The society wedding of 1953 was easily that of then-US junior senator John F. Kennedy to well-connected society heiress Jacqueline Bouvier on Saturday, September 12th. Their large Catholic wedding in Newport, Rhode Island made national news, kickstarting the enduring legend of the Kennedy clan and America’s “Camelot.” The legacy so endures that the couple’s youngest granddaughter, Tatiana Schlossberg (who doesn’t live a public life), made headlines this weekend when she married her college boyfriend George Moran at the family’s Hyannisport, Massachusetts compound.
Sixty four years ago, Schlossberg’s glamourous grandparents were married at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, in a ceremony attended by 800 guests, including diplomats, senators, and social figures. Outside, 2,000 members of the public waited for a glimpse of the newlyweds. The Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cushing, officiated the ceremony, reading a personal message for the couple from Pope Pius XII.
The 1,200-guest reception was held in the backyard at 19th Century Hammersmith Farm, the bride’s stepfather’s 300-acre family home in Newport. The traditional receiving line, with guests greeting and congratulating the newlyweds, took two hours to complete.
The bride was excorted down the aisle by her stepfather, Hugh Auchincloss, wearing a custom ballgrown by designer Anne Lowe, whose team dodged disaster when a pipe burst in their New York studio, causing water damage to the bridal gown and bridesmaids dresses. Working day and night in the week leading up to the wedding, the bridal party gowns were recreated in time for the nuptials. The groomsmen included brothers and cousins from the large Kennedy clan, and bridesmaids included sisters of the bride and the groom, as well as Kennedy’s sister-in-law Ethel Skakel, wife of John’s politician brother Robert.
A traditional alfresco lunch was following by dancing under an elegant striped tent – JFK and Jackie’s first dance was to “I Married An Angel” by Meyer Davis and His Orchestra. At the end of the evening, the newlyweds left for their honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico, feted with rose petals and rice by their guests as they left Hammersmith.
The wedding was the culmination of a two-year courtship. Bouvier graduated George Washington University in 1951, andworked for the Washington Times-Herald‘s society pages. Through this work she met the dashing, gregarious senator on the scene in DC. He proposed with a multi-carat diamond and emerald ring from Van Cleef and Arpels. The couple went on to have three children – daughter Caroline, son Patrick, who died in infancy, and John Jr., who died in an airplane crash with his wife, Carolyn Bessette, and Bessette’s sister, Lauren, in 1998.
Their fairytale marriage was fraught with the future US President’s infidelities, and ended tragically when he was assassinated while the First Couple were visiting Dallas on November 22, 1963. The fashion icon was beloved by the American public after her husband’s death, though that very attention made her constantly fearful for the safety of her children. She married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1968, until his death in 1975, then spent her later years in New York, working in both publishing and philanthropy. She died of cancer in 1994, succumbing to aggressive lymphoma less than six months after her initial diagnosis.