Rare photos from Grace Kelly’s iconic royal wedding

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Years before Meghan Markle stole Prince Harry’s heart, Grace Kelly was the world’s greatest actress-turned-royal. Her lavish April 1956 wedding to the Prince of Monaco was filled with the allure and public speculation you’d expect, but there were also quieter, intimate moments beneath all the glitz and glamour. From the first sketch of her hand-embroidered lace gown to adorable snaps of the couple on their honeymoon, get a rare glimpse into what the wedding festivities were really like.

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Meet the parents

Grace Kelly and her fiancé give her parents a preview of her engagement ring in January 1956. Her first Cartier ring (pictured here) was an eternity band with rubies and diamonds, meant to symbolize the colors of the flag of Monaco.

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You are cordially invited

Lucky guests show the camera what Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III’s wedding invitations look like just weeks before the big day.

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design the dress

The future royal designer chose Helen Rose to create her bespoke wedding dress. They worked together on the wardrobe for one of Kelly’s greatest (and last) films, 1956 High society.

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A sketch of the dress

As for what Helen Rose came up with, the masterpiece speaks for itself. Every detail of Kelly’s dress has been well thought out from the ivory color to the rose point lace.

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Bridal Party Looks

Neiman Marcus designer Joe Hong created Kelly’s bridesmaid and bridesmaid dresses. He went with a yellow organdy and silk dress with puff sleeves and a matching hat.

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royal stamps

Monaco’s Office des Timbres issued a stamp in honor of the wedding.

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To run away

The actress and her family traveled by sea from New York to Monaco for the wedding. She was pictured admiring the view aboard the SS Constitution en route.

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Arrival in Monaco

The starlet is welcomed by Prince Rainier III after arriving in Monaco a few days before the big ceremony.

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puppy love

That same day, the couple discussed on board the princely yacht Deo Juvante II. Kelly’s adorable French poodle, Oliver, was a wedding present from her close friend, Cary Grant.

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The first dress

The wedding people remember the most was actually Kelly’s second marriage to Prince Rainier III – they had to follow Monegasque law and have a smaller civil ceremony the day before their lavish religious ceremony. Here is the sketch of her civil ceremony look, also designed by Helen Rose. The lace has been hand-embroidered on taffeta with silk thread to create a three-dimensional effect.

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The civil ceremony

Here is the sketch come to life. Kelly looked stunning in the lace suit and matching headpiece.

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The place

While the civil ceremony could have been smaller, it was just as glamorous. It took place inside the throne room of the Palace of Monaco.

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Last minute preparation

The actress, papers in hand, hugs her belted suit during her wedding rehearsal at Monaco Cathedral. She opted for a low-key look, including sunglasses, white gloves and a matching cloche hat.

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Press frenzy

Marriage was the event of the time, which is why an entire building in the principality was transformed into a press center. Here, a team of translators pose as they prepare to welcome groups of international reporters from around the world to Monaco.

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The day before

Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III greet their guests as they arrive at the Prince’s Palace in Monaco for the wedding the next day.

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A great gift

Stunning in an outfit covered in knots, Kelly and her husband-to-be are given a car by the locals of Monaco the day before their nuptials.

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A memorable gift

A white dove, which was another gift from the Monegasque people, is offered to the couple.

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More good wishes

They also received a giant bag of wishes and letters of congratulations from Monegasque citizens.

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Assorted flowers

Finally, the couple is entitled to several magnificent bouquets of flowers from the public.

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A show before the wedding

The day before their big day, the prince and princess-to-be arrive for a performance at the Royal Opera House.

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The guests are starting to arrive

Newly dressed guests enter the cathedral for the ceremony, as members of the public look on in amazement.

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A special friendship

One of the most famous names in the wedding was Ava Gardner, pictured here upon her arrival. Kelly and Gardner became close while filming in 1953 Mogambo and remained friends even after Kelly became royal.

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windy weather

The bridesmaids fight off a gust of wind as they arrive at the ceremony. Their sophisticated headdresses were designed by Joe Hong.

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Here is the bride

Grace Kelly arrives at St. Nicholas Cathedral on her father’s arm. Her veil was specially designed not to hide her face. It was embroidered with thousands of beads, as well as an image of two little lovebirds on the back.

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The ceremony begins

Kelly kneels at the altar outside St. Nicholas Cathedral before marrying the prince.

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Before the vows

A photographer catches Kelly deep in thought moments before she walks down the aisle. Instead of a tiara, the fashion icon opted for a headpiece adorned with pearls and lace to hold her veil in place.

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A ceremonial prayer

In one of the few colorized photos from the day, Kelly and the Prince participate in a prayer during their wedding ceremony.

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A vision in lace

In another intimate shot from the moment of prayer, you can see the intricate details of the actress’ timeless dress and veil.

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Exchange rings

The couple exchange wedding rings during their ceremony. Kelly’s second ring was a 10.47 carat emerald-cut Cartier platinum diamond with two baguette-cut diamonds on either side – and one of the most famous jewels in history.

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Famous guests

The cathedral was packed for the ceremony. Around 700 guests attended, including some of Kelly’s famous friends, such as Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson and Aristotle Onassis.

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Lifestyle Editor
Janaya is the Lifestyle Editor for Hearst Magazines.

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