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A Look Back at Kate Middleton and Prince William’s Wedding – PEOPLE

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Kate Middleton and Prince William made history on April 29, 2011, when they tied the knot in front of 1,900 guests at Westminster Abbey in London.

Thousands of people flooded the streets to celebrate the event, with several million more watching from home. “There was a swell of smiles and laughter when the cheers came from outside,” attendee Kate Wright told PEOPLE of the affair. “The congregation almost wanted to join in the cheering.”

While the couple favored eloquent and modest details for their big day, like Kate’s understated bouquet, other elements were done at full royal scale, like the eight-tier wedding cake that required removing a door in Buckingham Palace. Real trees and nearly 30,000 flowers were also brought into Westminster Abbey to give it an English country feel.

“We’re supposed to have a small family affair,” William joked to the crowd ahead of his nuptials.

Following the 11 a.m. ceremony, the Abbey’s bell rang for three hours — a practice reserved for special occasions.

The couple held two receptions, one of which was hosted by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace. Their second was a more intimate gathering thrown by King Charles and lasted well until 3 a.m. where the newlyweds celebrated with 300 of their closest family members and friends, including David and Victoria Beckham and Elton John.

“William and Kate were in the middle, giving it their all,” one guest told PEOPLE. “They really went for it. They were in the full party spirit and stayed until the last minute.”

The pair, who met at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in 2001, had long discussed the event. “We were planning it for at least a year, if not longer,” William told journalist Tom Bradby during their engagement interview. “It was just finding the right time.”

Their careful preparation also gave Princess Kate the opportunity to fully experience life as a royal before becoming one. “I wanted to give her a chance to see in and to back out if she needed to before it all got too much,” William said.

From their time-honored traditions to their A-list entertainment, here’s everything to know about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.

Kate’s engagement ring once belonged to Princess Diana

Kate Middleton and Prince William in 2010; Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1981.

Chris Jackson/Getty ; Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty


Prince William famously proposed to his future bride in Kenya in 2010 with his late mother’s 12-carat sapphire and diamond ring after carrying it around for three weeks.

“I literally would not let it go,” he told Bradby. “I knew, this thing, if it disappeared I would be in a lot of trouble. … This was my way of keeping [my mother] sort of close to it all.”

The future King Charles first used the ring to propose to Princess Diana after she chose it from jeweler Garrard’s catalog in 1981.

“It’s very, very special,” Kate told Bradby.

Fifteen other royal couples have married at their wedding venue

Prince William and Kate Middleton walking down the aisle at their wedding.

Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty


Prince William and Kate exchanged vows at London’s Westminster Abbey. Originally founded in 960 A.D. for worship, coronations and royal burials, the Abbey first served as a wedding venue to King Henry I and Princess Matilda of Scotland in 1100.

Since then, 15 other royal couples — including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip — have tied the knot at the church.

Kate’s wedding dress broke royal records

Kate Middleton arriving at Westminster Abbey with Pippa Middleton.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty


Kate’s English Cluny lace and French Chantilly lace wedding gown was designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. The long-sleeved dress also had a small piece of blue fabric sewn inside (her “something blue”), a 9-foot-long train and padded hips, which were designed to look like an opening flower.

When the dress was put on display for the public after the wedding, it broke royal visitation records: More than 600,000 people came to see its intricacies, which included four plant motifs on the skirt to represent England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The details were hand-appliquéd using an old Carrickmacross lace-making technique  — the bride’s “something old.”

Kate’s accessories covered the “something borrowed” and “something new” adages, including the Cartier Halo Tiara lent to her by the Queen. She also wore Robinson Pelham earrings, which were a gift from her parents, and featured an oak leaf with a pear-shaped diamond inspired by the Middletons’ new coat of arms.

William didn’t watch Kate walk down the aisle

Prince William and Prince Harry standing at the altar on William’s wedding day.

Clara Molden – WPA Pool/Getty


Though Kate was a vision in her bespoke gown, William, who was waiting at the altar, never turned around to watch the future Princess of Wales make her way down the aisle.

As Kate processed down the aisle with her father, Michael Middleton, the prince remained facing forward for the entirety of her roughly four-minute march to keep in line with British wedding traditions, which typically see the groom and his best man looking straight ahead until the bride arrives at the altar.

William’s brother, Prince Harry — who served as the best man — did sneak a peek at Kate as she headed to the altar and whispered to his brother, “Wait until you see her.”

They honored several royal wedding traditions

Prince William and Kate Middleton on their wedding day.

Chris Jackson/Getty


Prince William and Kate’s nuptials were traditional in several ways. Though William opted to forgo a wedding band, Kate’s was made with Welsh gold. According to Clogau Gold, the same type of Welsh gold was used to make wedding bands for the Queen Mother in 1923, Queen Elizabeth in 1947, Princess Anne in 1973, Princess Diana in 1981 and Meghan Markle in 2018.

Kate also followed tradition by leaving her bouquet at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, which serves as a tribute to those who died in World War I. The ritual was started by the Queen Mother in honor of her brother Fergus Bowes-Lyon, who was killed during the Battle of Loos in 1915.

Following their nuptials, the newlyweds rode in the then-109-year-old State Landau carriage — the same one that transported Charles and Diana on their wedding day — and shared a kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, following in the footsteps of William’s parents and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.

