Inside Prince William and Kate Middleton's Wedding Day
Over a decade has passed since Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding on April 29, 2011, but we remember this royal celebration like it was just yesterday. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (now known as the Prince and Princess of Wales) exchanged vows before a congregation of 1,900 guests at Westminster Abbey in London and more than 23 million viewers worldwide. The pair first met as college classmates at St. Andrews back in 2003, and while they kept their romance largely concealed during their undergrad years, they eventually had to embrace a relationship in the spotlight.
William and Kate's wedding was a quintessential display of royal pomp and circumstance. After all, what else would you expect from the future King and Queen of England? Read on for more details about Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding day, including what they wore, what they ate, and who they celebrated with.
Prince William and Kate Middleton's Wedding Venue
Prince William and Kate Middleton got married at Westminster Abbey in London, England, and their choice of venue wasn't exactly a surprise. Although they didn't swap vows at St. Paul's Cathedral, where William's parents King Charles and Princess Diana did in 1981, the Abbey was an equally sentimental selection. Prince William's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, also got married at Westminster Abbey back in 1947; before that, her father, His Majesty King George VI, exchanged vows with Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon there in April 1923. Given that William is now second in line to the throne (after his father, King Charles), his wedding venue was not without significance.
Although Kate Middleton and Prince William's wedding venue held 1,900 guests, many more celebrated outside the storied church. Throughout the UK, an estimated 5,000 street parties were hosted while more than one million people lined the route between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.
William and Kate's Wedding Attire
As is common with royal weddings, there was plenty of buzz leading up to the big day about what the bride's gown would look like—and it certainly didn't disappoint. Kate Middleton's wedding dress was a breathtaking number designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen and instantly became one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time. The custom ivory and lace creation pulled clear inspiration from Grace Kelly's wedding dress, as seen through its lace long sleeves, V-neckline, full skirt and nine-foot train. Together, Burton and Middleton included sentimental details into the look, like hand-cut lace roses, daffodils, thistles, and shamrocks woven into the sleeves to symbolize England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Burton also sewed a blue ribbon inside the gown to represent "something blue." Kate Middleton accessorized her wedding gown with the Cartier Halo tiara, which was lent to her by Queen Elizabeth II.
The groom, for his part, looked equally as dapper in his attire. Prince William's wedding outfit was the red tunic he earned when he was promoted to Colonel of the regiment two months before the big day. Although he later said in an interview that he wanted to wear his Irish Guards frock coat, his grandmother wanted him to wear the red military outfit—and ultimately, Queen Elizabeth got what she wanted.
Kate Middleton's Wedding Makeup
In an unconventional move, Kate Middleton did her own wedding makeup rather than bring in a professional for the big day. However, she was adequately prepared. In the weeks leading up to the nuptials, Kate took makeup lessons from Bobbi Brown's team, receiving "makeup artistry assistance" from the brand's makeup artist Hannah Martin. The final look was nothing short of beautiful, as the bride opted for flushed pink cheeks and a gray smokey eye to complement her half-up, half-down hairstyle.
"Catherine looked absolutely stunning," Brown said at the time in a statement. "I wouldn't have changed a thing about her makeup. She looked beautiful, fresh and most importantly, happy."
Will and Kate's Wedding Party
In keeping with British tradition, Kate and William didn't have a "wedding party," per se, though Kate's younger sister Pippa was her maid of honor. She made quite an impact in her Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen ivory bridesmaid dress, which made headlines around the world thanks to its figure-hugging silhouette. Although it was believed that Prince Harry was Prince William's best man, he debunked this theory in his January 2023 memoir, Spare. That esteemed role was actually shared by Williams' longtime friends James Meade and Thomas van Straubenzee. "The public had been told that I was to be best man, but that was a bare-faced lie," he wrote. "The public expected me to be the best man, and thus, the palace saw no choice but to say that I was. In truth, Willy didn't want me giving a best man speech. He didn't think it safe to hand me a live mic and put me in a position to go off script. I might say something wildly inappropriate. He wasn't wrong."
