As many as two billion people — about a third of the world — were expected to watch today’s British royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The global euphoria highlights the enduring ideal of marriage. For all the extravagance and fanfare of a future monarch’s wedding, we recognize in it some of our deepest human aspirations and the shared nobility of the institution of marriage.

That same chord was struck 30 years ago, as the world watched another royal wedding on July 29, 1981. As ABC’s Ted Koppel commented that evening: “Today’s marriage between Charles and Diana was … a hugely magnified version of what most of us hope for, the idealized beginning of what is meant to ripen into the perfect partnership of a man and a woman.”

Koppel’s ABC colleague, Bob Green, added: “The royal aspect almost was secondary … [T]here was something universal about the ceremony of life that was taking place. The message was the same one that comes through at a wedding in a church recreation room in New Hampshire or a justice of the peace’s office in Ohio.”

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