What It Was Like To Eat At Charles And Diana's Lavish Wedding Reception

When Princess Diana and King Charles III married in 1981, the event came with a tremendous price tag: $48 million. The early 2020s equivalent, when adjusted for inflation, would be $156 million. This covered Diana's iconic gown, which was made by designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel, as well as other items necessary for a royal wedding. It also went towards a hefty security presence, including undercover agents. However, a significant portion of the money went towards the food.


When Diana got married, she was 20 years old, and a lot of the choices she and her team made reflected that youth and modernity. Royal British weddings are usually catered with a focus on French culinary influences, and Diana and Charles' menu was written in French — but food writer and historian Angela Clutton told HuffPost it was "a distinctly simpler menu with fewer courses than there would have been for earlier generations." Perhaps one exception was a lavish chicken dish named after Diana: "Supreme de Volaille Princess de Galles." This was a chicken breast stuffed with lamb mousse, wrapped in brioche, and with a Madeira sauce

What was on Charles and Diana's wedding menu

The meal began with quenelle of brill, which is basically a very fluffy fish dumpling, in lobster sauce. That was followed by the aforementioned chicken dish named after Diana. Sides were fava beans, cream of corn, and new potatoes. A salad was served, and for dessert, there were strawberries, clotted cream, and, of course, cake. The New York Times reported in 1981 that the "official" cake was a fruitcake laced with rum. It was designed by David Avery, head baker at the Royal Naval Cookery School, and had five tiers decorated with flowers, the royal coat of arms, and Diana and Charles' initials. Avery says he will never reveal the recipe: "I never ever, and never will do. I've been asked many times, but no."


Of course, there were top-of-the-line spirits offerings. The vins selected for the wedding banquet were Brauneberger Juffer Spatlese 1976 (a Reisling), Chateau Latour 1959 (wine critic Jeff Leve describes it as "balancing power and grace...bright, spicy, full, and deep, with layers of tobacco, cedar, cigar box, smoke, spice, ash, oceanic scents, and red fruits"), Krug 1969 (a Vintage Brut Champagne that currently sells for over $4000), and Taylor 1955 (a vintage port with "pure black cherry liqueur, spice, and chocolate character"). 

How their menu compared to other royal weddings

The royal wedding previous to Diana and Charles' was that of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947. Their wedding menu reflected postwar rationing — but not really. The choices on their menu were technically in keeping with the restrictions of the time. "They were quite clever to serve partridge because, being game, it was un-rationed and would have been easily attainable due to the vast shooting estates at Balmoral," explains food historian Annie Grey. The rest of the menu included a Mountbatten-style fillet of sole, green beans, noisette-style potatoes, salad, an ice cream bomb called "Bombe Glacée Princess Elizabeth," sweets, coffee, and wedding fruitcake. The ice cream was made with fresh strawberries, grown in a hot house out of season.


When Diana's son William married Kate Middleton (who has a flair for home-cooked meals) in 2011, their wedding meal also reflected the times. The menu was in English only — no more French — and specifically made note of ingredients and where they were sourced. There was Marinated South Uist salmon, Lyme Bay crab and wild Hebridean langoustines, and a fresh herb salad. Then came Saddle of North Highland Mey, select organic lamb, Highgrove spring vegetables, English asparagus, Jersey Royal potatoes, and Windsor sauce. Dessert was Berkshire honey ice cream, sherry trifle, and chocolate parfait. The cake? Fruitcake.