- Getty/Chris Jackson
For today’s normal folk, a wedding costs around $30,000 and lasts a few hours – maybe even an entire weekend. For royals, things are a little bit different.
Throughout history, members of royal families all over the globe have been getting hitched in style. They drop millions of dollars on dresses, security, and lavish multi-day parties. They hold ceremonies at ancient castles or private islands – one royal even said his vows surrounded by 20,000 spectators in a custom-built stadium. (Sort of makes that $30,000 affair sound like a bargain.)
And Kate and Will aren’t the only royals who tied the knot in such a spectacular fashion. Here’s a look at some of the biggest, best, most extravagant royal weddings of all time.
Queen Elizabeth II married her husband Philip in 1947, when she was still just Princess Elizabeth.
Elizabeth and Philip are distant cousins who met at a family wedding in 1934, when they were children. It’s been said that Elizabeth fell in love with Philip at first sight. A few years later, they began exchanging letters and in 1946, they announced their engagement.
Their wedding ceremony was broadcast to 200 million radio listeners, and the young couple received 2,500 gifts and 10,000 congratulatory telegrams from well-wishers across the world. Elizabeth’s custom satin gown was breathtaking – though she had to use ration coupons to obtain the material, according to the BBC.
In just a few years, Elizabeth would ascend to the throne at age 25, following the untimely death of her father. But the stress of royal life doesn’t seem to have hurt her marriage: Philip and Elizabeth recently celebrated their 70th anniversary.
In 1960, Princess Margaret’s marriage ceremony became the first televised royal wedding in history.
Margaret (Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister) married a photographer named Anthony-Armstrong Jones. Sadly, the relationship wasn’t to be, and the couple called it quits in 1978.
In 1981, Princess Diana and Prince Charles became the first royal couple to share a kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
750 million people watched Queen Elizabeth’s oldest son Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer on TV – that’s not counting the 3,500 attendees at Westminster Abbey and the 600,000 who crowded the streets of London hoping to glimpse the couple.
There were a few bumps that day (Diana spilled a bottle of perfume on her dress and both bride and groom flubbed parts of their vows!) but the crowd went wild when they shared a timid kiss at Buckingham Palace. At the reception, guests could choose from one of 27 wedding cakes.
Elizabeth’s youngest son, Prince Edward, had a much more relaxed wedding.
Prince Edward met commoner Sophie Rhys-Jones at a charity event in 1993 and married her in 1999 at St. George’s Chapel. (Here are 18 more commoners who married royals.)
The couple chose to keep their wedding small and open to mostly friends and family – they didn’t want it to be an excessively formal state event. They still got some royal treatment, though: Sophie wore a diamond tiara borrowed from the Queen’s own collection.
“The enduring memory,” one attendee told People, “was the casualness of it all.”
But Edward and Sophie must have done something right: As of today, Edward is the only one of the queen’s children who hasn’t gone through a messy divorce.
Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton in 2011 was a real-life fairytale.
An estimated 3 billion people worldwide witnessed the wedding of Prince William (Prince Charles’ oldest son) and Kate Middleton, the commoner he met while studying at St. Andrew’s University. Kate captivated royals fans all over the world when she walked down the aisle in a stunning lace gown by designer Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen. According to a professional lipreader, William told Kate she looked “beautiful” as she reached the altar.
Later that day, the couple drove off in a blue convertible decorated with balloons and a “Just Wed” license plate before attending a dinner and disco reception thrown by Prince Charles. The wedding cost a reported $34 million ($32 million of which was designated for security).
Monaco’s Prince Albert II married Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock the same year.
Kate and Will weren’t the only royals to tie the knot in 2011. Monaco’s Prince Albert II wed former South African Olympian Charlene Wittsock in a lavish three-day wedding that cost an estimated $70 million. The ceremony proceeded smoothly despite rumors that Wittstock had purchased a one-way ticket to South Africa and attempted to flee.
The star-studded guest list included fashion greats like Karl Lagerfeld, Naomi Campbell, and Giorgio Armani, and the couple also hired American rock band the Eagles to perform a free concert in advance of the ceremony.
Prince Albert’s father also had a lavish wedding: In 1956, Monaco’s Prince Rainier III married American movie star Grace Kelly.
