How Prince Charles and Diana's 1981 Royal Wedding Compares

Check out the differences and similarities between the two weddings.

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Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day
Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day

Thirty years ago, more than 750 million people worldwide tuned in to see Lady Diana Spencer wed Prince Charles at St. Paul's Cathedral. Even though the union of Charles and Diana didn't last, the ceremony became the idealized wedding for a generation of future brides, and the fascination with their fairy-tale wedding lives on. Indeed, Diana's wedding gown, along with its 25-foot train, has been touring the United States as part of the traveling exhibition "Diana, A Celebration." With video clips from their wedding readily accessible, fans can relive memorable scenes from the event: the couple stumbling over their vows, the public kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, Diana in her ivory silk gown.

If 750 million people watched Diana and Prince Charles say "I do," how many will tune in to see Kate Middleton marry Prince William? Odds are many more will be watching the wedding of Charles and Diana's first born. There are more television viewers today and more ways to watch than in 1981. Viewers can watch online and discuss the live event as it happens on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. Not to mention there are now more networks, cable channels, and entertainment shows like Access Hollywood, Extra, and Entertainment Tonight ready and eager to cover the big event. These forms of networking and media coverage will only increase the buzz surrounding the big event in ways viewers of the 1981 nuptials never imagined. In the 30 years between the two weddings, a lot has changed. Here's a look at how the two weddings compare.

calendarThe Date

With the date set for April 29, 2011, William and Kate are opting for a spring affair. Charles and Diana chose a summer wedding, tying the knot on July 29, 1981. William and Kate's wedding date coincides with St. Catherine's Day. It is unknown if the couple intentionally chose that date. Since their engagement, the palace has been referring to Kate as Catherine.

clockThe Age Difference

At age 29, Kate Middleton will be considerably older than 20-year-old Diana was on her wedding day. William, who will be 28 on his wedding day, is beating his father to the altar by four years. While Diana emerged from obscurity to marry Charles, Middleton, having dated Prince William for nearly 8 years, has experience with the media and paparazzi. The media spotlight will not be such a shock.

Wedding RingsThe Ring

William carried his mother's engagement ring in his backpack for three weeks during a vacation in Kenya before proposing to Kate. Diana picked out the 18-carat oval sapphire surrounded by diamonds for an engagement ring. Priced at $60,000 when chosen by Diana, the British press quickly renamed the stone "commoner's sapphire" because of its relative affordability. The stone is appropriate for Middleton, who is also a commoner.

Prince William and Kate Middleton official engagement photo

Prince William and Kate Middleton's official engagement photograph by Mario Testino ©2010

CameraThe Photo

Kate and William's engagement photo was taken by Mario Testino, a photographer who did many of Diana's later photo shoots. The photo captures the couple in a casual embrace reminiscent of Prince Charles and Diana's pre-wedding shots. The official shot of Kate and William was airbrushed, unlike Prince Charles and Diana's photo. In the photos, both couples chose casual clothing.

A Bride and Groom StandingThe Dress

David and Elizabeth Emanuel designed Diana's silk taffeta gown. After news spread that the Emanuels would be making her dress, journalists searched through the designers' garbage and tried to bribe their staff for details about the dress. Paparazzi shots have surfaced of Kate Middleton and her family near the shop of Bruce Oldfield, one of Diana's favorite designers, although no official announcement has been made.

Prince William and Prince HenryThe Bachelor & Bachelorette Parties

With free-spirited Prince Harry overseeing William's stag night, many observers expect it to be a much wilder affair than Prince Charles' party, which was held at White's, a 300-year old gentleman's club in London. Kate's sister Pippa is planning the hen night, the British term for a bachelorette party.

guest listThe Guest List

Charles and Diana's mega-nuptials boasted 3,500 people in attendance, 1,600 more than Kate and William have invited. Most of Europe's crowned and elected heads of state attended Charles and Diana's wedding, while William and Kate have said they only want to invite people who have a more personal connection to them. One hundred lucky members of the public will also be chosen at random to attend the event.

Small gifts in handsThe Gifts

Charles and Diana received more than 6,000 wedding gifts. Perhaps in an attempt to avoid multiple toasters or tea sets, Prince William and his fiancée have opted to ask guests to make donations to charity in lieu of gifts.

A Wedding BouquetThe Ceremony

While Charles and Diana chose the larger St. Paul's Cathedral, William and Kate are getting married at Westminster Abbey, the site of the Queen's nuptials. The choice can also be seen as a sign of the times. The expansive St. Paul's was in line with the opulence of the 1980s, but the smaller, more intimate Westminster Abbey is a better fit in today's troubled economy.

HA HA HA The Bloopers

In the 1981 ceremony, Diana confused the order of Charles's names during the ceremony, calling him Phillip Charles Arthur George, the name of his father. Charles also goofed, saying "I will share all 'your' goods with you" instead of offering his earthly possessions to his wife. How will Kate and William handle their nerves and the intense spotlight on the big day?

Road Map, AtlasThe Route

Diana rode in the royal carriage to her wedding, despite the 25-foot train getting crumpled. Breaking with tradition, Kate will take a car to the wedding. After the ceremony, she and William will travel in a horse-drawn carriage back to the Buckingham Palace.

A Three Tiered Wedding CakeThe After Party

Charles and Diana's ceremony was followed by a dinner for 120 people. The dinner featured 27 wedding cakes. Kate and William's dinner will be hosted Prince Charles. Three hundred guests will attend. Imagine the number of wedding cakes they'll have for that!

moneyThe Cost

Prince Charles and Diana's wedding cost the British taxpayers an estimated $3.5 - $4 million. The nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton, expected to be the most expensive celebrity wedding of all time, will cost much more.

TravelThe Holiday

A royal wedding is a national holiday. Brits get the day off to go to the pub and watch the ceremony on television, just like they did in 1981. Only now they can share their thoughts on the big day using Twitter, Facebook, email, and text messages.

—Jennie Wood

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