Other honorary guests included two page boys and four bridesmaids, all under the age of 10. An official photo of the family and wedding was taken inside the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace. Along with the bride and groom, others photographed included Grace van Cutsem, Eliza Lopes, the late Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth II, Margarita Armstrong-Jones, Louise Windsor, William Lowther-Pinkerton, Tom Pettifer, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Michael Middleton, Carole Middleton, James Middleton and Pippa Middleton.
William and Kate's Celebrity Wedding Guests
In a 2012 interview, Prince William revealed that he and his bride-to-be struggled with their wedding guest list. (Royals: They're just like us.) "I was given a list in the first meeting of 777 names and not one of them I knew," William said at the time. "It was a bit daunting and it was like, that seems to be the guest list sorted–no room for friends or family." He turned to his grandmother for "moral support" and "a bit of backup," which she happily provided. "She said, 'Don't be so ridiculous, get rid of the list, and start from your friends'."
In addition to close friends and family, foreign royalty, diplomats, and politicians, a few A-list stars landed on the guest list too. Some of William and Kate's celebrity wedding guests included David and Victoria Beckham, Sir Elton John and his partner, David Furnish, actor Rowan Atkinson, and director Guy Ritchie.
William and Kate's Royal Wedding Ceremony Traditions
The televised ceremony of William and Kate's wedding featured a trifecta of holy men who helped to marry the couple: the Dean of Westminster conducted the lengthy service, the Archbishop of Canterbury married the couple, and the Bishop of London gave the address. Kate's brother, James Middleton, did a reading.
Kate's father, Michael Middleton, rode with his daughter in a car toward the ceremony and also walked her down the aisle toward William. The newlyweds then rode away to Buckingham Palace in the Imperial State Landau, a century-old carriage originally built for Edward VII. Incidentally, it was the exact same carriage that Princess Diana and Prince Charles rode away in after their wedding back in 1981.
William and Kate's Wedding Rings
During William and Kate's wedding ceremony, only one ring was exchanged. The groom placed a simple gold band on his wife's finger, which would later be stacked under Princess Diana's sapphire engagement ring. Kate Middleton's wedding band was made from a nugget of Welsh gold that has been in the royal family for centuries. In fact, that exact nugget has been used to make wedding bands for Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, and Meghan Markle, among others.
William did not receive a wedding ring during the ceremony, which turned out to be his personal preference. A palace aide spoke out about the groom's lack of jewelry ahead of the wedding, saying, "It's all down to personal preference. He's not one for jewelry. He's never worn any. He decided he didn't want to wear one now." The choice to forgo bling isn't entirely uncommon in the royal family, as his grandfather, Prince Philip, also never wore a wedding ring. Although King Charles doesn't wear a traditional wedding band on his left ring finger, he does wear a signet ring on his pinky that was given to him by his wife, Queen Camilla.
The Royal Wedding Florals and Decor
Though there were hundreds of dozens of floral arrangements that dotted both Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, no bunch of flowers was quite as important as the bouquet that Kate held. In a nod to her largely understated, down-to-earth style, the bouquet consisted of lily of the valley, hyacinths, and a sprig of myrtle, as is royal tradition. One fun addition that she made, as a tiny nod to her husband-to-be, was a European flower called sweet William.
The decor of both Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace was extraordinary—fit, one might say, for royalty. Westminster Abbey was decorated with six English Field Maple trees and two Hornbeam trees, all of which were 20 feet high, to give the space a rather natural, pleasant ambiance. A long red carpet ran the length of the aisle from double doors to the altar.
Will and Kate's Wedding Reception Outfits
Kate changed into a second wedding dress for the intimate reception held at Buckingham Palace later that evening, also designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. It featured a more relaxed silhouette and was made of an ivory satin material, with a sweetheart neckline, a circle skirt, and a diamond belt that accentuated her waist. She also wore a white angora bolero to cover her shoulders and let her hair down for a more casual look.
