Special Exhibit Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier and John F. Kennedy

For Immediate Release: April 23, 2003
Further information: Ann Scanlon (617) 514-1662

BOSTON—On May 15, 2003, the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum will open a special exhibit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the September 12, 1953, wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier and John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The Museum exhibit will run through October 31, 2003.

Highlights of the exhibit include:

  • Mrs. Kennedy's ivory-silk-taffeta wedding dress, designed by African-American fashion-designer Ann Lowe
  • Mrs. Kennedy’s emerald-and-diamond engagement ring, created by Van Cleef & Arpels
  • Pages from Mrs. Kennedy’s personal engagement-weekend scrapbook, marking the first time this keepsake will be displayed for public viewing
  • Rarely seen color footage of the reception, capturing the young couple as they danced to "I Married An Angel," taken by President Kennedy’s friend Paul "Red" Fay
  • Wedding photos and the wedding invitation
  •  Mrs. Kennedy’s poem "Meanwhile in Massachusetts," which she wrote for her husband and gave to him on the occasion of their first anniversary

The Wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, September 12, 1953

First introduced at a May 1951 Georgetown dinner party, John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier saw each other frequently over the next two years. During that time, she would interview the newly elected senator from Massachusetts for her "Inquiring Camera Girl" newspaper column. In June 1953, upon her return from Europe where she covered the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth for the Washington Times Herald, Jacqueline Bouvier accepted John Kennedy’s proposal of marriage.

The Engagement Ring

Purchased in the summer of 1953, the Van Cleef & Arpels engagement ring John F. Kennedy presented to Jacqueline Bouvier consisted of one 2.88 carat diamond mounted next to a 2.84 carat emerald cut emerald with tapered baguettes. In 1962, the ring was reset to include round diamonds totaling .66 carats and marquise diamonds totaling 1.46 carats.

The Rehearsal Dinner

On September 11, 1953, the eve of the wedding, a bridal dinner was held at Newport’s Seaside Clambake Club. Senator Kennedy presented each of his ushers with a Brooks Brothers umbrella engraved with initials and the wedding date.

The Wedding Party

Senator John Kennedy’s best man was Robert F. Kennedy. His ushers were Edward M. Kennedy, Charles Bartlett, Michael Canfield, George Smathers, K. LeMoyne Billings, Torbert Macdonald, Charles Spalding, James Reed, Benjamin Smith, Joseph Gargan, R. Sargent Shriver, Paul B. Fay, Jr., and Hugh D. Auchincloss III.

Jacqueline Bouvier’s matron-of-honor was Lee Bouvier Canfield. Her maid-of-honor was Nina Auchincloss, and her flower girl was Janet Auchincloss. Her bridal attendants were Nancy Tuckerman, Martha Bartlett, Ethel Skakel Kennedy, Jean Kennedy, Shirley Oakes, Aileen Travers, Sylvia Whitehouse, and Helen Spaulding.

President Kennedy’s friend and one of his ushers, Paul "Red" Fay, happened to bring his 8 mm camera to the reception. Mr. Fay’s eight-minute color home movie of the reception is a special part of the wedding exhibit.

What The Bride Wore

Jacqueline Bouvier’s ivory silk wedding gown required 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta and took more than two months to make. It was the creation of Ann Lowe, an African-American dress-maker born in Grayton, Alabama, who had designed gowns for the matrons of high society families including the du Pont, Lodge, and Auchincloss families. Ms. Lowe was 54 when she designed the Bouvier wedding dress, which featured a portrait neckline and bouffant skirt decorated with interwoven bands of tucking and tiny wax flowers. She also designed the pink faille silk gowns and matching Tudor caps worn by the bridal attendants.

The bride wore her grandmother’s heirloom rosepoint lace veil, attached to her hair with a small tiara of lace and traditional orange blossoms. She also wore a single strand of family pearls, a diamond leaf pin, which was a wedding present from Ambassador and Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy, and a diamond bracelet the groom had presented to her the evening before the wedding. She carried a bouquet of white and pink spray orchids and gardenias.

The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum commissioned the Textile Conservation Center of the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts to restore Mrs. Kennedy’s wedding gown in 1997.


On the morning of September 12, 1953, more than 750 guests filled St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island to watch as John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier exchanged wedding vows in a ceremony presided over by Archbishop Richard Cushing. For the occasion, the church had been decorated with pink gladioli and white chrysanthemums. Boston tenor Luigi Vena sang "Ave Maria."

Following the 40-minute ceremony at which a papal blessing was read, the new couple emerged into a throng of 3,000 well-wishers as they made their way by motorcycle escort to Hammersmith Farm, the Auchincloss estate overlooking Naragansett Bay.

"I Married An Angel"

After two hours of greeting family and friends in a receiving line, the bridal couple joined the 1,200 invited guests for champagne and dancing to the music of Meyer Davis and his orchestra. For the first dance, the Kennedy's chose "I Married an Angel." (Davis, who had played at the wedding of Jackie's parents, would later perform at the 1961 Inaugural Ball).

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.

An Acapulco Honeymoon

Late in the afternoon on September 12, 1953, Senator and Mrs. Kennedy departed Hammersmith Farm amid a shower of paper-rose petals. They traveled to New York to spend the night at the Waldorf Astoria before continuing on to Acapulco, Mexico for a two-week honeymoon.

The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum is open daily 9 am-5 pm. The Museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. General admission is $8 for adults; $6 for seniors and students; $4 for children ages 13-17; and free admission for children ages 12 and under. The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum is located off Morrissey Blvd., next to UMass Boston’s campus. There is free shuttle service to the Library and Museum from the JFK/UMass T Stop on the Red Line. Parking is free. The Museum is fully handicapped accessible. For more information, call 1-(877) 616-4599 or visit the Library’s web page at www.jfklibrary.org.

The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum is a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.