Cumberland Island, Georgia
Carolyn Bessette and John F. Kennedy Jr. were married in a secret ceremony on Cumberland Island, off the coast of Georgia, on September 21, 1996. The evening ceremony took place in the wood-frame Brack Chapel of the First African Baptist Church. The 40 guests included Ted Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy and her husband Edwin Schlossberg. The wedding was planned by Gogo Ferguson, a Cumberland Island resident who also designed the couple’s wedding bands.
The bride walked down the aisle in a $40,000 pearl-colored silk crepe floor-length gown, hand-rolled tulle silk veil and long silk gloves by Narcisco Rodriguez. She also wore beaded satin Manolo Blahnik sandals. Her hair was pulled back away from her face and styled by George Kyriakos. A bun at the nape of her neck was pinned with a clip belonging to Jackie Kennedy. She clutched a lily of the valley bouquet, arranged by Rachel “Bunny” Melon, the same woman who designed the White House rose garden. The groom wore a single-breasted, midnight-blue wool suit, with a white piqué vest by Gordon Henderson and his father’s wristwatch.
The groom’s nieces, Rose Schlossberg and Tatiana Schlossberg, were flower girls and wore tea-lenth white linen dresses. His nephew, Jack Schlossberg was ring bearer. John’s cousin, Anthony Radziwill, served as best man, and Caroline Kennedy was maid of honor, wearing a high-waisted, navy-blue crepe silk gown designed by Narcisco Rodriguez.
The brief Catholic service was conducted by Reverend Charles J. O’Byrne of Manhattan’s Church of St. Ignatius Loyola. The church, which had no electricity, was lit with candles and kerosene lamps, and the couple stood under an altar adorned with greenery arranged by Efigenio Pinhiero, Jackie Kennedy’s longtime butler. They picked two hymns, “Amazing Grace” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” which were performed a capella by gospel singer David R. Davis.
Following the ceremony, guests retreated to the Greyfield Inn for a reception. Dinner included shrimp, artichokes, grilled swordfish and lemon-raspberry ice cream. There was also a traditional three-tier white wedding cake covered with vanilla butter cream frosting and flowers.
The couple shared their first dance to Prince’s “Forever in My Life,” followed by a poignant toast from John’s uncle, Ted Kennedy.
They honeymooned in Turkey and enjoyed a 10-day Aegean cruise aboard the Althea.
To read more about Carolyn’s wedding day hairstyle, see our interview with her hairstylist George Kyriakos.