Before there was Duchess Kate or even Princess Diana, there was Princess Grace, the original fairy-tale princess bride. We can't believe it's been 61 years since the world's biggest movie star became royalty, and we're looking back on all of the fab details of the day.
How many of you have Grace Kelly's wedding dress pinned on your inspiration boards? Sure, her name is synonymous with classic style, and she's the most-often-thrown-around wedding muse for many brides-to-be. But how much do you really know about Grace Kelly and her wedding day(s)? Not to worry, we're here to fill you in on all the details (and photos) of Princess Grace's wedding to Monaco's Prince Rainier III on April 18, 1956—from the quiet civil ceremony to the grand royal wedding of the century!
It read like a Hollywood script: Movie star meets prince, falls in love, becomes princess! And the whole world got caught up in the frenzy that was the courtship of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly. Philadelphia-native movie star Kelly met Monaco's Prince Rainier III while attending the Cannes Film Festival in 1955. After a yearlong romance, the couple made things official in a lavish ceremony that put any other royal wedding ceremony to shame.
With her family, bridesmaids, and about 80 pieces of luggage in tow, Kelly set forth for the French Riviera aboard the ocean liner SS Constitution. When the party arrived in Monaco, the future princess was greeted by 20,000 (out of 23,000!) of her loyal subjects. For the next two weeks, preparations were made for the OG wedding of the century. Reporters and fans descended upon the tiny principality with such fervor for the weeklong celebration that the prince was forced to call in French riot police.
After a private civil ceremony in the palace throne room, where Kelly wore a stylish, ladylike champagne and pink floral embroidered suit (created by MGM costume designer Helen Rose) with a Juliet cap topping off her blond locks, the couple was legally married. The royal couple spent the night before their church wedding at a lavish gala at the Monaco Opera, where the future princess looked the part in a white silk Lanvin gown.
Then, finally, on April 19, Grace Kelly of Philadelphia officially became her Serene Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco, and she did so in spectacular fashion in Monaco's Saint Nicholas Cathedral, which was filled to the brim with white lilacs and lilies of the valley. And then came the breathtaking moment when the bride appeared in all of her iconic glory. Grace Kelly's wedding dress has become the stuff of designer, bride-to-be, and fashionista inspiration, the symbol of fairy-tale weddings, and one of the most-often-referenced wedding gowns in history.
The high-necked, long-sleeved dress, with a long, billowing skirt (and a 10-and-a-half-foot-long train), was also designed by Helen Rose—who'd previously designed Elizabeth Taylor's first wedding gown, when she married Conrad "Nicky" Hilton, as well as Taylor's trend-setting dress in Father of the Bride—and made from 125-year-old Brussels lace, taffeta, and thousands of hand-sewn pearls.
Do you see any similarity to another royal bride's Sarah Burton–designed wedding gown? Oscar de la Renta famously said of Grace Kelly's famous wedding-day look, "On her wedding day, Grace Kelly gave new meaning to the word icon. Her whole look, from the regal veil to the feminine lace details and the conservative gown, made her an ageless bride." Kelly paired the spectacular dress with shoes from David Evins, with a copper penny tucked into the right shoe for good luck. The bridesmaids wore yellow silk gowns designed by Joseph Hong of Neiman Marcus and Priscilla Kidder, of Priscilla of Boston fame.
See more: The Most Iconic Brides of All Time
The groom, who in Monaco tradition made his entrance after the bride, wore a military uniform that he designed himself. After a nervous Kelly and Rainier exchanged rings, the couple said their vows, with Kelly whispering "Oui" when asked if she took the prince as her husband. We told you, fairy tale!
Among the 700 guests who watched as wedding history was made were such heavyweights as Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner, Aristotle Onassis, and Conrad Hilton. After the ceremony, guests were treated to a six-tier white wedding cake, a gift to the newlyweds from the pastry chefs at Monte Carlo's Hotel de Paris. It doesn't get more royal and over-the-top than a pair of live turtledoves being freed from your wedding cake as your prince cuts into it with his sword, does it?
As a gift from the people of Monaco, the newlyweds received a Rolls-Royce convertible, which they used as their mode of transport while parading around the streets of Monte Carlo.
The newly minted princess and her prince sailed off into the sunset on a gift from Onassis, a 147-foot yacht named Deo Juvante II, and spent heir honeymoon around the Mediterranean.