The actress Grace Kelly, married Prince Rainier III of Monaco on April 19, 1956 and her wedding dress is considered by many to be one of the most elegant and beautiful of all time.
A gift from her studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the dress was designed by Academy Award–winning costume designer Helen Rose, who had created the star’s wardrobe for four films, including High Society and The Swan. MGM’s wardrobe department constructed it with meticulous care under strict security.
In style and detail the dress was conceived to complement the bride’s fairy-princess image. The bell-shaped skirt of ivory faille, supported by three attached petticoats, fans out into a graceful lace train; the high-necked bodice of antique Brussels lace was re-embroidered to render the seams invisible and then accented with seed pearls. Lace embellished with pearls covers the accompanying prayer book, shoes, and cap, which is surmounted by a wreath of orange blossoms.
Grace had decided against the customary tiara and instead opted for a Juliet cap decorated with orange blossoms and a veil that was reportedly 90 yards long. The circular veil was edged with lace motifs, but the majority was left sheer, so that the princess’s face would be visible through it.
The shoes were designed by David Evins of New York. A copper penny was built into the right shoe for good luck.
Before the official state wedding, there was a civil wedding ceremony. Princess Grace wore a beautiful rose pink taffeta suit covered in Alencon lace designed by Helen Rose, white gloves, and a Juliet cap.
As a Hollywood star, Kelly was renowned for her beauty and talent—recognized by her Academy Award for best actress for her role in The Country Girl (1954)—and for her understated, classic style that inspired the fashion phenomenon known as the Grace Kelly Look. As a royal bride, her magnificent yet simple ensemble incited intense interest and admiration. Shortly after the wedding, the princess presented the gown to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it has become one of the collection’s most popular and beloved objects, and continues to serve as the ultimate exemplar of bridal elegance.
The entire adult population of Monaco—3,000—was invited to the celebration following the wedding.
Grace wore a Lanvin ballgown to the Monaco Opera on 18 April, following the civil ceremony. The gown, made of hand-embroidered white silk organdy, had a V-shaped decollette, a high waistline, a full bustle in the back, and was decorated with 800,000 sequins and 1,500 pearls and rhinestones.
Aristotle Onassis gave Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace “Deo Juvante II”, a 147-foot yacht, as a wedding present. The couple traveled around the Mediterranean on the yacht for their honeymoon.
The people of Monaco gave Grace and Rainier a cream and black Rolls Royce convertible as a wedding gift. After the religious wedding ceremony, the couple drove through the streets of Monaco in it.
Grace’s Cartier engagement ring from Rainier featured a 10.47-carat emerald-cut diamond and two baguette diamonds mounted in platinum. She wore the ring as her character’s engagement ring in High Society.
Rainier gave Grace a Van Cleef & Arpels pearl necklace for their engagement in 1955.
As a wedding present, Rainier gave Grace a Van Cleef & Arpels set of a necklace, bracelet, and earrings.
The House of Creed was commissioned by Rainier to create a perfume, Fleurissimo, especially for Grace as a wedding present. Fleurissimo was subsequently worn by fellow style icons Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Madonna.
Grace carried Rev. J.M. Lelen’s Bride’s Manual: A Manual of Catholic Devotion with Mass for the Marriage Ceremony and the Nuptial Blessing during her wedding to Prince Rainier. The book was a gift from family friend Mrs. John F. McCloskey of Chestnut Hill and was decorated by MGM’s wardrobe department.
For her wedding, Grace’s hair was styled by Sydney Guilaroff.
Joseph Hong of Neiman Marcus designed the bridesmaids’ dresses, and Priscilla Kidder (a.k.a. Priscilla of Boston) made them. They were made of yellow silk organdy—a shade called sunlight—over a yellow silk taffeta underdress. Grace’s matrons of honor carried bouquets of tea roses, and the flower girls carried white daisies.
Of Grace’s wedding, fashion designer Oscar de la Renta said: “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”
As a wedding present from MGM, Grace received her entire wardrobe from High Society, as well as her magnificent wedding dress.
Grace’s bridal bouquet was of lily-of-the-valley, and the ribbons of her bouquet had small sprigs attached to them. She left the bouquet on the altar of the Chapel of St. Dévote after the wedding.
The wedding was filmed and released as The Wedding in Monaco.
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