Grace Kelly's Royal Wedding

The story of an American actress who traded Hollywood for the princess life. (Sound familiar?)

Sixty years before Meghan Markle began her romance with Prince Harry, another American actress stepped away from Hollywood and into the life of a European royal. On April 19, 1956, in what was then called "The Wedding of the Century," Oscar-winning star Grace Kelly exchanged vows with Prince Rainier III, the sovereign prince of Monaco, in an elaborate Roman Catholic ceremony that was watched by 30 million people on television. Here, a flashback to the pomp and circumstance surrounding that iconic union.

HOLLYWOOD'S LEADING LADY Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images HOLLYWOOD'S LEADING LADY At the time she met her future husband, Kelly was a favorite of Alfred Hitchcock's, who cast her in "Dial M for Murder," "Rear Window," and "To Catch a Thief." She'd also just won the Best Actress Oscar for "The Country Girl." MONACO'S SOVEREIGN PRINCE adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images MONACO'S SOVEREIGN PRINCE Prince Rainier III, leader of the tiny city-state on the French Riviera, met Kelly in 1955 during festivities related to the Cannes Film Festival. THE COURTSHIP DANCE Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images THE COURTSHIP DANCE Think Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had a whirlwind romance? Within months of their initial meeting, Rainier proposed to Kelly during a tour of America. Pictured: the couple dancing in a nightclub after their engagement announcement. SETTING THE DATE Bettmann/Bettmann Archive SETTING THE DATE A commemorative stamp to mark the occasion of the religious wedding ceremony at Monaco's Saint Nicholas Cathedral. AN A-LIST PRODUCTION Allan Grant/The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images AN A-LIST PRODUCTION Seamstresses at MGM worked on Kelly's wedding dress and veil. This bridal look — as well as Kelly's dress for the civil ceremony held the day before the religious one — was designed by Helen Rose, who'd costumed Kelly in "The Swan" and "High Society." It took a team of 30 people and six weeks to make. LEGALLY WED Bettmann/Bettmann Archive LEGALLY WED Just as Markle will leave her acting career behind to marry her prince, so did Kelly in 1956. She was 26 at the time of her marriage and simultaneous retirement. Pictured: Princess Grace raises a toast following a quick civil ceremony the day before the massive church wedding. NOTES OF CONGRATULATIONS Joseph McKeown/Getty Images NOTES OF CONGRATULATIONS Aides struggle under the weight of all the well-wishes. READY FOR THEIR CLOSE-UPS Haywood Magee/Getty Images READY FOR THEIR CLOSE-UPS On the day of the church ceremony, girls lined the streets to welcome the American bride. Guests at the wedding numbered around 600, and included Cary Grant, Ava Gardner, and Gloria Swanson. BRIDESMAIDS Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Popperfoto/Getty Images BRIDESMAIDS They wore yellow, BTW. TIMELESS Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori via Getty Images TIMELESS Princess Grace's iconic church-wedding gown is said to have inspired the dress that Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, wore at her 2011 nuptials to Prince Harry's brother, William. AND NOW, THE RINGS Gilbert TOURTE/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images AND NOW, THE RINGS Prince Rainier slips a band on Grace's finger. For their engagement he'd originally given her a ring of rubies and diamonds, but soon upgraded to a 10.5-carat rock with twin baguettes. ALL HAIL! Bettmann/Bettmann Archive ALL HAIL! ROLLING IN THE ROLLS Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori via Getty Images ROLLING IN THE ROLLS A motorcycle escort leads the newlyweds around Monte Carlo. THE RECEPTION LUNCH AFP/AFP/Getty Images THE RECEPTION LUNCH Select items from the buffet menu: caviar, lobster, jellied eggs, salmon, a six-tier cake, and, of course, champagne. THE OFFICIAL PORTRAIT 3777/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images THE OFFICIAL PORTRAIT The newlyweds in color. ON THE BALCONY Bettmann/Bettmann Archive ON THE BALCONY Waving to the crowds from a palace window. THE ROYAL HONEYMOON Christiane GRIMALDI/Sygma via Getty Images THE ROYAL HONEYMOON The Monegasque royals board a yacht — a gift from Aristotle Onassis — for their cruise around the Mediterranean. Princess Grace carries Oliver, her black poodle — also a gift, but from Cary Grant.
NEWSWORTHY See footage from the iconic royal wedding and hear how it was reported on at the time.