1956, the wedding of the year,
which some regard as the wedding of the century, was that of film star Grace Kelly to
Princes Rainier of Monaco.
The couple were officially wed on April 18, 1956 in a civil ceremony.
The next day they wed publicly in an elaborate Catholic Mass in Monaco.
During the ceremony they looked straight ahead, never looking at each
other, just as they had been directed by senior church officials.
After the event Princess Grace was said to have hated every minute of
the public wedding, in particular being filmed under strong lighting. She much preferred
the private ceremony with Prince Rainier the day before.
The lace decorated upper bodice and high neck of the wedding gown was a decorous choice for an actress who could no longer have any doubt cast on her suitability as a royal bride and princess.
Prince Rainier immediately banned the showing of films in Monaco if they had Grace Kelly in the cast. Fiction was not to be blurred with fact. It is still against the law in Monaco to show
films featuring Grace Kelly.
Grace Kelly's wedding dress was designed by Helen Rose, wardrobe designer at
MGM. The MGM wardrobe department made the wedding dress as a
gift from MGM.
At the time, film star Grace Kelly was tied to an MGM contract for another 7 years. To get out of her 7 year contract with MGM Grace Kelly had to agree to the wedding being filmed by MGM for
worldwide distribution. In later days she regretted the filming intruding on her wedding day.
The wedding gown was made from antique Valenciennes rose point lace, twenty-five yards of silk taffeta and ninety eight yards of tulle. Her veil was covered with appliquéd lace lovebirds and
thousands of seed pearls.
Prince Rainier designed the Napoleonic influenced dress uniform himself.
After the wedding the couple held a garden party for residents of
Monaco. I have been unable to find out what they ate as a reception
meal, but I'm sure
it was more elaborate than the wedding breakfast described below!
The wedding photo below shows the entourage of Maids of Honour and bridesmaids wearing
dresses. I like to think of those bodices and full semi sheer
sleeves as in June Allyson style.
Princess Grace did a great deal to bring the Grimaldi family into the limelight
for Monaco, as did
Princess Diana for the British House of Windsor 25 years later.
Sadly like Princess Diana who died in 1997, Princess Grace also died after a car accident in 1982.
In both instances we look on and see the makings of a fairytale, when
the reality for both princesses was quite different as they lived their
lives in the public eye.
with the Royal wedding above, this image is of an everyday wedding held a few
months later in June 1956.
This family wedding photo depicts a church wedding of an aunt of
mine called Gloria with her first husband.
Always interested in fashion, Gloria was hot on trend for 1956.
This wedding dress mimics the very fashionable late 'new look' cocktail dress of the
era. The 'new look' lasted for many years after its late 1940s
In 1956, it was a look thought to be a very modern choice over the traditional bridal look of the full length wedding
This fashionable shorter length white wedding dress Gloria wore was made
of tulle. This length of wedding dress was called ballerina length.
Today we would regard a ballerina length wedding dress as a good choice for a
semi formal or civil wedding. (You can
see a typical ballerina length vintage prom dress
Her very pretty wedding dress has shoestring straps, decorative bra bodice and a
sheer bolero cover up with long sheer slim fitting sleeves.
Modesty was still the norm in wedding dress choice and the little semi
sheer bolero was an essential cover up for the church ceremony.
The short wedding veil is set atop a Juliet cap and the whole sits
neatly on her hairstyle which has been treated with a permanent wave.
Her hairstyle is a look alike version of the short hairdos made
fashionable in the 1950s by film stars such as Jane Wyman, Gina Lollobrigida and
In this picture right, you can
just see June in the background wearing her bridesmaid dress, which was lemon and teamed with a lemon feather and rhinestone headdress.
You can also see the embroidered bow decorative detail
of Gloria's veil as she and the groom cut the bottom layer of the
In the 1950s, wedding cakes were usually
rich fruitcakes, covered in
marzipan and royal icing. The cakes were trimmed with silver
trinkets such as silver shoes, silver leaves, horse shoes, silver
dragees little flowers and hearts.
Nowadays fresh flowers or
sugarcraft moulded flowers are more usual as bridal cake decoration.
In the 1950s brides often kept a tier of the wedding cake for a first
christening. This was done on the presumption that most brides
would produce a first baby in the first year of marriage and good
'heavy' rich fruitcakes are known to keep a year or so. (See my recipe for
rich fruitcake here and for
sugarcraft recipe also.
Gloria kept one of her wedding cake tiers rather too long. Her first
child was 2+ years when christened. When
the revamped wedding cake renamed a christening cake was cut, parts of the cake were mouldy.
Fortunately Gloria had produced a back up decorated sponge cake.
Relatives had expressed doubts about the original cake as the icing had
yellowed, so the back up plan was activated!
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Food rationing had ended in 1952, but people were still mindful of the value of food. At Gloria's June wedding breakfast everyone had a full plate and it was considered a treat. The wedding
breakfast was probably like thousands of other post war wedding receptions of ordinary working folk and held up and down the country throughout the 1950s. The wedding reception was held in a hired
social club and the wedding breakfast was catered by Gloria's family. Every family member was invited including children so there were many guests.
The meal consisted of a plated-up full slice of boiled ham with a
typical 1950's salad made of lettuce, spring onions,
tomato, cucumber, beetroot, boiled egg all served with either creamed
potato or new buttered potatoes and
pickled chutneys. The dessert was an individual home made cocktail fruit
jelly and custard trifle, finally there was a piece of wedding cake and a sweet sherry toast.
All a long cry from the millennium menu of today, which might drip with
artfully arranged international temptations from chardonnay, Greek style mezé, lobster delicacies, towering timbales, profiteroles and parfaits.
Gloria was 19 when she married, but later divorced and was remarried by the 1970s, she had greater success with her current second marriage.
This particular wedding was over 50 years ago. Unlike earlier eras many
marriages that took place in the 1950s and later have ended in divorce
and remarriage. Of course changes in the divorce laws along with
legal aid, women becoming more independent and self
supporting, cohabitation and cultural attitudes, have all contributed to
the change in the the nation's marriage habits.
Marriage statistics are always a little behind. Because of the
growing popularity of marriages taking place abroad at holiday
destinations the figures are also less accurate than they could be.
In fifty years the age of a first marriage for many women has increased
substantially. The peak age for marriage continues to rise with 59% of
all marriages being first marriages.
According to National Statistics the average age of a United Kingdom
single status bride in 2002 was 28.7 years. That figure highlights
the fact that the average single bride is now almost 10 years older than
Gloria was in 1956. The average age of all brides (including those
single, divorced and widowed) is now 32.6 years.
So often now people are tracing their family trees using old wedding
photos. In view of these statistics and the number of second and
third marriages you are all well advised to state the surnames of all
parties on the back of photographs, so that future generations can trace family trees with ease. I've lost count of the number of times site visitors have written to me to say they do not know who
the people are on photos. Thus get out that tattered box of photos and those old
albums and add some genealogical information to those old photos right
now. To check dates use the pages/images on site here to compare eras.
For more information about Wedding Photos click below:-
Old photos can be useful when tracing family members and narrowing down
search dates. These photo pages may help you put an era to your
If you have old wedding photos please send them to me and if suitable I will
add them to this pictorial section of social history.
OLD WEDDING PHOTOS
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