Wedding of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly

For this post I would like to take a look back to the wedding of Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly which was then dubbed “the wedding of the century”. To start the story of this royal couple, in 1955 Grace Kelly had been invited to attend the Cannes Film Festival in the south of France because her latest film “The Country Girl” was being shown at the prestigious event; the next year she would receive the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in the film.  Grace had enjoyed the south of France when she had previously been there to film another movie, the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film “To Catch a Thief” costarring Cary Grant. 

While on her European tour to promote her latest film her publicist arranged to do a French magazine photo shoot for Paris Match at the Palace of Monaco where she was also scheduled to meet Prince Rainier.  Grace had tried to cancel the meeting due to numerous complications but she was encouraged keep the appointment despite the fact that she was unprepared.  It seems that her hotel had a power failure caused by a workers strike and she only had one dress pressed and ready to wear.  Unfortunately, the dress was not one of her best and it was a black silk taffeta printed with large flowers, the full skirted dress had a square neckline, long sleeves and a dropped waist tied with a sash.  Since she had missed her salon appointment that day, her usually perfectly coiffured hair was severely pulled back and secured with artificial flowers. 

Finally, Grace arrived at the Palace to meet the charming Prince Rainier of Monaco, a small 370 acre principality located near the south of France that had been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297.  The Prince gave Grace a personal tour of the Palace gardens and his private zoo located on the grounds but it was far from an intimate meeting since they were accompanied by several photographers and members of the royal staff.

Grace Kelly first meeting with Prince Rainier - magazine article
Grace Kelly first meeting with Prince Rainier

Following this friendly first meeting, the Prince was impressed by Grace and the glamorous Hollywood movie star thought that the Prince was a charming gentleman.  Afterwards, Grace returned to the United States to continue making movies.  The two began writing each other letters and through their correspondence they were allowed the chance to get to know each other.  As the months passed the royal chaplain of Monaco thought that the Prince had possibly found a potential wife and he encouraged him to continue his courtship of Grace. 

Then, just before Christmas, the Prince accompanied by the chaplain traveled to the United States to visit with the Kelly family in Philadelphia.  This visit allowed the Prince and Grace to see each other again and the Kelly family was immediately charmed by their daughter’s suitor and also encouraged the match.  After Christmas the couple went to New York City to celebrate New Year’s Eve and that is when the Prince proposed and presented Grace with an engagement ring.  The Cartier ring had a 10.47 carat emerald diamond in a platinum setting with smaller baguette diamonds on each side.

Grace Kelly engagement to Prince Rainier
Grace Kelly's Cartier engagement ring

Immediately after her engagement was announced, Grace started planning for a spring wedding which would take place eight months later in Monaco.  There were in fact two wedding ceremonies, one was the required civil ceremony and the second one was a larger religious ceremony attended by 600 guests.  An estimated 30 million people watched the television coverage.  (This is an amazing statistic considering the fact that television was a relatively new media)

The Civil Ceremony –

The civil ceremony of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly took place in the throne room of the Monaco Palace on April 18, 1956 and was performed by the Monaco Minister of Justice, with the vows exchanged in French, and there were only 80 guests in attendance.  Grace wore a dress created by Helen Rose, the MGM studio costume designer, who also made the bridal dress for the religious ceremony which was performed the next day.  The dress for the civil ceremony was a pale pink taffeta with an overlay of cream colored Alencon lace designed with a fitted bodice, high collar and a flared skirt which she accessorized with gloves and a hat.  Prince Rainier wore striped trousers, a white vest and a black morning coat.

Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly - civil ceremony
Grace Kelly civil ceremony dress 2
Grace Kelly civil ceremony dress 1

Immediately after the ceremony there was a celebration and the Prince along with his new Princess took the time to shake hands with the 3,000 citizens of Monaco that were their invited guests.  Later that same night, the couple attended an elegant gala which was held in their honor at the Monaco Opera House.  Grace wore a lovely Lanvin ballgown made of white silk organdy with a deep v-neck, high waistline with a full bustle and the dress was hand-embroidered and decorated with pearls, rhinestones and sequins.

The Religious Ceremony –

The religious ceremony for Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly was held the day after the civil ceremony.  It took place on April 19, 1955 at the St. Nicholas Cathedral and was a high mass celebrated by the Bishop of Monaco with 600 guests in attendance including Cary Grant, David Niven, Ava Gardner and several international heads of state and other diplomats.  The church was decorated with floral arrangements of white lilacs, hydrangeas, lilies and snapdragons.

Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly - religious service
Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly - religious service 1

The Matron of Honor was Grace’s sister, Peggy, and there were also six bridesmaids.  They all wore yellow silk taffeta dresses with a yellow organdy overlay purchased from the Neiman Marcus department store and made by Priscilla Kidder (later the owner of the successful bridal clothing line of Priscilla of Boston).  To complete the wedding party there were six junior attendants, four girls and two boys, which were all dressed in white.

Grace Kelly with her bridesmaids

After the ceremony, Prince Rainier and Grace rode from the church through the streets back to the Palace in a cream and black Rolls Royce convertible that was a gift from the people of Monaco.  The Palace’s Court of Honor was the location of a grand reception which featured a six tier wedding cake that was cut using the Prince’s sword.

Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly - wedding cake 1
Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly - reception

The Wedding Dress –

As a gift to Grace Kelly from the MGM studio, Helen Rose, their costume designer created a beautiful bridal dress and it has remained one of the most famous and iconic wedding dress for decades. Grace’s wedding dress took six weeks to be made using three dozen seamstresses from the MGM studios costume department and cost an estimated $7200.00.  The dress used twenty-five yards of silk taffeta, one hundred yards of silk netting, tulle, peau de soie and antique Brussels lace that was over 125 years old.  (peau de soie is a soft silk fabric of satin weave which has a dull finish)  The elegant dress was designed with a high collar, long sleeves, a fitted bodice, a full skirt and a train that measured three feet in length.  Additionally, the bodice had a structured under bodice for support and two petticoats were worn underneath to provide fullness to the skirt.

Grace Kelly wedding dress front
Grace Kelly wedding dress back 1

A Juliet cap was also made to compliment the dress and worn on the back of the head with three points at the hairline and a circular shape in the back.  The headpiece used the same embroidered lace as the bodice and was stretched over a wire frame.  It was decorated with seed pearls and small wax orange blossoms.  Attached to the headpiece was a circular wedding veil which was waist length in the front and then gradually longer towards the back.  The veil used 90 yards of tulle and is edged with lace but was left sheer in the front to provide an unobstructed view of Grace’s face.

Grace Kelly wedding dress bodice

Grace completed her bridal ensemble with shoes custom made by David Evins, a leading American shoe maker that Grace had previously worked with.  The wedding shoes were covered with lace to match the dress and had a 2 ½ inch heels.  Grace also requested that a copper penny be added to her right shoe, a traditional good luck charm for brides, it was sewn into the arch of the shoe.

Grace Kelly bridal shoes

On her wedding day Grace carried a small bouquet made of Lilies of the Valley and a small Bible.  The bible was a gift from a family friend and a custom cover was made by the MGM wardrobe department of silk faille with a lace applique overlay embellished with seed pearls.

Grace Kelly wedding bible
Grace Kelly wedding bible 1

Prince Rainier wore a Napoleonic styled military uniform which he personally designed.

Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly 1

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