From star-studded guest lists to multi-tiered cakes, royal weddings are lavish affairs that leave their mark on history. These are events that spare no details (and money) when it comes to celebrating the nuptials of royal brides and grooms, and they're seen as sumptuous moments that many remember for years following the big day. However, even with all the various parts that go into throwing these affairs, there is one component that steals the show at every celebration; that is, the wedding fashion.
While Princess Diana’s taffeta ball gown and Meghan Markle’s elegant Givenchy ensemble quickly gained recognition, many royal brides sported second looks that the public isn’t as privy to. Take, for example, Princess Eugenie’s rule-breaking pink dress or Kate Middletons’s satin getup with an embroidered waistband, which both made an appearance at their receptions but weren’t widely photographed. What's more, while some royal brides changed into a new gown for their post-wedding celebration, others sported a completely different outfit for their civil ceremony.
Below are the rarely-seen second wedding dresses that royal brides wore, and they’re just as stunning as the ones we all know and love.
When Kate Middleton said “I do” to Prince William on April 29, 2011, her lace-embroidered gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen left a lasting impression on the world. And after trading vows, the bride upgraded her wedding wardrobe with another original piece by the designer. For the next phase of festivities—a reception that Queen Elizabeth hosted at Buckingham Palace—the Princess of Wales donned a silk A-line gown with a sweetheart neckline and a sparkly silver belt (which she paired with a fuzzy white cardigan). According to Newsweek, no one could actually photograph the second dress on the big day, so instead, photographers captured the couple (and ensemble) leaving King Charles’s London residence at the end of the night.
Another iconic gown that spawned copycat designs was Meghan Markle’s minimalist Givenchy getup with a bateau neckline, which she wore for her nuptials with Prince Harry on May 19, 2018. For the reception, the bride chose another equally elegant ensemble with a sleek silhouette: A Stella McCartney halter-neck silk sheath gown. She paired her look with Aquazzura shoes that featured baby blue soles for a touch of something blue.
When Princess Eugenie wed Jack Brooksbank on October 12, 2018, she made a powerful statement in a Peter Pilotto dress that showed off her scoliosis scar. Then, at her reception, the bride broke royal wedding tradition and ditched bridal white for a blush pink, long-sleeve silk gown by Zac Posen. The bride chose the pink hue as a nod to the English rose, and she tapped Grace Kelly as her inspiration behind the design. Today, the evening gown is on display at Windsor Castle.
Grace Kelly’s high-neck, long-sleeve lace dress—the one she wore on her special day with Prince Rainier of Monaco on April 18, 1956—is one of the most influential gowns to date. Before the bride became royalty, though, the couple held a quiet civil ceremony the day before their palace nuptials. For the private affair, the former actress donned a pink lace and taffeta two-piece ensemble, which included a tailored jacket with buttons down the front and a bell-shaped midi skirt. She rounded off the outfit with delicate gloves and a Juliet cap.
With its puff sleeves and 25-foot-long train, the ball gown Princess Diana wore on her wedding day to King Charles, on July 29, 1981, is one of the most famous ensembles of all time. While you're probably aware that her wedding dress designers, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, created a secret backup gown in case the first one was leaked by the press, did you know that Diana sported an outfit change after tying the knot? Later in the day, before leaving on her honeymoon, Diana changed into a bespoke peach suit with a white frill collar and a matching hat designed by David Sassoon for Bellville Sassoon. The set included both short and long sleeves, so Diana could adjust the getup depending on the weather.
Princess Charlene of Monaco
Former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock marked her transition to the throne on July 1, 2011, in a Giorgio Armani crystal-embellished outfit that took 2,500 hours to make. After making it official with Prince Albert II of Monaco, the bride tapped the same designer for her reception at Opéra de Monte-Carlo. The princess made her grand entrance in a silk chiffon gown with an illusion neckline, a ruffled skirt, and beaded detailing. “The wedding dress is pretty heavy, so I wanted to change into something light, soft, and easy to move in for the evening," she told Vogue at the time.
Princess Sofia of Sweden
For Princess Sofia and Prince Carl Philip’s special day on June 13, 2015, the former model and reality star waltzed down the aisle in a long-sleeve lace gown that Swedish designer Ida Sjöstedt fabricated. What's more, it was also Sjöstedt who designed the bride’s reception attire. The Swedish princess celebrated her newlywed status in a one-shoulder lace piece, which is now on display in Stockholm, Sweden.
With two separate ceremonies and five different wedding dresses, Beatrice Borromeo’s nuptials in July of 2015 with Pierre Casiraghi, the son of Princess Caroline of Hanover, was one for the books. The Italian aristocrat went out with a bang for her evening reception, arriving by boat in a Giorgio Armani white, silk tulle gown with a plunging neckline and a pleated train. The attire even incorporated a sentimental touch: Two family heirloom wing-shaped diamond brooches.
Princess Claire of Luxembourg
Princess Claire of Luxembourg embodied true royalty when she swapped vows with Prince Felix of Luxembourg, on September 21, 2013, in a lace Elie Saab gown. Days before the big day, for their civil ceremony at Villa Rothschild Kempinski in Germany, the bride opted for a more understated ensemble. To kick off the festivities, the princess rocked a mini silk ivory dress with a peplum design.
Princess Madeleine of Sweden
When Princess Madeleine of Sweden married Christopher O’Neill on June 8, 2013, she swapped her dramatic Valentino lace dress for something simpler. At the post-wedding reception, the bride stunned in a vintage strapless ball gown with beaded detailing and a bow wrapped around her waist. Fun fact: The outfit actually functioned as her “something borrowed” since her mother previously wore it to a Nobel Peace Prize dinner. The royal gown can now be found as part of the Stockholm exhibition.