Kelly met Prince Rainier during the Cannes film festival in 1955, and the two quickly fell in love. Kelly said goodbye to her life in Hollywood, and allowed movie studio MGM to film her royal nuptials in exchange for breaking her contract early.
The two-day extravaganza featured separate religious and civil ceremonies attended by thousands. Kelly wore a gown by an Oscar-winning costume designer that took 30 seamstresses three weeks to construct. Some 1,800 photographers were on hand to record the day, too, and the newly minted Princess Grace later joked that her husband deserved “battle ribbons” for wading through the paparazzi.
They stayed together until their deaths: Kelly died after a car crash in 1982; Prince Rainier succumbed to an illness in 2005.
Monaco’s royals really love luxe weddings: Pierre Casiraghi and Beatrice Borromeo stretched their 2015 wedding across two weekends in various locations.
Pierre Casiraghi, who’s seventh in line to Monaco’s throne, married Italian socialite and TV personality Beatrice Borromeo, who wore five different dresses throughout the various wedding dinners, parties, and ceremonies.
The celebrations took place at Monaco’s Grimaldi Palace, the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, the northern Italian town of Stresa, and finally, on two islands the Borromeo family owns. Talk about a destination wedding.
Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, got married in a stadium in 1981.
- Getty/Sean Gallup
The 20,000-seat arena was built specifically for the seven-day nuptials when the groom married current Crown Princess Salama. By one estimate, the wedding would have cost $100 million in today’s dollars.
The prince and princess are still married and now have four sons and five daughters.
Norway’s Prince Harald and married a commoner named Sonja in 1968, even though his father was against it.
Harald, who was heir to the Norwegian throne, was under pressure to marry another royal, but he only had eyes for a merchant’s daughter named Sonja. In fact, according to a New York Times report, Harald “convinced his father that the choice was between Sonja or the end of the monarchy.” That is, if he couldn’t marry his chosen bride, he’d never marry at all.
The king acquiesced and the couple wed in Oslo, where the streets were draped with flags and decorated with flowers to celebrate the occasion. Today, Harald and Sonja are king and queen of Norway.
Harald’s son, Crown Prince Haakon, also followed his heart to an unconventional marriage.
- Reuters/Scanpix/Pool/Terje Bendiksby
Prince Haakon fell in love with a former waitress and single mother named Mette-Marit, and the couple defied tradition by moving in together before their marriage in 2001.
Many were scandalized by Haakon’s choice: Mette-Marit was labeled as a “wild child” in the media because she’d once been a fixture in Oslo’s club scene. But they married anyway, and 100,000 well-wishers crowded the streets to watch the royal procession to the church. In another break with tradition, the couple decided to walk down the aisle together once they arrived.
That day, Haakon became the first European heir to acquire a stepchild. Today, he and Mette-Marit are still together and have two kids of their own.
King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Bhutan’s “Dragon King,” married his longtime girlfriend Jetsun Pema in 2011.
- Triston Yeo/Getty Images
Bhutan’s charismatic king has long been adored by his subjects. But his new wife Jestsun Pema was instantly popular with them, too: Right after the traditional Buddhist marriage ceremony, she was seen signing autographs.
“I have been waiting for quite some time to get married,” the king told reporters that day. “But it doesn’t matter when you get married as long as it is to the right person. I am certain I am married to the right person.”
Their three-day wedding celebration ended with a 7-hour talent show featuring 500 local performers. That day, the couple was also presented with a 108-foot tall tapestry as a wedding gift.
In 2016, they welcomed a son.
Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, married England’s Margaret of York in 1468. The festivities lasted 12 days.
- Wikimedia Commons
The couple’s wedding in Bruges was followed by days and days of jousting and feasts with castle-shaped cakes. The celebrations actually went on longer than planned, and officials sent messengers to nearby cities asking for more workers to rush to Bruges and help serve food. One historian described it as “the marriage of the century.”
Charles died in battle in 1477 and Margaret died in 1503.
Brunei’s Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah Bolkiah and new bride Sarah Salleh paraded through the streets after their 2004 wedding.
The actual wedding ceremony came after two weeks of official celebrations including concerts and karaoke contests. After the couple tied the knot in Brunei’s capital, they jumped into a gold Rolls-Royce limousine for a five-mile parade, trailed by an additional 103 limousines and a marching band. Selleh, who was born a commoner, had become Brunei’s new crown princess.
The couple are still together and have three children.
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