Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III's Fairytale Romance

Grace Kelly's wedding dress is still heralded as one of the most iconic of all time.
joyce chen wedding news expert the knot
Joyce Chen
joyce chen wedding news expert the knot
Joyce Chen
Wedding News Contributor
  • Joyce writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in celebrity wedding features and pieces on wedding trends and etiquette
  • Joyce conducts interviews with real couples about how they’ve adapted to the challenges of wedding planning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
  • In addition to The Knot Worldwide, Joyce also regularly contributes writing to Architectural Digest, Paste magazine, Refinery29, and
Updated Feb 02, 2022

The word "fairytale" is used often to describe Grace Kelly's whirlwind romance with Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and for good reason. The Hollywood actress, who had already won an Oscar for her lead role in The Country Girl, met Prince Rainier at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955. At the time, she was filming a Hitchcock movie, To Catch a Thief.

The couple announced their engagement seven months later from her family home in Philadelphia and were married the following year, making Grace Kelly an American princess—her Serene Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco, to be exact. Every detail from the royal wedding has been reported on with intense fascination ever since, from the bride's iconic lace-and-pearl covered wedding gown to her delicate Juliet cap to the lesser-known blush-colored lace dress she wore for their civil ceremony. Here, we've rounded up all the sweet details of their big day, which are just as dreamy as they were back in 1956.

In this article:

All about Grace Kelly's Wedding to Prince Rainier

Grace Kelly's wedding day was no small affair. The American actress brought her family, bridesmaids, and about 80 pieces of luggage to Monaco via the ocean liner SS Constitution. There, she was greeted by 20,000 of her 23,000 loyal subjects; the royal family was reportedly forced to call in the French riot police to help handle the countless reporters and fans who had descended upon Monaco for the once-in-a-lifetime event.

"Mom said it was 'overwhelming,'" her son, Prince Albert, told People in 2017. "That 'excited' or the word 'overjoyed' wasn't strong enough to express her feelings. My father said so too." To this day, their wedding has remained one for the books, setting a high bar for other royal weddings through the years—including Princess Diana, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more.

Her iconic wedding gown was a gift from MGM Studios.

When Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier got engaged in 1956, the public was abuzz with speculation about which designer would be lucky enough to create the Hollywood star's wedding gown. Costume designer Helen Rose, who had worked with the actress on four of her films, was given the honors. Kelly's movie studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (better known as MGM Studios), gifted the impressive wedding gown to the bride, a creation made of 125-year-old Brussels lace, taffeta, and thousands of hand-sewn pearls. It reportedly took six weeks and a total of 30 seamstresses to create, many of whom worked in the studio's wardrobe department.

Princess Grace opted not to wear a tiara.

In a break from tradition, Grace Kelly did not wear a tiara with her gown; she instead donned an embellished Juliet cap decorated with pearls and lace, featuring a wreath of paper orange blossoms. Her circular veil was specifically designed so that it did not cover her face, which was especially important for the 30 million viewers who tuned into the televised event. It measured an impressive 90 yards and was adorned with seed pearls, lace, and more paper orange blossoms. Princess Grace also bucked tradition by forgoing a giant bouquet, instead opting to carry a prayer book with a simpler, smaller bouquet of lilies of the valley down the aisle.

The bride had a good luck charm on-hand.

Princess Grace incorporated a sweet nod to her husband-to-be with her wedding footwear: a pair of custom David Evins pumps. Prince Rainier III's name was engraved into the right shoe and her name was scrawled across the left shoe. The designer also tucked a copper penny into the right heel for good luck. Also of note: Grace Kelly opted to keep the heel to a modest two-and-a-half inches so that she wouldn't tower over the groom. (The elegant actress was on the taller side for the times, a considerable 5-foot, seven-inches.)

The guest list included Hollywood's A-list.

In addition to the grandeur of the event itself, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier's wedding guests also brought the A-list glam. The religious ceremony was held at Monaco's Saint Nicholas Cathedral and was attended by around 600 people, including movie stars like Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson, and Ava Gardner, as well as members of high society like Aristotle Onassis and Conrad Hilton.

Legally speaking, the couple were already married at the time of their wedding.

The day before their fairytale wedding ceremony, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier legally married in a private civil ceremony that took place in the palace throne room. The brief ceremony reportedly took just 16 minutes, but the bride didn't miss the opportunity to get dolled up. The Academy Award-winning actress wore a champagne-and-pink, floral-embroidered suit for the occasion (which, incidentally, was also designed by Helen Rose). A Juliet cap completed the look. That night, they attended a gala at the Monaco Opera, for which Kelly wore a white silk Lanvin ballgown.

The Couple's Relationship Timeline

When Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955, what sprung forth was a romance for the ages. The couple's love story captured the public's imagination, and their lavish wedding ceremony has served as the inspiration for countless other royal weddings since. Here, a look back at the romance leading up to their "wedding of the century."

When did they meet?

In the earlier part of the 1950s, Grace Kelly was best known as a rising star in Hollywood. The actress had already raked in several Academy Awards, and was in the French Riviera filming Hitchcock's latest film, To Catch a Thief, when she met her future husband.

Prince Rainier had initially attempted to initiate a meeting with the actress, but she had declined twice due to other engagements at the Cannes Film Festival. The third time, however, she was able to make it to the Prince's Palace of Monaco for a tour and a photo opp, and the rest, as they say, is history. The prince, smitten by Kelly's beauty and character, initiated a year-long correspondence that ended, as all fairytales do, in a proposal and marriage.

How long did they date?

The pair dated for a little less than a year before they got engaged. At the time of their first meeting, Grace Kelly was rumored to have described the prince as "charming." They would go on to have a trans-Atlantic romance that involved approximately seven months of written correspondence. According to the Monaco Tribune, actress Olivia de Havilland, who is credited with arranging for the two to meet in the first place, the match felt like "destiny."

When did they get engaged?

Prince Rainier sailed across the Atlantic to propose to Grace Kelly over the holidays in 1955, approximately seven months after they began their courtship. The couple announced their royal engagement from Kelly's family home in Philadelphia, followed by a press conference at the Philadelphia Country Club.

The royal engagement ring was a big topic of conversation, and continues to be to this day: the infamous ring featured a whopping 10.48-carat Cartier emerald-cut diamond flanked by two baguette-cut side stones. A lesser-known fact is that Prince Rainier actually presented Kelly with a different engagement ring for his proposal: an eternity band set with rubies and diamonds by Cartier, created using family heirlooms. Its colors paid homage to his home country's flag (red and white).

When did they get married?

The couple wasted no time planning the wedding, marrying just months after they announced their engagement. On April 18, 1956, their highly-televised wedding was held in the cathedral of Monaco, and featured a guest list of around 600 people.

The couple's son, Prince Albert, told People in 2017 that the wedding was "an incredible affair, and it's left such a mark on people." Furthermore, he said, "What it has meant for people has been incredible. For [me and my sisters, Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie], it was ... our parents getting married. But what it's meant for Monaco, for people around the world, and, how their story continues to fascinate people, that's something unimaginable."

After the Wedding

Immediately following the wedding ceremony, the newlyweds took off for a seven-week cruise on a yacht, the Deo Juvante II, a wedding gift from their friend Aristotle Onassis. According to Prince Albert, both Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier were so exhausted following the hubbub of the wedding 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."

The pair enjoyed 26 years of marriage together and shared three children (Prince Albert, Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie) before Kelly died unexpectedly in 1982 after suffering a small stroke while driving. The couple's love story lives on, however—as does their legendary wedding. These days, in fact, her otherworldly gown is on display back in her home city Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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