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Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding day 40 years on: the dress, the service slip-ups and what it was like to be in the crowd

The couple married at St Paul's Cathedral on 29 July 1981

charles diana wedding day
Danielle Stacey
Danielle StaceyOnline Royal CorrespondentLondon
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Thursday marks the 40th anniversary of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding, and while their marriage didn't last, the day was described at the time as a "fairytale" and actually included a lot of personal touches from the couple.

"It was the wedding of the century," Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty Magazine, tells HELLO! "Charles's sister Anne had got married in 1973, eight years earlier and that was a big deal because she was the first of the Queen's children to get married but it was nothing compared to how it was when Charles and Diana got married. It really was a big, big deal in 1981."

Joe was one of the 600,000 people who lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the royal bride and groom on a hot summer's day on 29 July 1981.

READ: Princess Diana's wedding dress had some serious hidden links to Lady Kitty Spencer's

WATCH: Charles and Diana leave St Paul's Cathedral after their wedding

While there have been a number of royal weddings in recent years that have garnered global media attention, including that of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Joe says that Charles and Diana's nuptials was "bigger in many ways".

"People had been camping along the route for several days beforehand," he says. "There was a rehearsal at St Paul's and on the eve of the wedding, there was a big fireworks display in Hyde Park and there were tens of thousands of people at that. So, it was a huge thing, which so many people wanted to take a personal part in and to be there."

Details about Diana's dress was one of the most closely guarded secrets in the run-up to her wedding day. Currently on display at Kensington Palace, the ivory silk taffeta and antique lace gown with its record-breaking 25-foot train and 10,000 mother of pearl sequins and pearl embellishments, is one of the most iconic in royal history. It was created by British fashion designers, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, who had previously made pieces for the bride.

MORE: 23 breathtaking royal wedding dresses that will go down in history

MORE: Princess Diana and more brides who have worn the Spencer tiara

charles diana walking down the aisle© Photo: Getty Images

Charles and Diana's wedding day was watched by millions around the globe

A nervous-looking Diana made her way up the altar of St Paul's Cathedral, arm-in-arm with her father, John, the 8th Earl Spencer before an invited congregation of 3,500 guests and an estimated global TV audience of 750 million.

Bridesmaids included Princess Margaret's 17-year-old daughter, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones (now Chatto) while Prince Andrew and Prince Edward acted as Charles' supporters.

Joe recalls: "I was in the thick of the atmosphere, you could hear the service as it was relayed to the public outside St Paul's and people were reacting to it as they exchanged vows."

Both Diana and Charles famously made mistakes in their wedding vows with the bride accidentally reciting her groom's name wrong, inadvertently calling him Philip Charles Arthur George, instead of Charles Philip Arthur George.

And according to the BBC, Prince Charles also slightly muddled his vows too, referring to "thy goods" rather than "my worldly goods".

The minor slipups didn't distract from their day, as the newlyweds walked down the aisle and emerged from the Cathedral to the roar of the crowds that had gathered outside.

MORE: Why Kate Middleton altered Princess Diana's £123k sapphire engagement ring

charles diana wedding cake© Photo: Getty Images

The very impressive royal wedding cake

Joe recalls that the Prince "went to a great deal of trouble to get the music right for his wedding" with Charles and Diana both selecting their favourite hymns for the service. Among the Prince's choices were Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance No. 4 and New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa's performance of 'Let The Bright Seraphim' from Handel's Samson. Meanwhile, Diana selected her favourite hymn from her school days 'I Vow to Thee, My Country.'

After the service, Charles and Diana travelled in the open-topped state landau to Buckingham Palace and emerged on the balcony a few moments later to share a kiss.

princess diana wedding© Photo: Getty Images

Crowds gathered to watch the procession

The newlyweds then enjoyed a wedding breakfast with their closest family and friends, tucking into brill in lobster sauce and Princess of Wales chicken (chicken stuffed with fine lamb mousse) and traditional strawberries with cream.

The royal couple also had an incredible 27 wedding cakes for their big day — however, the official cake, which stood over five-feet tall, was made by David Avery, the head baker of the Naval Armed Forces. The cake featured personal touches including Charles' coat of arms in addition to Diana's family crest and their first name initials. The impressive dessert was topped off with roses, lilies of the valley and orchids.

A slice of the Prince and Princess of Wales's wedding cake is currently up for sale and is expected to fetch between £300 and £500 when it goes under the hammer on 11 August along with an order of service, ceremonial details and a royal wedding breakfast programme.

MORE: Princess Diana's wedding dress mishap that went unnoticed

charles diana wedding gifts© Photo: Getty Images

In a rare move, the couple's wedding gifts went on display

The couple received hundreds of gifts from the British public and Commonwealth countries, as well as royals from around the world. And in a move that we haven't seen at recent royal weddings, Joe recalls the gifts being displayed at St James's Palace after the wedding with proceeds from ticket sales going to charity.

Gifts included an engraved Steuben glass bowl and a handmade porcelain centrepiece by Boehm from US President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy, who was one of the high-profile guests at the royal wedding.

While the current generation of young royals has partied into the early hours at their wedding receptions, Charles and Diana were then whisked away to Waterloo Station to catch the train to Romsey in Hampshire to begin their honeymoon.

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