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 mere 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, together and apart, featured in what are still occasionally called the “society pages” of major newspapers.
When they married in Rhode Island on September 12, 1953, it 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 solid 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. Here, on the 60th anniversary of John and Jackie Kennedy’s wedding, LIFE.com presents a gallery of the very best of Lisa Larsen’s many pictures from that day.
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 sand read a special blessing from the pope. Outside, 2,000 society fans, some 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, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.