Rare photos of 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 some quieter and more intimate moments under all the glitz and glamor. From the first sketch of her hand-embroidered lace dress to the cute photos of the honeymooning couple, get a rare glimpse of what the wedding festivities really looked like.

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Meeting with parents

Grace Kelly and her fiance give her parents a preview of her engagement ring in January 1956. Her first Cartier ring (shown here) was an eternity ring with rubies and diamonds, believed 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 weeks before the big day.

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Design the dress

The future queen chose MGM designer Helen Rose to create her bespoke wedding dress. They worked together on the wardrobe of one of Kelly’s biggest (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-tinted lace.

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Bridal party looks

Neiman Marcus designer Joe Hong created the dresses for Kelly’s bridesmaids and flower girls. He went with a yellow organza and silk dress with puffed sleeves and a matching hat.

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Royal Stamps

The Monaco Stamp Office issued a stamp in honor of the marriage.

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To run away

The actress and her family traveled by boat from New York to Monaco for the wedding. She was pictured enjoying 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

The same day, the couple chatted aboard the princely yacht Deo Juvante II. Kelly’s adorable French poodle, Oliver, was a wedding gift from his 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. This 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 that comes to life. Kelly looked gorgeous 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, tightens her belted suit during the rehearsal of her wedding at the cathedral of Monaco. She went for a low-key look, including sunglasses, white gloves and a matching cloche hat.

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Press frenzy

The wedding 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 welcome their guests upon their arrival at the Prince’s Palace in Monaco for the wedding the next day.

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A great gift

Superb in an outfit covered in bows, Kelly and her future husband are offered a car by the inhabitants of Monaco on the eve of their wedding.

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A memorable gift

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

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More good wishes

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

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Assorted flowers

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

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A show before the wedding

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

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The guests start to arrive

Perfectly dressed guests enter the cathedral for the ceremony, while members of the public watch in wonder.

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A special friendship

One of the most famous names at the wedding was Ava Gardner, pictured here upon her arrival. Kelly and Gardner became close while filming in the 1953s 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 comes the bride

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

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The ceremony begins

Kelly kneels in front of the altar outside St. Nicholas Cathedral before marrying the prince.

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Before the vows

A photographer takes Kelly in her thoughts moments before she walks down the aisle. Instead of a tiara, the fashion icon opted for a headdress adorned with pearls and lace to keep her veil in place.

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A prayer ceremony

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

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A lace vision

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

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Ring exchange

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

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Famous guests

The cathedral was packed during the ceremony. About 700 guests were in attendance, including some of Kelly’s famous friends such as Cary Grant, Gloria Swanson and Aristotle Onassis.

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