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Senator Kennedy and then-fiancé Jacqueline Bouvier being interviewed for a LIFE magazine story while on vacation at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. June 1953.Hy Peskin/Getty Images
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The pair pose on a sailfish boat in Hyannis Port on their engagement weekend. June 1953. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
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The couple poses on a tennis court during their engagement weekend in Hyannis Port. June 1953.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
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The couple on the beach while on vacation at the Kennedy compound. June 1953.Hy Peskin/Getty Images
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The couple go sailing while on vacation at the Kennedy compound. June 1953.
Hy Peskin/Getty Images
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The couple sit knee-to-knee while on vacation in Hyannis Port. June 1953. Hy Peskin/Getty Images
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The couple sit together in the sunshine at Kennedy's family home in Hyannis Port, not long before their wedding. June 27, 1953.Bettmann/Getty Images
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The couple stand at the altar during their wedding at St. Mary's Church in Newport, Rhode Island. September 12, 1953.John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
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The couple cut their wedding cake.Bettmann/Getty Images
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John and Jackie join hands as they continue to cut the cake.Toni Frissell/Library of Congress
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The bride is escorted by her groom down the hill at Hammersmith Farm at their wedding reception.John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
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John and Jackie pose for photos on their wedding day.Toni Frissell/Library of Congress
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John and Jackie pose for photos along with their wedding party.Toni Frissell/Library of Congress
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The newlyweds admire the sailfish landed by Senator Kennedy during their honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico. September 1953.John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
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The couple in a car on their honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico. September 1953.John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
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Then-Senator Kennedy poses with Jackie for LIFE magazine. October 1955.Verner Reed/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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Senator Kennedy cuddling his baby daughter, Caroline, who is smiling as mother Jackie looks on in delight. March 25, 1958. Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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The couple in formal wear at the Senate Office Building. Date unspecified.Bettmann/Getty Images
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The family returns to Washington from Palm Beach. February 4, 1961.Abbie Row/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
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The couple walks down Main Street in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. February 16, 1960.Don Johanning/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
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The pair departs for a trip to India and Pakistan. March 8, 1962.Abbie Rowe/Wikimedia Commons
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President Kennedy and his family in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. August 4, 1962.
Cecil Stoughton/Wikimedia Commons
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President Kennedy and the First Lady watch the first race of the 1962 America's Cup from aboard the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. September 15, 1962.Robert L. Knudsen/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
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Family weekend in Hyannis Port. August 14, 1963.Cecil W. Stoughton/Wikimedia Commons
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President and Mrs. Kennedy are shown on the South Lawn of the White House just prior to a performance by the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment. November 13, 1963.Bettmann/Getty Images
“One Brief Shining Moment”: The Kennedy Romance In Photos
They met over asparagus at a dinner party in 1952: future commander-in-chief John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy, a 35-year-old congressman from Boston, asked Jacqueline "Jackie" Bouvier, a 23-year-old photographer from Newport, out on a date while leaning across the table, ostensibly in search of the vegetable.
She thought he was “charming [and] handsome[,] but a hopeless flirt.” But John didn't give up hope in his pursuit of Bouvier, and ultimately proposed a year later. He sent a letter to his best friend, Paul "Red" Fay, asking for advice ahead of the nuptials:
"Your special project is the bride's mother -- one fine girl, but who has a tendency when excited to think I'm not good enough for her daughter and talk too much -- talk just too much. As I am both too young and too old for all this, I will need several long talks on how to conduct yourself during the first six months, based on your actual real-life experience."
John's conduct as a husband, and Jackie's response to it, has been grist for the rumor mill for decades. Books have been written exclusively about his many alleged infidelities, from their courtship days in the early 1950s, through his presidential win in 1960, right up until his assassination in 1963.
Who can say how much, exactly, Jackie knew about all of this, or how much of it was even true, but she later admitted that their marriage was always out of the ordinary for its time and place, calling it "a rather terribly Victorian or Asiatic relationship ... which I think’s the best."
But John's love for Jackie appeared, by all accounts, genuine, even if he was a serial philanderer, as The Atlantic wryly notes:
"On the night of their 10th anniversary, he’d been in such a swivet about what to give her that he locked himself in his bedroom trying to choose the right gift. In the end he gave her an Egyptian snake bracelet, but he also considered keeping an Assyrian horse bit, because he wanted to try out the ancient artifact on [his daughter] Caroline’s pony to see if it really worked. (The rich are different from you and me.)"
Their all-too-brief time together, raising a family in the White House, was later dubbed "Camelot," which invoked the impossibly attractive and noble figures from Arthurian legend upon which the pair seemed modeled.
Following the assassination, journalist and historian Theodore White published an interview with Jackie that sourced the "Camelot" nickname:
"At night, before we’d go to sleep, Jack liked to play some records; and the song he loved most came at the very end of this record. The lines he loved to hear were: Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot."
Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. later noted that “The [Camelot] image was not perhaps, on analysis, all that romantic. King Arthur’s Camelot concluded in betrayal and death.”
But none of the photos in the gallery above, as you'd expect from the most photogenic First Family in U.S. history, hint at any unhappiness or restlessness under the surface or foreshadow the destruction to come. They instead capture a couple, both too young and too old, in a brief shining moment, in the process of becoming icons.
Still curious? Check out galleries of John and Jackie capturing their most iconic moments. Want to dig deeper? Explore the dark side of John's father, Joseph Kennedy.