Melania Trump: Before milestone anniversary, look back at lavish wedding, celebrity guest list

Happy (almost) anniversary to Donald and Melania Trump: In January 2025, the former first couple will celebrate a milestone − 20 years of marriage.

Twenty years ago, Donald Trump and then-fiancé Melania Knauss, her professional modeling name, were in the throes of planning their lavish nuptials in Palm Beach, Florida − the wedding at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-By-the-Sea, followed by a wedding reception in the new Donald J. Trump Ballroom at his private club. Melania Knauss began her modeling career at age 16 and moved to New York in 1996. The couple met in 1998 at a New York fashion party, became engaged in 2004 and married in 2005.

All of this was before Trump became the 45th president of the United States, before Melania became a mom to Barron Trump (Trump’s youngest child of five), and before Mar-a-Lago, site of the billionaire’s wedding reception, became known as the Southern White House when Trump was in office.

Twenty years ago, Melania Knauss was just a bride-to-be, squeezing in wedding dress fittings, finalizing celebrity invites, wedding favors and reception dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Melania Knauss became Mrs. Donald Trump on a Saturday evening in January 2005.

Here’s a look back at wedding preparations for Donald and Melania Trump and what we know about their Jan. 25, 2005, wedding, from archived photos and coverage of the event by The Palm Beach Post and the Palm Beach Daily News.

Trump makes 'I do' a doozy! Wedding to Melania Knauss was so full of lights & cameras, Shannon Donnelly reports

How did Donald Trump meet Melania? Melania Trump's maiden name was Knauss

Then Melania Knauss (Melania Knauss was a name change and her original name is Melanija Knavs), the Slovenian "began modeling at age 16, and two years later she signed on with an agency in Milan. She enrolled at the University of Ljubljana but dropped out after one year to pursue her modeling career," according to the Melania Trump bio on biography.com. In her early days of modeling, the site states, Melania Trump worked in Milan and Paris before moving to New York in 1996. She met future husband Donald Trump two years later at a New York fashion party.

Melania often appeared on “The Apprentice” with Donald Trump when he was host of the reality TV show on NBC. She also accompanied Trump to lavish parties at his private club, Mar-a-Lago.

Melania Knauss appeared on the covers of Harper's Bazaar (Bulgaria edition), Vanity Fair (Italy edition), GQ (for which she posed nude in January 2000), and she appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

The Trumps became engaged in 2004 and married Jan. 25, 2005.

Melania Trump was the first lady of the U.S. from 2016 to 2020.

When did Donald Trump and Melania Knauss get married? Where did Trump wedding take place?

Interior of the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida, where the wedding of billionaire Donald Trump and Slovenian model Melania Knauss will take place. The church originated in 1889; its current structure began in 1925. It can hold 700-plus souls, or twice the number of invited guests. (Jeffrey Langlois/Palm Beach Daily News)

Billionaire Donald Trump, then host of “The Apprentice” reality TV show on NBC, married Slovenian model Melania Knauss on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2005, at Bethesda-By-the-Sea Church, 141 S. County Road, Palm Beach, Florida.

Bethesda-by-the-Sea church originated in 1889 with its current structure dating back to 1925. In 2005, the Palm Beach Post reported the church could hold 700-plus souls, or twice the number of invited guests.

Fun fact: NBA legend Michael Jordan, seven-time champion of the Chicago Bulls and GOAT of pro basketball, married his wife, Cuban model Yvette Prito, at Bethesda-By-the-Sea in 2013.

Where was Donald and Melania Trump wedding reception? What food was served at Trump-Knauss wedding party at Mar-a-Lago?

In 2005, the Trump-Knauss wedding reception was held at the "new" Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom at Mar-a-Lago, which is less than 3 miles from Bethesda-By-the-Sea. The ballroom cost $35 million and was built in a Versailles-inspired Louis XIV style, including several Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers.

Floral designers had filled the Mar-A-Lago ballroom with 10,000 flowers, and chefs served caviar, Grand Marnier cake and Cristal champagne. Dinner included "beggar's purses filled with caviar, tenderloin done to a turn, miniature wedding cakes and the finest Cristal poured into one of those magical glasses that is never, ever empty," the Palm Beach Daily News said in a Jan. 21, 2005, society column.

