13 Secrets You Never Knew About JFK and Jackie Kennedy's Wedding
A despised wedding dress, too much booze, and a football fumble.
On September 12, 1953, journalist Jacqueline Bouvier married then-Senator John F. Kennedy, at a beautiful ceremony and reception in Newport, Rhode Island. And while this lavish celebration has been memorialized in magazines, books, and movies alike, there's still a bit of mystery surrounding the couple's nuptials. From the bride's doomed gown to the no-show that'll make your jaw drop, here are some behind-the-scenes secrets of the iconic Kennedy wedding.
Jackie's wedding dress was destroyed just weeks before the wedding.
On the day of her wedding, Jackie Kennedy looked absolutely flawless in her ivory tissue silk dress. It was so stunning, in fact, you'd never know it was made in just 14 days.
Yes, two weeks before the big day, a water main break in the studio of dress designer Ann Lowe damaged Kennedy's original gown. As Rosemary E. Reed Miller, author of The Threads of Time, The Fabric of History, explained in an interview with NPR, Lowe "redid the whole wedding dress … in two weeks' time."
"[Lowe] couldn't tell anybody and she couldn't charge for that," Miller continued. "She was hoping to make, obviously, a profit from the wedding. … looking for about $2,000-plus and this is 1950, remember. And with the damage, she ended up, you know, negative."
And the bridesmaids' dresses were destroyed, too.
It wasn't just Jackie's dress that was destroyed in the water main break at Lowe's shop. According to Miller, "about 14 dresses" in total were ruined as a result of the incident. Lowe had to recreate 14 of the 22 pieces she'd made for the wedding just weeks before the Kennedys would say "I do."
Jackie loathed her wedding dress.
Jackie might have been a vision on her wedding day, but had she had it her way, she would have walked down the aisle in a different gown altogether. The New England Historical Society notes that the future first lady felt the dress "accentuated her flat chest" and "made her look like a lampshade."
"Jackie wanted a kind of Vera Wang plain dress, and she was very Francophile," Miller told NPR. So, why didn't she get it? Well…
Joe Kennedy wouldn't let Jackie use a French designer for her dress.
As far as JFK's father, Joe Kennedy, was concerned, his son's wedding was just as much a public political affair as it was a personal one. As such, the patriarch of the Kennedy family forced Jackie to use an American designer over a French one in order to impress the American people.
"Joe Kennedy—and Joe Kennedy really ran the wedding—wanted a more traditional dress," Miller explained to NPR. "He wanted his son to become president, so everything was focused that way. And he felt a French design was plain, was not what American voters might see. And then he also said, 'I don't have many voters in France, you know.'"
Jackie didn't give her dress wedding designer proper credit, but she may have made up for it.
Because Jackie "didn't love the dress," according to Miller, when people asked her about it, she said, "I wanted to go to France, but a colored dressmaker did it." Lowe had been working with Jackie since she was 17, according to Miller, and she was 22 at the time. "Ann Lowe was devastated … she had dealt with her for years," Miller said. The author also noted that "most reporters did not follow through to say who was this colored dressmaker"–only Washington Post fashion editor Nina Hyde named Lowe specifically.
Lowe's business struggled as the years went on and she owed money to friends, suppliers, and the IRS, according to the National Museum of American History. But, after she declared bankruptcy in 1962, someone anonymously paid her IRS debt. "Many believe it was Jackie Kennedy—who would have discovered both the dramatic story of completing her wedding dress and Lowe's financial struggles," according to the museum.
Jackie's mom allegedly made sure her dad was too drunk to walk her down the aisle.
Jackie Kennedy's parents, Janet Auchincloss and John Vernou "Black Jack" Bouvier, had a far from amicable divorce. In order to prevent her ex-husband from attending his own daughter's wedding, Auchincloss reportedly drove the known alcoholic toward the bottle, Jay Mulvaney notes in his 2003 book Diana and Jackie: Maidens, Mothers, Myths.
On the morning of the wedding, "Black Jack" Bouvier "was deemed by Janet to be in no shape to do his fatherly duty," Mulvaney writes. Janet forbade her ex from attending the wedding, and in his place, she had her husband—Jackie's stepfather, Hugh D. Auchincloss II—walk her daughter down the aisle. "Janet was a vindictive woman," Jackie's stepbrother, Yusha Auchincloss, told Mulvaney. "Jackie never forgave her for what she did to Jack Bouvier that day."
And then they told everyone he came down with the flu.
Of course, no political family in their right mind would reveal to guests that the father of the bride was too drunk to make an appearance. So, in order to cover up John Bouvier's drunkenness, guests were told that he had "come down with the flu," according to Mulvaney.
The friend who introduced JFK and Jackie was a groomsman.
One of the members of the wedding party was Charles Bartlett, who set up Jackie and JFK at a dinner party back in May 1952. Bartlett and his wife Martha hosted the dinner for the sole purpose of bringing the couple together—and thankfully, it paid off.
JFK supposedly showed up to his wedding with scratches on his face.
Apparently, JFK showed up on his own wedding day covered in scratches. According to a November 1990 article in the now-defunct Boys' Life, the groom "had taken a tumble into a thorny patch of wild roses … while playing football" the day before the wedding.
They planned the wedding in just a few months.
Jackie and JFK announced their engagement on June 25, 1953, and tied the knot just a few months later on September 12th. Though it isn't clear why the couple rushed through planning such an important event, many speculate that it had something to do with Jackie's mom, who wanted to ensure that her daughter had both money and power.
The wedding was blessed—literally.
Since both Kennedy and Bouvier had grown up in Catholic households, the pair had a Catholic ceremony, the JFK Library notes. Archbishop Cushing, a friend of the Kennedy family, performed the ceremony alongside four other priests, one of whom was the former president of Notre Dame and the head of the Christopher Society. Not only that, but before the ceremony, a special blessing was read to the soon-to-be husband and wife, written by none other than Pope Pius XII.
Jackie used the same musician at her wedding that performed at her parents' wedding.
For their first dance at the 300-acre Auchincloss oceanfront estate, Hammersmith Farm, in front of more than 1,200 guests, Kennedy and his new wife danced to Meyer Davis and his orchestra's rendition of "I Married an Angel." According to the JFK Library, Davis also played at the wedding of Jackie's parents and he'd go on to play at Kennedy's Inaugural Ball in 1961. Talk about a full circle!
Their engagement story is still a mystery.
For such a public couple, no one actually knows how JFK and Jackie got engaged—but there are various rumors. Some say Kennedy proposed to Bouvier at Martin's Tavern, a restaurant in Georgetown where Booth No. 3 has been deemed "The Proposal Booth." According to the restaurant's website, on June 24, 1953, JFK popped the question after Bouvier had returned from London, where she was covering the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II for the Washington Times Herald.
A different rumor places their engagement at the Omni Parker House, a hotel in Boston. On its website, the hotel claims that Kennedy proposed at Table 40 in Parker's Restaurant. Either way, there was definitely a celebratory meal involved. And if you're getting ready to pop the question, start saving because This Is How Much the Average Engagement Ring Costs.
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