The marriage of 1950’s movie star Grace Kelly seems like one that could come straight out of a fairly tale: Unknown girl from Philadelphia makes it big as one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood and marries a prince from a prosperous country, Monaco. Grace’s wedding seemed so magical that an estimated 30 million people watched it. For Grace, it probably was magical; When she, her family, and 50 friends sailed on the USS Constitution to Monaco for the wedding, they were met by her fiance, Prince Rainier. Grace sailed with him on the yacht and they were met by European royalty with extravagant gifts, including a hatchet made of gold and bone, and a Rolls Royce. With all the wealth lying around, unfortunately $50,000 worth of jewels was stolen from a family friend and $8,000 worth of gems were taken from one of the bridesmaid’s hotel rooms. Still, despite that, the “Wedding of the Century” ended up being a glorious affair. Likewise, Grace’s wedding dress has also been considered one of the most glorious wedding dresses of all time.

Grace Kelly’s Wedding Dress

Helen Rose sketched this picture of Princes Grace.

Helen Rose sketched this picture of Princes Grace.

Unlike most brides, Grace’s wedding dress was designed by a two-time Academy Award winner names Helen Rose. The dress was a gift from MGM studios, where both Grace and Helen had gained their popularity. Helen, and a team of three dozen seamstresses, worked on the wedding dress for six weeks.

The bodice had a layer of silk net, with rose point lace on top. Thousands of seed pearls embroidered the lace. The dress features a high collar and long sleeves. Grace wore two petticoats beneath the voluminous skirt. According to MGM studios, that the wedding dress making process required 70 meters of heavy taffeta, 70 feet of silk taffeta, over 270 feet of silk, and over 822 feet of lace. However, the finished process used about a quarter of each amount. Historians estimate that the dress cost about $8,000 ($60,000 today), not including Helen’s salary.

Grace wore a Juliet cap head piece decorated with orange blossoms, instead of the customary tiara. Her circular veil was 90 yards long, with lace motifs on the edges. Her bouquet was made from Lily of the Valley. Grace’s wedding shoes were from Evins, New York and were designed by David Evins. A copper penny, at Grace’s request, was built into the right shoe for good luck. Grace also carried Rev. J.M. Lelen’s “Bride’s Manual: A Manual of Catholic Devotion with Mass for the Marriage Ceremony and the Nuptial Blessing.” The book had been decorated by MGM’s wardrobe department. The pearl embellishment on Grace’s wedding dress started a theme that ran throughout all of her accessories; the shoes, prayer book, headpiece, and veil all had pearls on them.

The Wedding Dress Leaves a Legacy

Grace’s wedding dress has become an icon for many Americans. One author said that the dress added “to the marital fervor and (elevated) matrimonial fashion.” The royal wedding dress inspired women across the globe to mimic the style. The Philadelphia Museum of Art displayed the dress for a month and a half in 2006 and has been reported to be the most popular exhibit. Grace’s dress has become more popular in recent years, since many believe that Kate Middleton’s wedding dress looked very similar to it.

Grace Kelly’s Wedding

Separately required under the Napoleonic Code of Monaco and the laws of the Roman Catholic Church, the couple had to be married first civilly, and then under the Catholic Church. On April 18, 1956, in

Princess Grace and Prince Rainier honor a classically, royal ensemble.

Princess Grace and Prince Rainier honor a classically, royal ensemble.

the Palace of Monaco, Grace and Rainier participated in the civil ceremony and the next day, Grace and Raiiner were married in the St. Nicholas Church. There were 600 guests, including Hollywood actors Ava Gardner and Cary Grant. Grace had agreed to have her wedding filmed and then released as a movie in America since she had to break her seven-year contract with MGM Not only did her marriage mean a life in Monaco away from Hollywood, it meant that she joined the absolute ruler of a 370-acre country, and reigned over 20,000 subjects. She became Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco.

Grace and Rainier’s Courtship

Grace was delegated to represent the United States at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955. She was invited to a photo session at the Palace of Monaco with Prince Rainier. After she went back to the U.S., she privately was writing Rainier. A few months later, Rainier came to America on a tour, though it was rumored that he was looking for a wife. Monaco had been under French rule, and according to a 1918 treaty, if Rainier did not have an heir, Monaco would have to be under French rule again. Three days after he arrived in America, Rainier proposed to Grace.

Princess Grace wore a Juliet Cap lined with orange blossoms and pearls.

Princess Grace's right shoe held a penny for good luck.

Princess Grace’s right shoe held a penny for good luck.

This book, also laced with pearls, was decorated by MGM's wardrobe department.

This book, also laced with pearls, was decorated by MGM’s wardrobe department.

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