Written By: Ben Cosgrove

Long before the heady, rock star-like run for the White House, before “Ich bin ein Berliner,” before the Cuban Missile Crisis, the pillbox hats, Marilyn’s “Happy birthday, Mr. President,” Camelot and the limo drive through Dallas, John and Jackie Kennedy were a young newlywed couple much like any other newlywed couple with one notable difference: by the time of their wedding they were, in a sense, already superstars.

The pair had appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine two months before their wedding, in July 1953, perched on the sloping deck of a sailboat off of Cape Cod, both of them smiling, windblown, emphatically New England-y, beside the cheeky headline, “Senator Kennedy Goes a-Courting.” They were both from prominent, monied, influential families, and they were frequently featured, together and apart, in the society pages of major newspapers.

Their marriage in Rhode Island on September 12, 1953,  was national news. LIFE magazine sent photographer Lisa Larsen, then in her late 20s, to cover the highly publicized event. Her photos from the occasion offer not only a before-and-after record of the nuptials, but a surprisingly intimate chronicle of one of the most high-profile American weddings of the 20th century.

For its part, LIFE magazine reported on the scene in an article in a Sept. 1963, issue:

The marriage of Washington’s best-looking young senator to Washington’s prettiest inquiring photographer took place in Newport R.I. this month and their wedding turned out to be the most impressive the old society stronghold had seen in 30 years. As John F. Kennedy took Jacqueline Bouvier as his bride, 600 diplomats, senators, social figures crowded into St. Mary’s Church to hear the Archbishop of Boston perform the rites and read a special blessing from the pope. Outside, 2,000 society fans, some who had come to Newport by chartered bus, cheered the guests and the newlyweds as they left the church. There were 900 guests at the reception and it took Senator and Mrs. Kennedy two hours to shake their hands. The whole affair, said one enthusiastic guest, was “just like a coronation.”

—Liz Ronk edited this gallery for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

Bride and bridegroom finally sit down to lunch after the long, wearying ordeal of the receiving line. Jacqueline, whose wedding dress contained 50 yards of material, adjusts veil while her senator husband starts right in on fruit cup."

The bride and bridegroom finally sat down to lunch after the long, wearying ordeal of the receiving line. Jacqueline, whose wedding dress contained 50 yards of material, got settled in while her husband started right in on the fruit cup.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Bouvier marry, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Bouvier marry, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

"Jacqueline Bouvier in gorgeous Battenburg wedding dress with her husband Sen. John Kennedy as they stand in front of church after wedding ceremony."

Jacqueline Bouvier and her husband Sen. John Kennedy stood in front of the church after their wedding ceremony.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

"Line of guests waiting patiently to congratulate the couple extends to the front lawn of bride's mother's 300-acre Hammersmith Farm at Newport."

The line of guests waiting patiently to congratulate the couple extended to the front lawn of the bride’s mother’s 300-acre Hammersmith Farm at Newport.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

John and Jackie Kennedy on their wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

John and Jackie Kennedy on their wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Jackie Kennedy on her wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Jackie Kennedy on her wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Bouvier marry, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier at their wedding, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

John and Jackie Kennedy with ushers, bridesmaids and flower girls, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

John and Jackie Kennedy with ushers, bridesmaids and flower girls.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

John and Jackie Kennedy with groomsmen and other guests on their wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

John and Jackie Kennedy with groomsmen and other guests on their wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

"Speaker Joe Martin of House of Representatives congratulates bride and bridegroom in receiving line. Kennedy served three terms in the House."

Joe Martin. U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, congratulated the bride and bridegroom.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Bouvier marry, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

"Flower girl Janet Auchincloss, half sister of bride, talks to Kennedy while bride looks out window at guests waiting to go through receiving line."

Flower girl Janet Auchincloss, half sister of the bride, talked to Kennedy while the bride looked out the window at guests waiting to go through the receiving line.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

John and Jackie Kennedy on their wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

John and Jackie Kennedy on their wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Guests, including Robert Kennedy, watch as newly married John and Jackie Kennedy cut their wedding cake, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Guests, including Robert Kennedy, watched as newly married John and Jackie Kennedy cut their wedding cake, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Jacqueline Kennedy on her wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Jacqueline Kennedy on her wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

"Slice of wedding cake is offered bridegroom by flower girl Janet at the luncheon. Kennedy had already had some cake so did not want any more."

A slice of wedding cake was offered to the bridegroom by flower girl Janet at the luncheon. Kennedy had already had some cake so did not want any more.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

John and Jackie Kennedy on their wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

John and Jackie Kennedy on their wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Jacqueline Kennedy on her wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Jacqueline Kennedy on her wedding day.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Guests at the wedding reception for John and Jackie Kennedy, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Guests at the wedding reception for John and Jackie Kennedy, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Jacqueline Kennedy dances with her husband, John F. Kennedy, at their wedding reception,

Jacqueline Kennedy danced with her husband, John F. Kennedy, at their wedding reception, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Jacqueline Kennedy dances with her new father-in-law, Joseph P. Kennedy, at wedding reception, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Jacqueline Kennedy danced with her new father-in-law, Joseph P. Kennedy.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Jacqueline Kennedy dances at her wedding reception, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Jacqueline Kennedy danced at her wedding reception.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

A girl with a flower at John and Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding reception, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

A girl with a flower at John and Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding reception, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Jacqueline Kennedy on her wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Jacqueline Kennedy on her wedding day, Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, 1953.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

"Off for honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico, the bride and bridegroom leave the wedding reception amid a shower of rose-petal confetti and rice."

Off for their honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico, the bride and bridegroom left the wedding reception amid a shower of rose-petal confetti and rice.

Lisa Larsen/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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