In which we take our coverage of Fancy Weddings of the Past to the shores of America, where in 1953 a very stylish young socialite married a young politician from a famous family that had a lot of bad luck and a lot of great hair. (For what it’s worth, if you’re interested in the lives of Rich People With Problems — one of my own major areas of study — there are few Wikipedia entries more interesting than Jackie Kennedy’s.)
Let us turn to some Wedding Factoids:
1. This was not Jackie’s first engagement. She broke it off with the first dude because, after reflection, she found him boring. (Say what you will about JFK, he was definitely not a boring spouse.)
2. Jackie was 24 when this happened and it was a matter of concern that she was SO OLD.
3. The dress was made by Ann Lowe — who also made Jackie’s mother’s wedding gown for her second wedding — who was never credited by Jackie properly; she just told the New York Times that it was made “by a colored dressmaker,” which was seriously shitty of her. (Having said that, Lowe also said that she suspects Jackie is the person who later anonymously paid off a large debt she owned in back taxes to the IRS.) Lowe was an incredibly influential Black designer who really never got the credit or attention she deserved while she was alive. Here is a great primer about her in the Washington Post, and this is a really interesting post — with great photos of some of Lowe’s other work — at The Vintage Woman.
4. The wedding gown and several bridesmaids dresses were destroyed when a pipe burst and flooded Lowe’s atelier just ten days before the wedding — just thinking about this gives me hives — and she and her team had to work non-stop to replace them, which they did. (Jackie apparently didn’t even know this had happened until much later.)
5. Jackie didn’t really like the dress, and its design was driven by a Kennedy mandate for traditionalism. (The Kennedys seem to have really run the show on this wedding, which isn’t a surprise.)
6. They had 1200 people at the reception — held at Jackie’s stepfather’s giant gorgeous estate in Rhode Island, Hammersmith Farm — and it took them two hours to get through the receiving line. This (a) sounds exhausting and (b) was probably good training for being First Lady.
7. I love reading contemporaneous accounts of events, and Life’s coverage of this wedding is fun. (Including some amazing old ads, almost all of which are problematic. Be warned that because this entire issue of Life is online, the wedding coverage segues with no warning into the next article, a story about a bunch of cobras on the loose in the Ozarks. At first, I was like, “no one told me the Kennedy wedding was almost overrun with snakes!”)
8. The JFK Library reports on the wedding luncheon: “The couple cut a five-tier wedding cake, and then a luncheon of fruit cup, creamed chicken, and ice cream sculpted to resemble roses was served.” That feels VERY 1953; I feel like every Rich People With Problems book I’ve ever read set in 1953 in America had SOMEONE picking at their creamed chicken while worrying about their spouse.
Let’s look at some pictures!
This piece originally ran on August 12, 2020, but it seemed worth a visit to the archives in case you missed it the first time.