others over the years. As far back as 1662, royal weddings followed the Anglican Book of Common Prayer that included the line "to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part," according to Southern Living. Diana did not like the word "obey," and after a discussion with Charles the couple agreed to omit it from their vows.

While the decision was a bit controversial, Dr. Edward Carpenter, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, told the New York Times at the time that he agreed with their decision, saying that marriage should involve two equal partners, and "if there is going to be a dominant partner, it won't be settled by this oath. I think this is much more Christian.” Diana's son, Prince William, and Kate Middleton also excluded the word "obey" from their vows in 2011 as did Meghan Markle and Diana's son, Prince Harry, and Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank when the respective couples wed in 2018.

A visibly nervous Diana called Charles by the wrong name at the altar

AFP special correspondent Michel Leclercq witnessed the wedding and noted how the couple was quite nervous, which is completely understandable. Wedding day jitters are common among many people, so you can imagine the pressure the future king of England and his bride felt when they stepped out of their carriage and into the church with literally millions of eyes upon them. Charles' voice reportedly trembled when he said "I will" to his bride, and she responded, timidly, "I will," according to the Economic Times of India.

Diana also had a few missteps when reading the marriage vows, and she accidentally inverted her husband's names. According to History, Diana called him "Philip Charles Arthur George" instead of "Charles Philip Arthur George." The couple were officially husband and wife at 12:20 p.m., and both the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II were visibly emotional as they watched the pair tie the knot. The couple later shared that infamous kiss from the balcony of Buckingham Palace before they went to their reception.

The ceremony was watched by 750 million people in 74 countries

Charles and Diana tied the knot in a traditional Church of England ceremony presided by Alan Webster, the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, and Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, according to the Independent. The TV audience was huge. The ceremony was broadcast on the BBC and ITV, drawing an audience of 750 million viewers in 74 countries, including 28.4 million from just the United Kingdom. In comparison, 24 million Brits watched Prince William and Kate Middleton wed in 2011, and just 18 million Brits watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wed in 2018.

In addition, a crowd of approximately 600,000 people gathered in the area around the cathedral to try and catch a glimpse of the royal couple. As for the ceremony, 3,500 people gathered inside the church, including Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II, Earl and Countess Spencer (Diana's parents), Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, Princess Anne, Princess Margaret, Princess Alice, and the Duke and Duchess of Kent, according to Town and Country.

Some world leaders snubbed the royal wedding

This was the first royal wedding to take place in St. Paul's Cathedral since 1501, when King Henry VII's son Prince Arthur married Princess Catherine. The leaders of all European nations were invited to Charles' and Diana's ceremony, but some snubbed the royal event. For example, the president of the Republic of Ireland was a no show because of issues related to Northern Ireland. The president of Greece declined because former King Constantine of Greece was referred to as "King" in the invitation, according to History. Spanish King Juan Carlos boycotted the wedding because the newlyweds planned on spending part of their honeymoon at Gibraltar, which is a British crown colony claimed by Spain, according to UPI.

U.S. First Lady Nancy Reagan did attend the wedding, but her husband, President Ronald Reagan, did not. The president planned on attending an economic summit in Ottawa, Canada, prior to the royal wedding instead. Word on the street was that Regan did not want to spend his first trip to Europe as president of the United States at a social gathering. Nancy Reagan, however, expressed delight at being able to attend such a "historic and romantic occasion," according to the New York Times.

There were thousands of police officers

The archbishop referred to Charles and Diana's wedding as a fairy tale, telling those in attendance that the wedding day was the "place where the adventure really begins," according to Smithsonian magazine. And it's safe to say the couple's whirlwind romance, wedding, and subsequent split was probably not what they anticipated and much more adventurous than they expected.

The wedding was an enormous security endeavor, according to the BBC. A police helicopter scanned the crowd from the sky, while armed law enforcement officers flooded the rooftops to get their own bird's eye view of the event. In total, 5,000 police officers were dispatched to cover the ceremony. Officers were posted 15 feet apart in front of the spectators to make sure no one acted inappropriately. They kept a watchful eye on people's belongings, including their bags, and searched some of the men and women who congregated in the area.

For the most part, people acted as law-abiding citizens and there were not too many arrests. Those who were apprehended were involved in minor offenses. Prior to the wedding, the horse guards who traveled alongside the royal carriages prepared by carrying out anti-terrorist training. And on the day of the ceremony, they stuck closer than usual to the carriages to act as a shield for the royal family. While the security team was out in full force, they tried not to attract too much attention. Several undercover officers also integrated with the crowd for added safety.

There were 27 wedding cakes

Following the ceremony, Prince Charles and Princess Diana hosted a wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace with 120 guests, according to Tatler. Dishes included brill in lobster sauce, chicken stuffed with lamb mousse, and strawberries and cream. There were also 27 wedding cakes, including the official cake created by David Avery, the head baker of the Royal Naval cooking school in Kent. It took Avery 14 weeks to finish the fruit cake, which featured Charles's coat of arms, the Spencer family crest, as well as roses, lilies of the valley, and orchids.

In August 2021, a slice of the couple's cake sold for over $2,500, according to the New York Post, much more than the anticipated $700 auctioneers initially predicted. The cake had belonged to a woman named Moyra Smith, who worked for Queen Elizabeth II at Clarence House. She stored the cake in a tin and labeled it "Handle with care — Prince Charles & Princess Diane's [sic] wedding cake" along with the wedding date. A private collector bought the slice in 2008. So what does a 40-year-old piece of cake look like? The auction house claimed it was "the same good condition as when originally sold" but recommended no one actually eat it.