On July 29, 1981, millions of Americans wiped the sleep from their eyes and turned on their TVs in the predawn hours to see Lady Diana Spencer, 20, wed Prince Charles, 32, in London's historic St. Paul's Cathedral. Despite reports that Diana had prewedding jitters, "it was a rather wonderful, very family day," says former bridesmaid India Hicks, then 13. She recalls Diana's watching TV footage of herself as she was having her hair and makeup done. "At that stage it was new to her," says Hicks. "If someone got in her way, she would push them out so she could keep an eye on herself." Twenty years later PEOPLE caught up with four of the five young bridesmaids who had attended Princess Diana (the fifth, Catherine Cameron, 26, now works for a London publisher and has never spoken to the press). All grown, they now recall their day in the spotlight with fondness and deepened wonder. "As an adult," says Hicks, "I fully understand what an extraordinary part of history it was."

INDIA HICKS
When crowds prevented 13-year-old India Hicks, a goddaughter of Prince Charles's, from returning to her parents' London home the night before the wedding, she earned an invitation to a royal slumber party of sorts at Kensington Palace. "Princess Margaret said, 'Why don't you come back with me?' " Hicks recalls. "My mother thought, 'Well, at least she'll be well-looked-after.' " Even Hicks's lack of an overnight bag didn't pose a problem: "Princess Margaret came down and said, 'Do borrow my toothbrush,' " says Hicks, whose mother is a cousin of Charles's. Now 33, she and boyfriend David Flint Wood, 40, co-own a hotel, the Landing, on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, where they are raising sons Felix, 4, and Amory, 2. A model who has posed for Ralph Lauren, Hicks is also an active supporter of Blue Cross, a British animal charity. Although she seldom spent time with Diana after the wedding, she still treasures her memories of the day. "When she came out in the dress," says Hicks, "it was a Cinderella moment."

LADY SARAH CHATTO
As "head girl" and de facto maid of honor, Chatto had the unenviable task of handling Diana's cumbersome 25-ft.-long wedding train. In the end "she engineered that train to perfection," marvels David Emanuel, who codesigned Di's wedding dress with his then-wife, Elizabeth. "She was very calming." That low-key temperament continues to define the 37-year-old royal, who is 13th in line to the throne. The daughter of Queen Elizabeth's sister Princess Margaret and photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones (the couple divorced in 1978), Sarah wed artist and sometime actor Daniel Chatto, 44, in 1994 after they met on the set of the 1983 film Heat and Dust. (He had a small role; she was working as a wardrobe assistant.) A skilled painter who earned two diplomas at the Royal Academy Schools in London, Chatto now works on her art and cares for sons Samuel, 5, and Arthur, 2, at their London home. "She is the last person on earth to boast about who her parents are," says Christopher Warwick, Princess Margaret's biographer. "She is just a thoroughly nice, down-to-earth woman."

CLEMENTINE HAMBRO
At age 5, Hambro was the youngest of the five bridesmaids. "We all fell in love with Clem instantly," recalls Elizabeth Emanuel, codesigner of Di's wedding dress. Hambro, a onetime kindergarten pupil of Diana's, famously burst into tears after tripping just as the princess was to emerge on the palace balcony after the ceremony. "Did you bump your bottom?" Diana gently asked. "I said, 'No, I bumped my head,' " Hambro told LIFE in 1999. Now 24, Hambro, a great-granddaughter of Winston Churchill's, is studying acting in London but remains best known for her role in the pageant 20 years ago. Says designer David Emanuel: "She melted everyone's heart."

SARAH JANE GASELEE
The only bridesmaid who didn't boast an aristocratic lineage, Sarah Jane Gaselee earned her spot in the wedding party thanks to her father Nick, who was Prince Charles's friend and longtime horse trainer. Nonetheless, the 11-year-old Gaselee "wasn't nervous at all," she told Britain's OK! magazine last fall. "I just strolled down the aisle of St. Paul's Cathedral looking at everyone."

In the years after the wedding, Gaselee exchanged letters with the princess. "When I was at boarding school, I was very unhappy because I hated being away from home," she told Britain's Daily Mirror in 1997. "Diana had been to boarding school, too, and understood how I felt." Gaselee lost Diana's letters when a 1995 fire consumed her parents' home. And after the princess's death in 1997, she sold her bridesmaid's dress to Di's brother Charles Spencer for an undisclosed sum—a move that struck some as tacky, though Spencer calls the deal "amicable." Today Gaselee, 31, and her boyfriend Chris Goodwin, a hotelier, live in Zanzibar, where she is working on a children's book. In 1997 she returned to London to attend Diana's funeral. Notes Gaselee's friend Caroline Whittle: "She says that Diana has given her one of the best days of her life and one of the saddest."