The groom also opted for an outfit change. Prince William swapped his red military uniform for a sleek black tuxedo with a classic bow tie.
William and Kate's Royal Wedding Reception Menu
Though every other detail about Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding was clamored about during the hubbub surrounding the big day, the menu for the couple's reception wasn't released until nearly four years later. A copy of William and Kate's wedding reception menu listed for auction at the Reeman Dansie Auctioneers in Colchester revealed that the newlyweds' 300 closest family and friends enjoyed a salad of South Uist salmon, Lyme Bay crab and Hebridean langoustines, followed by a main course of North Highland organic lamb with spring vegetables.
Sides of English asparagus and Jersey Royal potatoes helped round out the main dish, while a trio of desserts, including Berkshire honey ice cream, sherry trifle, and chocolate parfait, completed the food offerings.
Will and Kate's Wedding Cake
William and Kate didn't skimp on their wedding cake, which they entrusted in the hands of UK-based baker Fiona Cairns. Cairns created an eight-tier fruit cake that was as practical as it was beautiful: the couple opted to save the top three tiers for future celebrations, according to the famous baker. The cakes have since been served at William and Kate's children's christenings. Fitting, then, that they have three little ones—one for each layer.
Ellie Goulding's Wedding Reception Performance
The royals are known for being pop culture savvy, and didn't disappoint in their choices for wedding entertainment. In addition to a more traditional organ and orchestra combo, William and Kate also invited British singer Ellie Goulding to their wedding to perform "Your Song." The momentous occasion had Goulding "sh-tting her pants," she would later tell Vanity Fair. (Perhaps because its originator, Elton John, was in the audience?)
William and Kate's Royal Wedding Carriages and Getaway Car
Following William and Kate's wedding ceremony, the newlyweds departed to Buckingham Palace the black and gold carriage that Princess Diana and Prince Charles rode away in after their wedding.
After making their union official and celebrating with their loved ones, William and Kate set off as newlyweds in a 1969 Aston Martin, which had been gifted to William's father Prince Charles on his 21st birthday. The license plate cheekily read: "JU5T WED."
Will and Kate's Wedding Photos
Buckingham Palace balcony appearances have become a highly anticipated moment during royal events. Following momentous occasions such as jubilees, parades, coronations and weddings, it's tradition for members of the royal family to gather on this iconic balcony to greet onlookers and pose for pictures. Unsurprisingly, Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding balcony appearance was incredibly memorable, and not just because the couple was so beloved. In a rare display of PDA, the newlyweds kissed not once, but twice, delighting well-wishers below and eliciting thunderous cheers.
William and Kate were joined on the balcony by the bride's parents, Michael Middleton and Carole Middleton, the groom's father, King Charles and his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, as well as Prince Harry, Pippa Middleton, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. The couples' wedding party also joined, though three-year-old Grace van Cutsem nearly stole the show by covering her ears and looking rather displeased during her time in the spotlight.
Will and Kate's Honeymoon
The day after William and Kate's wedding, the couple was photographed leaving the grounds of Buckingham Palace to board a private helicopter that would take them to their honeymoon. We would later find out that they jetted off to Seychelles, a nation of islands off the coast of East Africa where they stayed at an exclusive and remote resort—a stark contrast from their global wedding.
In the first year of marriage, the newlyweds lived seaside in a rented cottage in Anglesey, North Wales, a stone's throw away from William's workplace when he served on the Royal Air Force as an air-sea rescue pilot. While there, William and Kate practiced for parenthood by welcoming cocker spaniel puppy Lupo into their home to start the New Year in 2012. By December 2012, it was revealed they were expecting their first child together. Their firstborn, Prince George, arrived in July 2013 and was later joined by siblings Princess Charlotte in May 2015 and Prince Louis in 2018.