Millions of people around the world have memories of watching Prince William and Kate’s milestone royal wedding a decade ago, either on television or maybe even as part of the crowds lining the streets. However, for those who found themselves actually taking part in the big day, the recollections are perhaps a little bit more vivid and also all the more unique. Among those who found themselves at the center of the excitement on April 29, 2011 were the team at Westminster Abbey, and some have shared their recollections with T&C 10 years on.

“We are the anonymous people at these big occasions. But we probably make the loudest noise,” says bell ringer Jeremy Pratt, who was part of the group ringing the Abbey’s 10 bells on the wedding day before and after the service for a total of about four hours. He recalls being “excited and nervous in equal proportions,” adding, “You are producing a noise which is very public, it has to be perfect.” As crowds thronged in the streets below, the bell ringers climbed up into the Abbey’s north west tower, where they were in position from 9 a.m. ready to start ringing for 45 minutes before the bride arrived.

“I remember going into the church and the decoration in the nave—the trees—that really struck us,” says Clarke Walters, who was also bell-ringing on the day. He recalled how they hadn’t had any direct practice because the Abbey bells are not rung other than on special occasions, but noted that everyone taking part was experienced. “We do get a little bit more nervous when it’s things like that, you want to get it right,” Clarke says.

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Will and Kate on their wedding day.

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Also taking his place in the Abbey that morning was 13-year-old chorister Timi Otudeko, who, at the time, was in his final year of Westminster Abbey Choir School. “On the day everyone was excited but as soon as you go into song school your mentality kind of shifts, you’re just focused on the music,” Timi tells T&C. The chorister had met William and Kate some weeks before at a rehearsal where he recalls how they asked him about his thoughts on the music.

When the bride and her father arrived at the Abbey’s Great West Door at 11 a.m., the choristers were in their place and the bell-ringers were able to watch events unfold on a television that had been brought into the tower. But among those in full view of the crowds and cameras was the Dean of Westminster and his Verger Martin Castledine. After the Dean welcomed the bride, Martin led the procession down the aisle to the rousing music of Hubert Parry’s “I was Glad.” “I was very conscious of the whole world watching, I was very mindful of that,” he recalls. “It was difficult to walk very slowly. Because of the length of the music we didn’t want to get up to the High Altar too quickly.”

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The Choir of Westminster Abbey practicing for Will and Kate’s wedding, a few days before the big event.

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The marriage was broadcast to the world from every angle, but there was one moment that took place out of sight of the cameras—when the couple signed the register in the privacy of the chapel of St Edward the Confessor. Martin was one of the few people who witnessed that part of the day, which he described as an “informal, family moment.” “The Dean oversaw them making sure that they signed in the right place but I was just standing to the side watching and observing,” he remembers. “It was really nice because obviously there was this huge moment for the whole of the wedding that the world was watching. But at this particular moment, it was quite obvious it was very private.”

As William and Kate left the chapel and walked back into the public eye, the bell ringers waited for the signal (via a button pressed by a Verger at the foot of the tower) that the couple had reached the grave of the unknown warrior. This was their cue to start ringing what is known as a full peal, which is rung on significant events and anniversaries and involves 10 bells being struck more than 5,000 times each over more than three hours. “It does sound a lot, it is quite a lot,” says Clarke Walters. “The people on the bigger bells are working quite hard too…It’s quite an achievement.” Jeremy Pratt notes that the sequence is done from memory, adding: “What you’re trying to do is achieve perfection and rhythm.”

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The bells continued to ring as the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and 650 of their guests enjoyed an afternoon reception at Buckingham Palace. There on display in the Picture Gallery was the enormous eight-tier wedding cake created by baker Fiona Cairns and decorated with cream and white icing. This cake was not served at the wedding itself; instead hundreds of extra pieces were made to eat so that the one on display could be preserved. Some 4,000 slices were also send out by Prince Charles in a tin as gifts to those who had contributed to the event. Recipients included the Dean’s Verger, the choristers, and the bell ringers. “It was very good cake,” recalls Jeremy who shared his piece with his family and still has the tin. Clarke adds about the memento: “I thought that was really a quite unexpected touch.”

will and kate's wedding cake

Will and Kate’s wedding cake.

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