Even before they made their way to the White House, or down the aisle, Jackie Kennedy and John F. Kennedy were already a picture-perfect American couple. Jacqueline Lee Bouvier and John F. Kennedy were featured on the cover of Life magazine (mere months before their wedding) on a sailboat with the headline, "Senator Kennedy Goes a-Courting." The gorgeous society duo was a stunning young couple—she a sought-after debutante turned photographer, he a freshman senator. So when the pair made it official on September 12, 1953, in Newport, Rhode Island, it was the society wedding of the year, complete with a blessing from the Pope.
Like any other wedding, this one wasn't without its last-minute emergencies. Jackie's dress almost didn't make it to the ceremony. Disaster struck when a pipe burst in designer Ann Lowe's New York City studio, covering the wedding gown and the bridesmaids dresses in water 10 days before the ceremony. All 11 dresses were recreated with Lowe and her team working round the clock for the next week. The ivory tissue-silk dress, with a portrait neckline and bouffant skirt with wax flowers, was an immediate success; the look, complete with an heirloom rose-point lace veil and pearls, is one of the most iconic bridal ensembles of all time. According to the book What Jackie Taught Us, however, the future first lady wasn't thrilled with the choice, having hoped for a simpler, sleeker dress.
Jackie was escorted down the aisle of St. Mary's Church by her stepfather, Hugh D. Auchincloss, as tenor soloist Luigi Vena sang the hymn "Ave Maria". Before the ceremony began, Archbishop Cushing read a personal blessing from Pope Pius XII. The bridal party included Jackie's sister Lee; the groom's sister Jean and sister-in-law Ethel; as well as John's brothers Robert, who served as best man, and Edward; brother-in-law Sargent Shriver; and Charles Bartlett, who introduced the Kennedys.
More than 900 guests gathered to celebrate the newlywed Kennedys at a grand reception held at Hammersmith Farm. The newlyweds took two hours to shake every guest's hand (and you thought your receiving line was long?!) before digging into their four-layer wedding cake. The couple also kept their wedding invitation simple and classic, with black ink printed on cream paper (the original is on display at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum).
Life magazine sent young photographer Lisa Larsen to cover the wedding, and she noted of the event: "Their wedding turned out to be the most impressive the old society stronghold had seen in 30 years. As John F. Kennedy took Jacqueline Bouvier as his bride, 600 diplomats, senators, and social figures crowded into St. Mary's Church to hear the Archbishop of Boston perform the rites and read a special blessing from the pope. Outside, 2,000 society fans, some come to Newport by chartered bus, cheered the guests and the newlyweds as they left the church. There were 900 guests at the reception and it took Senator and Mrs. Kennedy two hours to shake their hands. The whole affair, said one enthusiastic guest, was "just like a coronation."
Modern-day royalty indeed!