Kate Middleton and Prince William on their wedding day, April, 29, 2011
Source: AP Photo/Matt Dunham
On Friday, April 29, 2011, the world watched Prince William marry Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London. Prince William, the eldest son of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, first met Kate Middleton in 2001 when they were attending the University of St. Andrews. The event, which drew comparisons to Prince Charles and Diana's 1981 wedding, was broadcast throughout the world and attracted international attention in the days leading up to it.
One of the first big wedding stories was the invitations. Invited guests received save-the-date notices via fax. On February 17, full handwritten invitations, decorated in gold, followed to 1,900 friends and family members. Six hundred of those guests were also invited by the Queen to a reception after the ceremony in the Abbey. Later, around 300 of those 600 guests were invited to a dinner hosted by William's father, Prince Charles, at Buckingham Palace. A hundred lucky members of the public were selected at random to attend the ceremony.
Princess Diana's family was invited by Prince William. One famous royal, however, was not attendance: Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson. She was not invited even though her children, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, were there, as well as her ex-husband, Prince Andrew. Four of Prince William's ex-girlfriends were in attendance: Rose Farguhar, Olivia Hunt, Arabella Musgrave, and Jecca Craig. Rupert Finch, Kate Middleton's first boyfriend at the University of St. Andrews, was also there.
Celebrities in attendance were Sir Elton John, David and Victoria Beckham, Mr. Bean actor Rowan Atkinson, filmmaker Guy Richie, and singer Joss Stone. Also on the guest list were Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, the King of Swaziland, the King of Tonga, the Queen of Spain, Prince Constantine of Greece and Sheikh Ahmad Hmoud Al-Sabah of Kuwait. Ex-Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were not on the guest list, which raised some eyebrows, while former Conservative leaders Margaret Thatcher and John Major were invited.
During the engagement, Kate Middleton wore the ring selected by Princess Diana for her engagement: an 18-carat oval sapphire surrounded by diamonds. 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 was appropriate for Middleton, who was also a commoner. Prince William caused the only bit of controversy leading up to the big day when he refused to wear a wedding band. When asked about it, Palace officials explained that he has never worn jewelry.
After the ceremony, Middleton and Prince William returned to Buckingham Palace in a carriage procession that passed some of the city's most historical landmarks, including Parliament Square, Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall, and the Mall. When they arrived at Buckingham Palace, the bride and groom shared a kiss on the balcony as the Prince's parents did 30 years ago.
The total cost of the wedding was £20 million ($33 million in U.S. dollars). The wedding itself was paid for by the Royal Family and the Middletons, while security and transport costs were covered by the British treasury. Prince William and Kate Middleton asked that donations to charities be made in lieu of wedding gifts. They established The Prince Williams and Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund for the occasion.
Later in 2011, the couple went on an extended holiday to Canada and the United States. As 2011 drew to a close, pregnancy rumors swirled around the couple, but no official announcement, one way or the other, was made.