It had all the appearance of a happy family event, but the wedding of Jack and Jackie Kennedy was fraught with tension.
Clockwise from left: Robert F. Kennedy, Patricia Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Edward M. Kennedy, Jean Kennedy, Jack and Jackie. (Photo: Kennedy Presidential Library)
Jackie’s dream wedding, but an extravaganza scripted by the groom’s father. Joe Kennedy intended to introduce a future president and his bride to the world.
They married on September 12, 1953, when Jack had served in the U.S. senate for all of eight months. Cardinal Richard Cushing officiated at the wedding ceremony held in St. Mary’s Church in Newport, R.I.
As the social event of the season, it attracted Hollywood celebrities and Washington political power brokers. Jackie wanted a small wedding, but 700 people attended the ceremony. More than 1,200 attended the reception that followed at her family home, Hammersmith Farm.
She may have known the wedding wouldn’t go her way when she didn’t get to pick out her engagement ring. Joe Kennedy did. She didn’t like the ring, a large emerald and diamond, and later had it redesigned.
Jackie also hated her wedding dress. She thought it was too high fashion. It accentuated her flat chest, she would later say, and made her look like a lampshade.
Worst of all, Jackie wanted her father, John Vernou ‘Black Jack’ Bouvier, to give her away. Her mother, Janet Auchincloss, had a different plan. She excluded Bouvier, her ex-husband, from the pre-wedding parties and told him he wasn’t welcome at the reception. Then she secretly assigned Michael Canfield, her son-in-law, to make sure Bouvier got so drunk before the wedding he couldn’t attend.
The plan worked, and Jackie walked down the aisle with her stepfather, Hugh Auchincloss.
A close friend saw a photograph of her entering the church on the arm of her stepfather (see it here). The friend pointed to her calm face and said,
…this is a look of absolute fury…When you saw this look on her face, this set jaw and those laser-beam eyes, the best thing you could do was to run … fast … and in the opposite direction.
One of the Kennedy family’s greatest fears, however, that Joseph Kennedy’s former mistress Gloria Swanson would crash the event, did not materialize.
If you enjoyed this story about how Jack and Jackie Kennedy got married, you may want to read how Jackie Kennedy first met her sister-in-law, Ethel Kennedy, here. This story was updated in 2022.
Images: Jack Bouvier By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38213603. All others from the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library and Museum, Boston.