The royal wedding of Prince Rainier III of Monaco to American actress, Grace Kelly was dubbed the “Wedding of the Century” and took place on the 18th and 19th of April 1956.
As one of the most respected and highly paid actresses in Hollywood, Grace was asked to join the United States Delegation Committee at the Cannes Film Festival in France in April of 1955. While there, she was invited to participate in a photo shoot at the Palace of Monaco. There Grace, who was dating a French actor by the name of Jean-Pierre Aumont, met Prince Rainer III.
After meeting Rainer, she returned to the United States to work on her new project, The Swan. Ironically, Grace was portraying a princess in the film. It was when she returned to the States that she began secretly talking with the Prince of Monaco. He would make a trip to America in December of that year and would meet the Kelly family in Philadelphia. He would propose to Grace on Christmas at her family home, and their engagement was announced on 5 January 1956.
The engagement announcement was held at the Kelly family home with a scheduled press conference. Her family had to pay a $2 million dowry before she could marry Prince Rainer. Her father, John was not happy with this, but eventually relented after Grace persuaded him to pay it. There have been reports that Grace paid half of the dowry herself.
Monaco had eight days of celebrations ahead of the nuptials. The wedding date was set for 19 April at St Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco. The civil ceremony between Rainier and Grace took place on 18 April. Grace wore a pale pink dress and designed by her close friend, Helen Rose. Her wedding gown for the religious ceremony was a gift from MGM and was designed by Helen Rose, as well; she was also the costume designer for the studio. The iconic dress would go down in history as one of the most gorgeous and well-known royal wedding gowns and inspired many future brides – including then Kate Middleton in her wedding to Prince William on 29 April 2011.
In exchange for releasing Grace from her contract, MGM was allowed to film the ceremonies for television and cinema. The Wedding of Monaco was later screened worldwide. Later estimates showed that roughly 30 million people watched the ceremony, which was conducted by Monaco’s Bishop, Gilles Barthe. Unlike most royal weddings, the bride arrived first before the groom. Prince Rainier wore a new military uniform that he had designed for the ceremony. During the service, conducted in French, Rainier’s nerves got the best of him, and Grace had to assist him in putting the ring on her finger.
Grace’s sister, Peggy was the Matron of Honour. There were six other bridesmaids dressed in yellow dresses designed by Priscilla of Boston. Additionally, there were six junior attendants consisting of four girls and two boys. Guests at the wedding included royals and Hollywood celebrities including Ava Gardner, Gloria Swanson, former King Farouk of Egypt, Duchess of Westminster, Aga Khan III, and Conrad Hilton.
After the 16-minute civil ceremony in the Prince’s Palace’s Throne Room, they had a reception for approximately 3,000 Monegasques, but for their reception after the religious ceremony, only 600 people, who were invited to the ceremony, were permitted to attend. For their honeymoon, Grace and Rainer travelled on his yacht for seven weeks in the Mediterranean. Upon her marriage, Grace became Her Serene Highness, The Princess of Monaco.