They broke some traditions, too

Kate Middleton and Prince William leaving Buckingham Palace in an Aston Martin.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty


While many royal brides, including Queen Elizabeth, have said they would “obey” their husbands in their vows, Kate took a cue from her late mother-in-law and omitted that part in her vows, helping to start a new tradition. In 2018, Meghan Markle also omitted the word in her vows to Prince Harry.

Kate also forged a new path by having her sister, Pippa Middleton, as her maid of honor — a role that usually doesn’t exist in British royal weddings. Traditionally, only children typically make up the royal bridal party.

As for her transportation, Kate arrived at Westminster Abbey in a 1978 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI instead of a horse-drawn carriage.

Kate did her own makeup

Kate Middleton on her wedding day.

Indigo/Getty


Princess Kate went without a professional makeup artist on her big day. Instead, the royal bride opted to take lessons from makeup artist Arabella Preston at her private flat in London.

“Kate’s comfortable and confident in doing it herself,” wedding planner Mark Niemierko told PEOPLE in 2011.

Kate’s bouquet featured a nod to the groom

Kate Middleton holding her wedding bouquet.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty


The future Princess of Wales’ bouquet by Shane Connolly was made to be modest. According to the palace, the arrangement was made entirely of British flowers, including lily of the valley for happiness; hyacinth for constancy of love; ivy for fidelity; myrtle for marriage; and, in a nod to her groom, sweet William for gallantry.

The myrtle stems came from a bush grown from Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet in 1845 and Queen Elizabeth’s in 1947.

The aisle was lined with real trees

Prince William and Kate Middleton walking down the aisle.

Richard Pohle-WPA Pool/Getty


William and Kate’s artistic director of flowers, Shane Connolly, transformed the Abbey’s aisle into an “avenue of trees” with live field maples to symbolize reserve and humility and two hornbeams to represent resilience and strong love.

He topped it off with 30,000 white, green and cream flowers that were chosen to evoke an English country style, according to the BBC. “The aim is the Abbey looks unpretentious and simple and natural and that it reflects the fact that Catherine is a country girl at heart and that the couple are the best of British,” Connolly told the outlet.

The Daily Mail reported in October 2022 that six of the trees were replanted at the royal family’s 192-acre Llwynywermod estate in Carmarthenshire, Wales.

The bridal party made a splash

Kate Middleton and Prince William with their wedding party on the Buckingham Palace balcony.

George Pimentel/WireImage


The royal bridal party consisted of four bridesmaids: Lady Louise Windsor, daughter of Prince Edward and Sophie, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh; Grace van Cutsem, daughter of William’s friend Hugh van Cutsem; Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones, daughter of the Earl of Snowdon; and Eliza Lopes, granddaughter of Queen Camilla. Three-year-old Grace stole the show when she covered her ears to drown out the roaring crowd on the palace balcony.

They were accompanied by two page boys: William Lowther-Pinkerton, son of William’s former secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, and Tom Pettifer, the son of William and Harry’s former nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke.

Staff had to remove a door to bring in the wedding cake

Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding cake.

John Stillwell-WPA Pool/Getty


Prince William and Kate certainly didn’t skimp on their wedding cake. The pair had two confections to indulge in: CNN reported that William requested a chocolate biscuit cake in addition to their eight-tier, 3-foot-tall fruitcake.

The fruitcake was so large that a door had to be removed to fit it into the palace’s Picture Gallery. “I can remember her saying, ‘I hear that you’ve been dismantling my house,’ ” pastry chef Fiona Cairns recalled of the Queen in the ITV documentary The Day Will and Kate Got Married. “And I said to her, ‘Well, we had to take a door down from the room below for the trolley to go through with the cake.’ But it was all put back so in the end, it was fine.”

Made from 17 smaller cakes, the masterpiece was intricately detailed with piping and garland. It was decorated with 900 sugar-paste flowers, which took Cairns and her team five weeks to create. The confection also featured the same lace pattern from Kate’s dress.

The couple later served pieces of the cake at each of their three children’s christenings.

Ellie Goulding performed at the reception

Kate Middleton and Prince William waving to the crowd on their wedding day.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty


The bride and groom shared their first dance to Elton John’s “Your Song,” performed by Ellie Goulding.

“I was so nervous that my hands were shaking,” Goulding told Vogue Australia of her performance.

William and Kate, who also danced to the Beatles’ “She Loves You” at their reception, were later treated to a second serenade from Goulding, who reportedly sang “Starry Eyed” for the pair.

Kate wore a second dress

Kate Middleton wearing her wedding reception dress.

John Stillwell – WPA Pool/Getty


For the reception, Kate changed out of her lace gown and into a white satin dress, also designed by Burton, with a strapless neckline and diamante around her waist. She topped it off with a fuzzy white stole.

Prince Harry and King Charles both gave speeches

Prince Harry and Prince William arriving at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011.

ANDREW MILLIGAN/AFP/Getty


Prince Harry wrote in his 2023 memoir, Spare, that he improvised much of his speech, during which he said that he loved Kate and called her “the sister he never had.” He also expressed that she was perfect for his big brother, told stories about his time growing up with William and referenced their late mother, whom he said would have enjoyed watching his brother and Kate’s love blossom.

Charles also had a loving message for the bride and groom. London Chamber Orchestra music director Christopher Warren-Green recalled to PEOPLE: “Charles spoke so warmly about his small boy. He said it only seemed the day before yesterday when he was building [houses] out of chairs in the living room.”

As for Kate, Warren-Green said Charles acknowledged “how grateful he was to have such a lovely daughter now, and spoke about how much he knew she loved [William] and would support him.”

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