But Lady Mary Crawley and Matthew Crawley finally get their fairytale ending at the start of the third series.
The couple make it down the aisle at last during a joyous celebration that will secure Mary's place in the future of Downton.
By marrying her distant cousin, the feisty brunette, played by Michelle Dockery, will be the next Countess of Grantham when Matthew - aka Dan Stevens - inherits the title.
Mary's big day isn't without its hitches, however.
Casting a shadow over the wedding is the news that her father, the Earl of Grantham, has put the future of their stately home in jeopardy by losing his wife's fortune.
During an emergency trip to London he is told his investment in the Canadian Grand Trunk Line has gone wrong, and the company has been declared bankrupt.
"If there is not enough money to run it Downton must go", his accountant advises.
Lord Grantham returns and breaks down in tears as he tells his wife Cora that they are almost penniless.
She takes the news well, however, telling him: 'We have a wedding to celebrate,' before she adds: "If it is to be our last it will be a wonderful last."
The wedding itself almost doesn't happen, however. Mary calls it off when she learns Matthew plans to refuse a large sum of money in the way of inheritance that may come his way, meaning he would not help the family.
They do eventually make it down the aisle though, due to a reconciliation set up by Tom Branson, the Irish chauffeur who married Lady Sybil.
Other highlights of the first episode include the entrance of Cora's American mother Martha Levinson, played by Shirley MacLaine, and there's some light relief when kitchen maid Daisy attempts to go on strike when she fails to get a promotion.