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13 Little Known Facts About the Wedding of JFK and Jackie

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier and Senator John F. Kennedy were married on the morning of September 12, 1953, in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island. Here's what you might not know about the union that created "Camelot."

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Mrs. Kennedy throws her bouquet
Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The bride wore…

Many brides-to-be eventually find themselves in a quandary: White or ivory? Jackie decided on an ivory dress made of tissue silk with a fitted bodice, short sleeves, a portrait neckline, and a bouffant skirt embellished with bands of more than 50 yards of flounces, according to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. The dress was designed by Ann Lowe, an African American designer, according to Vogue. Sadly, Lowe did not receive public credit for her design until after her death. Fans of the glamorous First Lady will want to see these rarely seen photos of Jackie that take us back to her youth and young adulthood.

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Rusty burst pipe spraying water after freezing in winter.

There was a literal wrench in the works

When it came to outfitting Jackie and her bridesmaids, all was going swimmingly until…a pipe burst at Lowe’s New York City atelier just days before the wedding, soaking—and completely destroying—all of Lowe’s work. With only days to go before the wedding, Lowe rallied, recreating Jackie’s gorgeous gown and all the bridesmaids’ dresses with the help of a team she assembled to work nonstop until everything was complete (again!). Did you know Jackie had been engaged to someone else before she and the future president got serious?

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Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy, London, circa 1939
Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

It was a Catholic wedding

That the wedding would include a Catholic mass was no surprise to the more than 800 guests who attended because the invitations had been worded in the manner which traditionally conveys that (“Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Dudley Auchincloss request the honour of your presence…”). In this photo, the bride and groom kneel at the altar.

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pope pio XII statue
Bill Perry/shutterstock

The Pope’s special blessing

The ceremony was performed by Archbishop Richard Cushing, a friend of the Kennedy family, and he was assisted by four other priests, including the former president of Notre Dame and the head of the Christopher Society. Before the mass, a special blessing from Pope Pius XII (his statue is pictured) was read.

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Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy, London, circa 1939
Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The mother of the groom was a Papal Countess

In 1951, Rose Kennedy was named “Papal Countess” by the Vatican in recognition of her “exemplary motherhood and many charitable works.” She was only the sixth American woman to have that title bestowed upon her by the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism was so important to Rose that when her daughter, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, married a Protestant, Rose refused to attend the wedding.

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John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier
Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The reception by the (astounding) numbers:

The wedding reception was held at Hammersmith Farm, the oceanfront estate owned by the Auchincloss family (Hugh Auchincloss was Jackie’s stepfather.)

  • 300: the number of acres on which Hammersmith Farm sits
  • 400: the number of guests who did not fit at the church but were nevertheless invited to the reception.
  • 1200: the final count of reception guests

In this photo, the bride is escorted by her groom to the reception, along with Charles Bartlett, JFK’s brother Edward, and Torbert MacDonald. Learn about Jackie’s secret late-in-life career.

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John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier dancing at wedding
Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

“I married an angel”

The music at the reception was provided by the Meyer Davis Orchestra, which played “I Married an Angel” for Senator and Mrs. Kennedy’s first dance as husband and wife.

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John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier cut the cake
Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The cake was four feet tall

In this photo, Senator and Mrs. Kennedy cut their wedding cake at the Hammersmith Farm reception. The cake baked by William Paul, head baker for the Plourdes Bakery, of Fall River, Massachusetts was four feet tall! In the background of the photo, you can see Ethel Skakel Kennedy (the wife of JFK’s brother, Robert) looking on and smiling.

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Group photo of Kennedy-Bouvier wedding in Rhode Island
Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The wedding party was huge!

Here’s a photo of the whole crew. The groom’s attendants included:

  • his brother, Robert (best man)
  • his brother, Edward,
  • Jackie’s brother-in-law, Michael Canfield
  • his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver (married to his sister, Eunice)
  • his cousin, Joe Gargan
  • his friend, Lem Billings
  • his friend, Red Fay
  • friend, Torbert Macdonald
  • Senate colleague, George Smathers
  • Charles Bartlett, who had introduced the couple.
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Wedding of Senator John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier
Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

John was allergic to horses

The thought of marrying a man who couldn’t be around her beloved horses had always been inconceivable to Jackie, according to History, but John F. Kennedy was, in fact, allergic to horses. As they dated, Jackie had to get used to the idea of having a husband who couldn’t enjoy horseback riding with her. Find out the weird thing that JFK never traveled without.

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Kennedy siblings at the wedding reception of Jacqueline Bouvier to John F. Kennedy
Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

No tears, please!

Everyone cries at weddings, so it stands to reason the 800 guests at Jackie and Jack’s storybook wedding would have wept sweet tears as the couple recited their vows. However, mother-of-the-groom Rose Kennedy reportedly hated tears. “If you cry, you’ll be sent back to wherever you come from,” she’d tell her children and grandchildren. So any tears at the wedding would likely have come from the Bouvier-Auchincloss side of the chapel!

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John and Jackie fishing
Courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

They honeymooned in Acapulco

The new Mr. and Mrs. John F. Kennedy were showered with rose-petal confetti and rice as they exited their reception and headed off to their honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico. In this photo, the newlyweds admire John’s impressive catch (a sailfish).

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JFK presidential library and museum

You can get married at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum

Designed by renowned architect, I.M. Pei, the Pavillion at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, is available for rentals—though only for weddings not quite as big as the Kennedy wedding, as the space holds 300 people max. Next, don’t miss these rarely seen photos of John and Jackie through the years.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest and in a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction, and her first full-length manuscript, "The Trust Game," was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.