Sophia of Greece and Denmark first met her cousin Juan Carlos of Spain on a cruise in the Greek Islands in 1954. The cruise had been specifically arranged by Sophia’s mother to give the young royals of Europe a chance to mingle with each other with the prospects of future marriages. Sophia and Juan Carlos seemed to hit it off but their romance didn’t really start until 1958 when they both attended the wedding of Elisabeth of Württemberg and Antoine of Bourbon-Two Sicilies.
In the summer of 1961, Sophia and Juan Carlos both attended the wedding of Edward, Duke of Kent, and Juan Carlos was appointed as Sophia’s escort. The press noticed Juan Carlos seemed to be hanging around a lot with Sophia and her sister, Irene, and speculation was rife about which of the sisters he was dating. After the Duke of Kent’s wedding, Juan Carlos spent most of the summer in Greece and the engagement was announced on 13 September 1961, during a dinner held at the villa of Juan Carlos’s grandmother, Victoria Eugenie, in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Due to the political turmoil in Spain, it was agreed the wedding would take place in Athens, however the differing religions posed a problem. Since there was a distinct possibility Juan Carlos would become King of Spain one day, the Spanish public would expect their queen to be a Catholic. As consent was being sought from the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches, an agreement was reached to have dual ceremonies representing both faiths. The Catholic service was be held at the Cathedral of St. Denis, while the Orthodox ceremony took place at the Metropolitan Orthodox Cathedral of the Virgin Mary in Athens.
Sophia’s dress was designed by Jean Dessès, a Paris couturier with Greek roots, and it was made in Greece at the bride’s request. The dress was silver lamé covered in layers of lace and tulle, with fitted three quarter-length sleeves, a flared skirt, and a jewel neckline. The 20ft long white lamé and organza train extended from the neck of the dress.
The 15ft lace veil was the same veil worn by Sophia’s mother, Frederica, when she married Paul of Greece in 1938, and it was held in place by the Prussian Diamond Tiara, a wedding gift from her mother.