But for Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, it would all end in tears, recriminations and tragedies, and the aftermath would still be felt by British royalty today.
Presidents and prime ministers, as well as crowned heads of Europe and beyond, flocked to St Paul’s Cathedral in London on July 29, 1981 for the ceremony, which was watched on television by 750 million people around the world. .
Here’s an account of the wedding based on AFP reports from the time.
The marriage of Charles, a 32-year-old bachelor, and his blushing girlfriend of 20 years was a heady mix of “love and protocol,” wrote AFP special correspondent Michel Leclercq that day.
The famous balcony kiss at Buckingham Palace, which the following day made headlines around the world, took place against a backdrop of British fanfare, with horse-drawn carriages and trumpets.
People from all over the world watched from their armchairs as Lady Diana got out of the glass carriage that had taken her to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
When she arrived on the arm of her father, Earl Spencer, the woman who was about to become the Princess of Wales revealed the best kept secret of the day: her spectacular wedding dress.
She climbed the steps of St Paul’s in her ivory taffeta dress, a 22-foot (7.5-meter) train cascading behind her, and a diamond tiara on her head.
“When she appeared dressed in ivory, hidden under a multitude of pleats, ruffles, mother-of-pearl sequins and crinoline, a formidable roar rose from the crowd,” wrote AFP.
Followed by her bridesmaids, she walked slowly down the aisle past the 2,500 carefully selected guests to the blast of trumpets to join Prince Charles, who was dressed in a royal navy commander’s dress uniform.
As the world watched, the royal couple were clearly feeling the pressure.
Under the dome of San Pablo and in a thunderous silence, the voice of the future king trembled as he murmured “I will”.
The bride also stumbled reading the wedding vows, despite Charles’s encouraging smiles.
“While repeating the ritual words, Lady Diana betrayed nervousness and reversed the prince’s names,” wrote AFP.
Diana also shyly said, “I will.” It had been agreed in advance that she would not swear to obey her husband, in a break with tradition that in those days still raised a few eyebrows.
Later, Prince Charles placed the gold ring on his left hand and, at 12:20 pm precisely, AFP wrote: “Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer are married.”
New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa then sang Handel’s “Let the Bright Seraphim” as part of a concert that was broadcast to the crowd outside.
Britain’s queen mother, 81 at the time, wiped away a tear, while Charles’s mother, Queen Elizabeth II, dressed in a turquoise dress and matching hat, had “wet eyes” on several occasions. during the service, wrote AFP.
With Britain doing what its media commented it does best – hosting a state occasion – it was largely a British affair.
“The British press did not yield a single line to the makeup of Princess Grace of Monaco, the suit of French President Francois Mitterrand or the pale pink suit of Nancy Reagan (the first lady of the United States),” wrote AFP.
Britain had a national holiday and around 600,000 people gathered in the streets, some of whom camped overnight, waving Union Jack flags as they witnessed the two newlyweds crossing London on the two-mile route ( two miles) from the church in his open-top state carriage.
The assembled crowd then cheered the famous kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The “furtive kiss” symbolized “a marriage where the spontaneity of love managed to overcome tradition,” wrote AFP, somewhat illusory, as it would turn out.
Britain danced to the tune of the wedding, which was accompanied by the largest security operation since World War II, with the British mainland still in the grip of a bombing campaign by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Beauty salons advertised the “cut of Diana” and admirers bought commemorative mugs and plates bearing a photograph of the royal couple along with other royal gadgets.
After much fanfare, the couple attended a more intimate reception at the Palace where Diana was photographed kissing her youngest maid of honor, a five-year-old girl, before leaving for their honeymoon on the royal yacht Britannia to sail the Mediterranean.
In his sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, called the wedding a “fairy tale.”
But it lasted less than five years during which an “heir and leftover” was born, Princes William and Harry.
After that, the marriage gradually turned sour, with stories of infidelity, embarrassing leaked phone conversations, and Diana’s bulimia and suicide attempts.
The royal couple separated in 1992 and then divorced in 1996.
Diana’s death in 1997 in a car accident in Paris caused deep anguish and shook the monarchy.
The queen, whose distance and reserve set her apart from her subjects, was accused of cruelty.
In a civil ceremony on April 9, 2005, Charles married his new wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, who had emerged as the true love of his life and to whom he allegedly gave him a bracelet engraved with the initials of their nicknames the one for the other: Fred. and Gladys, the night before his wedding to Diana.
While Diana would have become queen with Charles’s accession to the throne, Camilla will simply be queen consort.