Why Grace Kelly's "Wedding of the Century" Still Blows Our Minds 61 Years Later

When you think of an opulent royal wedding, Prince William and Kate Middleton or Prince Charles and Princess Diana's lavish London nuptials probably come to mind. Long before either of those couples tied the knot, however, a different royal pair made waves with their mind-blowing wedding celebration: Grace Kelly and Monaco's Prince Rainier III. The couple first met at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 and were engaged a few months later. Their glamorous wedding was held soon afterward on April 18, 1956, and remains one of the most glamorous affairs in royal history. Let's take a look back at why it had jaws on the floor back then and still blows our minds 61 years later.


  • Grace turned her trip to Monaco into a symbolic gesture. Instead of flying to the principality, Grace and an entourage of 70 (including her six bridesmaids and 80 suitcases) set sail on April 4, 1956, on the S.S. Constitution out of New York harbor. By physically crossing the ocean, her trip served as a symbol of linking the US and Europe. "The whole Constitution trip was something Mom referred to at times," her son, Prince Albert III, told People. "She'd say it was fun for the wedding party. It really bonded the whole Philadelphia side, her family and friends who came over together on the crossing . . . she would talk about her dog, Oliver, being on board with her."
  • The Cannes Film Festival rearranged its schedule to accommodate the wedding. When Grace got off the S.S. Constitution in Monaco on April 12, she was greeted by the mayor of Cannes, who ensured the legendary film festival (where she met her husband-to-be) would not conflict with the affair.
  • Grace's arrival brought out the whole city. As she made her way into Monaco on Prince Rainier's yacht from the larger boat (which wouldn't fit in Monaco's small harbor), a band played "The Star Spangled Banner" and press helicopters eager for a shot swirled above. A crowd of over 20,000 people watched as she carried her black French poodle in her arms and wore "an immense white hat," which many photographers later complained ruined their shots of her first stepping foot onto Monacan soil.
  • The first night she was there turned into a full-fledged celebration. To commemorate Grace's arrival, a dance company performed a gorgeous ballet for her and Prince Rainier and an elaborate fireworks display was set off in the couple's honor.

  • Nearly 2,000 journalists packed into Monaco for the wedding. Every newspaper in the world wanted their top reporters covering the "wedding of the century," but Monaco was unprepared for the onslaught of the press. A local school had been converted into a makeshift press center, equipped with new typewriters and phone booths, but reporters complained that the arrangements were sorely lacking.
  • They got married not once but twice. Due to Napoleonic Code and Roman Catholic church rules, Grace and Prince Rainier had to marry in both a civil ceremony on April 18 and a religious ceremony the day afterward. The first was only 15 minutes long and was conducted in the Palace Throne Room. Grace received more than 140 titles upon its completion, which then took another 25 minutes to read aloud.
  • Only two dozen reporters were allowed to cover the actual ceremony. Although Grace and Prince Rainier welcomed a handful into their nuptials, most were kept waiting for shreds of news outside the palace.
  • MGM planned the entire event. The Hollywood studio Grace worked for, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, oversaw everything from Grace's dress to the lighting inside the cathedral and later put all the footage of the event together for a movie about her wedding. One of Grace's bridesmaids later remarked, "The day, like the bride-to-be herself, was a creation brought to us through the joint production efforts of enormous willpower, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and God."
  • There was a dress rehearsal of the wedding days before the actual ceremony. MGM had technicians hold a dress rehearsal of the ceremony to ensure lighting and sound were up to snuff. They also had a team of the studio's best hair and makeup staff accompany Kelly on the Constitution and into Monaco afterward so that she was always camera-ready.

  • Every aspect of the ceremony was recorded by MGM, making it one of the first "reality TV weddings." Much like Kim Kardashian's first wedding, Grace and Prince Rainier's nuptials were broadcast for fans back home. It was one of the first of its kind and gave people unheard-of access with shots of Grace blessing herself during the vows and up-close footage of the presentation of the rings.
  • Grace wore two elaborate gowns. Helen Rose — MGM's head costume designer at the time who'd worked with Grace on High Society and The Swancreated both of Grace's lavish dresses. For the civil ceremony, she donned a pale pink taffeta skirt suit with a champagne lace overlay. The religious ceremony required a more elaborate look.
  • Grace's second dress was straight out of a fairy tale. With 450 yards of peau de soie, taffeta, silk net, antique Belgian lace, three petticoats, and an enormous train, the ivory gown was, quite literally, fit for a princess (and took 30 seamstresses at the studio six weeks to make!). Both of the ceremony dresses were given to the actress as a wedding gift from studio executives at MGM.
  • Her wedding gown still serves as inspiration for today's designers. The Alexander McQueen dress designed by Sarah Burton for Kate Middleton took notes from Grace's gown, and Oscar de la Renta later discussed its enduring impact on the fashion world, saying, "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."
  • She opted for unique accessories. In lieu of the standard tiara, Grace wore a beaded Juliet cap that attached to her 90-yard veil. Along with a bouquet of lilies of the valley, she carried a pearl-encrusted prayer book. Even her shoes had a little something special to them; shoe designer David Evins hid a copper penny inside the sole of the right shoe as a symbol of good luck.


  • Prince Rainier nearly dropped the ring. The prince was so nervous during the ceremony that Grace (calm, cool, and collected as always) helped him place the ring on her finger.
  • Over 600 guests attended the wedding. In addition to a guest list boasting Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, France's Minister of Justice Francois Mitterrand, and American hotelier Conrad Hilton, movie stars Cary Grant, Ava Gardner, Gloria Swanson, and Jack Warner all attended.
  • Grace matched her bouquet to the venue's decor. Thousands of white lilacs and lilies of the valley were arranged, making their wedding seem even more like something out of a storybook.
  • The massive wedding cake held important significance for Monaco. The six-tiered wedding cake guests dined on at the royal reception was created with Monaco's pink palace in mind and featured scenes depicting the nation's history in sugar.
  • They didn't skimp on food. The afternoon buffet following the religious ceremony featured dishes like caviar, salmon, chicken, jellied eggs, cold lobster, and chicken, and guests were treated to plenty of Champagne.

  • The people of Monaco gave the couple a pretty incredible gift. The Monegasque gifted the royal pair with a custom-made white and black Rolls Royce as a wedding gift (since the money for the car would have come out of Monaco's treasury, Grace and Prince Rainier pretty much paid for the car themselves). They rode through the principality in the car after the ceremony, waving to the thousands lined up along the street.
  • Grace took part in one of the nation's most important traditions. As is customary, Grace ended her wedding procession by placing her bouquet on the altar inside the chapel of Sainte Devote (Monaco's patron saint).
  • They delayed their honeymoon because of how exhausted they were. After celebrating with guests and concluding their procession through Monaco, the couple headed down to the harbor. The prince's private yacht, the Deo Juvante II, set out to sea so they could begin their honeymoon, but the pair put down an anchor after only a brief sail. "It was so exhausting," Prince Albert revealed to People, noting that they privately "said that when they left on their honeymoon and got on the boat, they both just kind of passed out from exhaustion and had a good night's sleep before they got on with enjoying their honeymoon the next day."
  • Their honeymoon puts most cruise vacations to shame. After getting a good night's sleep, the Prince and Princess of Monaco left for a seven-week cruise through the beautiful Mediterranean.