According to the Palm Beach Daily News, "long tables for 20 filled the ballroom, with its gleaming chandeliers and extensive gold leaf. Designer Preston Bailey set the tables in cream and gold, from linens and china to flatware. Enormous candelabrae were wrapped top to bottom in white orchids and roses. A stage at the east end of the room held the Michael Rose Orchestra. This was not your typical wedding reception."

They do! Memories of Donald & Melania Trump's wedding in Palm Beach, reception at Mar-a-Lago

Which designer did Melania Trump choose for her wedding dress when she married Donald Trump?

On Jan. 25, 2005, billionaire Donald Trump married Slovenian model Melania Knauss in Palm Beach, Florida. Shown are Mr. and Mrs. Donald Trump.
On Jan. 25, 2005, billionaire Donald Trump married Slovenian model Melania Knauss in Palm Beach, Florida. Shown are Mr. and Mrs. Donald Trump.

Melania Knauss wore a $100,000 Christian Dior wedding gown. The dress — escorted by four people from the House of Dior to protect its 13-foot train, 16-foot veil and 550 hours worth of hand-sewn crystal beading — arrived separately at Bethesda-By-the-Sea Episcopal Church (the site of the Trump-Knauss wedding) hours before the 7 p.m. ceremony, the Palm Beach Daily News reported in January 2005.

Who attended the wedding of Donald and Melania Trump? Which celebrities were at Trumps' wedding in Florida?

Kelly Ripa and her husband, actor Mark Consuelos, enter the church for Donald Trump’s wedding to Melania Knauss on Jan. 25, 2005, in Palm Beach, Florida. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)
Kelly Ripa and her husband, actor Mark Consuelos, enter the church for Donald Trump’s wedding to Melania Knauss on Jan. 25, 2005, in Palm Beach, Florida. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

According to archive news reports from the Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News, here’s a small list of the 350 people who were invited to Donald and Melania Trump’s wedding in Palm Beach, Florida, in January 2005:

  • Les Moonves and wife Julie Chen, longtime host of “The Talk”

  • Bill and Hillary Clinton (Trump's Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential election)

  • Barbara Walters ("The View," journalism icon) wore a one-shoulder-baring solid maroon Donna Karan wrap gown.

  • Mark Burnett, creator/executive producer of "The Apprentice" reality TV competition on NBC, was accompanied by his wife, "Touched By an Angel" actress Roma Downey and their children.

  • former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his wife, Judy Nathan

  • Katie Couric of NBC's "Today" show, who wore a multicolored Emilio Pucci print halter gown

  • George H. Ross, who was featured on "The Apprentice," was executive VP for the Trump Organization

  • boxing promoter Don King, who accessorized his tuxedo with several strands of diamond necklaces

  • Carolyn Kepcher, co-star of the reality TV show "The Apprentice" on NBC, and her husband George

  • Simon Cowell ("America's Got Talent," "American Idol," "Britain's Got Talent")

  • Victoria Secret supermodel Heidi Klum and host of "America's Got Talent"

  • singer Billy Joel ("Piano Man," "Uptown Girl") and then wife Katie Lee Joel (Food Network's "The Kitchen" and former host of "Top Chef")

  • rap mogul Russell Simmons (in a tux with sneakers and a baseball cap) and Kimora Lee Simmons

  • Star Jones, former host on "The View" and "Divorce Court," and husband Al Reynolds

  • "Live with Kelly and Mark" host Kelly Ripa and her husband, actor Mark Consuelos ("Friends," "All My Children," "Riverdale")

  • singer Paul Anka

  • Tony Bennett

  • Kathie Lee Gifford, former host of "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee," and husband football star Frank Gifford

  • Matt Lauer, former host of NBC's "Today" show

  • Stone Phillips, co-anchor of "Dateline NBC" who appeared on "NBC Nightly News"

  • NBA basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal (Orlando Magic, L.A. Lakers)

  • NBC president Bob Wright and his wife, Suzanne

  • former New York Sen. Al D'Amato and his wife

  • British businessman and newspaper owner Conrad Black and his wife

  • TV producer Marty Richards

  • Palm Beach Town Council members Jack McDonald, Sam McLendon, Bill Brooks and Norman Goldblum and their wives

  • Dame Celia Lipton Farris (in a pale, pale pink confection that made a nice background for her medal from the Queen) with Bert Sokol

  • Howard and Michele Kessler

  • Audrey and Marty Gruss

  • Andrea and John Stark

  • Steve and Christine Schwarzman

  • Terry Allen Kramer and Nick Simunek

  • Ruth and Ray Perelman

  • Bo Dietl

  • Mohamed Al-Fayed (who sat in the front of the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea)

