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For the many members of the royal family, traditions are a huge part of their public life—even when they’re a little bizarre. While many of the traditions have roots that can be traced back through generations of royal lineage, some of them are a bit more modern in origin. One such tradition is the royal wedding balcony kiss.

How did the first royal wedding balcony kiss take place?

Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s balcony kiss after their wedding. | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

The now-iconic kiss was a moment first shared between Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day. Prior to the public display of affection, former royal weddings were marked with the newlyweds simply sharing a wave as they stood together before their adoring fans. A single incident does not a tradition make, but it became entrenched in the expectations for the family when first Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson and then Prince William and Kate Middleton followed suit and kissed in the same place on their own wedding days. 

The tradition is now so important that people began to panic when they found out that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would not be participating in the balcony smooch. This is because they did not get married in Buckingham Palace, so they didn’t have the famous balcony as a site for displaying their love. Instead, the two shared a public kiss in the doorway of the church, keeping the spirit of the tradition if not the details.

The sad story behind the iconic balcony wedding kiss

What many may be surprised to know is that Diana and Charles’s kiss that started it all has a bit of a heartbreaking history. It was a mishap sparked a beloved tradition.

In many ways, Diana and Charles’s wedding was an unconventional one. From Princess Diana’s record-setting 25-foot-long train on her wedding dress to the decision to wed at St. Paul’s Cathedral rather than the traditional spot of Westminster Abbey, the royal duo turned heads and raised eyebrows. One particularly talked-about moment was not such an intentional deviation from tradition, however. 

Charles forgot to seal his newly promised wedding vows with a kiss at the altar. This forgotten kiss has been held up by some as a foreboding sign of the couple’s future messy split. Others have simply chalked it up to stage fright. After all, the wedding itself was attended by 3,500 people with millions more watching it live on their television sets. The public kiss on the balcony was a way to make up for the earlier mishap.

It has since been revealed that Diana actually had doubts about her wedding the very morning of her nuptials. She even thought about calling it off, and sources explain that a wedding present from Camilla Parker Bowles—a woman Charles would later marry—upset Diana. She had gifted the groom a pair of cufflinks with two C’s interlinked.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s famous kiss thrilled the public

No matter what happened before the wedding ceremony or later in the marriage, the kiss between Diana and Charles thrilled the adoring public watching them. It wasn’t just the kiss that captured fans’ attention. Every detail of the ceremony was stunningly beautiful. 

Diana’s dress was covered in 10,000 pearls, and her wedding ring was a 12-carat sapphire surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds. It took nearly 30 wedding cakes to feed the thousands of guests at the reception, and the official wedding cake was a towering fruit cake made by Royal Naval cooking school head baker, David Avery. To this day, the ceremony is one of the most famous and iconic moments in the royal family’s history.

While the famous balcony kiss may have been started to make up for a terrible mistake, it has now become a meaningful and loving part of a tradition for a beloved family.