  • Donald's ever-loyal assistant Norma Foerderer

  • Mort Zuckerman (repeatedly checking the weather reports) with CNN producer Kathleen Friery

  • Deborah Norville with Karl Wellner

  • Gayle King

  • Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his wife

  • Tina Brown with husband Harold Evans

  • Lois Pope, Vilda dePorro and Maurice Kazzi

  • Gianna and Guido Lombardi

  • Claudia Cohen

  • Sports TV personality Pat O'Brien

  • Cindy Adams (who was staying with Arlene Dahl and Mark Rosen)

  • Abe Rosenthal and Shirley Lord

  • Libby and George Pataki (houseguesting with Charles Gargano)

  • Chris Matthews

  • Vic and Rena Damone

  • Richard and Robin Bernstein

  • Donna Summer

  • Miami Heat owner Mickey Arison

  • Jeannine Pirro

  • According to a Jan. 21, 2005, Palm Beach Daily News story, others expected among the 350 guests were Mike Bloomberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Mets owner Fred Wilpon, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder, Abe Rosenthal and Shirley Lord, Liza Minnelli, Anna Wintour (fashion icon and longtime editor of Vogue), Shelby Bryan and Robert Kraft.

Who was invited to Donald Trump-Melania Knauss wedding but couldn't make it?

According to a Jan. 21, 2005, story from Palm Beach Daily News, "regrets came from Bruce Willis (shooting in Montreal), Elton John (charity commitment in Europe on Sunday), Oprah Winfrey (the ever-vague "previous engagement"), Joe Torre (in Hawaii), George Steinbrenner (tied up with spring training stuff), Catherine Zeta-Jones and hubby Michael Douglas (he's on a United Nations peace mission − really!), Eliot Spitzer (previous commitments) and Phil Mickelson, who's playing in the Buick Invitational."

What it's like to cover Trump's wedding: It was a doozy, one for the record books

Things to know about Donald and Melania Trump Palm Beach, Florida, wedding and Mar-a-Lago reception party in 2005

The following comes from archive coverage from the Palm Beach Post, the Palm Beach Daily News and USA TODAY Network-Florida.

  • Trump arrived in West Palm Beach, Florida, at Palm Beach International Airport on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005, the day before his wedding rehearsal at Bethesda-By-the-Sea Episcopal Church and two days before the wedding and reception at Mar-a-Lago. He was accompanied by his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. and his then-girlfriend Vanessa Haydon.

  • A plane trailing the message, "Melania, your hired J.D./Wirk," flew over Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2005, a few hours before Donald Trump's wedding to Slovenian model Melania Knauss. At the time, billionaire Trump hosted "The Apprentice" reality TV competition on NBC.

  • Trump's best men were Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. At the wedding reception, the bride Melania Trump toasted her new stepdaughters, Ivanka Trump and Tiffany Trump.

  • At the wedding reception in the Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom at Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach Daily News reported: "Bill Clinton discussed politics and his golf game (he left before dinner so he could rise early for his Sunday round at the Palm Beach Country Club), Shaquille O'Neal talked basketball and his golf game, and Matt Lauer talked about television and his golf game."

  • There was no ill-tuned wedding band playing the "I Don't Want Her You Can Have Her She's Too Fat For Me" polka, the Palm Beach Daily News said, "instead, it was the 30-piece orchestra and offerings from Billy Joel (in person) then Tony Bennett (in person) then Paul Anka (in person) with a poolside disco after midnight." In fact, the South Florida newspaper reported, "the ballroom dance floor remained relatively empty except for the bride and groom, who danced slowly and sweetly to a tune which we can't identify ... After their first dance as husband and wife, Donald danced with his new mother-in-law − who appears to be about his age − and Melania danced with her father."

Contributing: Bill Ingram, Damon Higgins, Bruce R. Bennett and Staci Sturrock, Palm Beach Post, and Jeffrey Langlois, Palm Beach Daily News

Palm Beach Daily News Society Editor Shannon Donnelly has been covering the Palm Beach social scene for 38 years.

Sangalang is a lead digital producer for USA TODAY Network-Florida. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @byjensangalang. Support local journalism. Consider subscribing to a Florida newspaper.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Melania Trump wedding: Biggest, most surprising celebrities at Mar-a-Lago

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