August 04, 2014 11:30 PM

When Cheryl Hines wed Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Saturday at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, she had no idea the wedding dress design she chose was inspired by the style of her new husband’s iconic aunt, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Stew Milne/AP

Romona Keveza, who designed the strapless, pearl-beaded dress with a waltz-length skirt, was contacted by Hines shortly after Kennedy proposed. She was looking for a short dress that had Keveza’s “timeless, modern style,” the designer tells PEOPLE.

“I sent her some pictures and she selected three dresses, but I had a pretty good idea of what one she would pick,” Keveza says. “And sure enough, the very first dress she tried on was the one she fell in love with.” As it happened, the one Hines selected had several Jackie-inspired qualities, from the style to the fabric.

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The backstory: When Keveza started her business 14 years ago, famed Kennedy social secretary Letitia Baldrige contacted the up-and-coming designer about including some of her gowns in a book Baldrige was writing called
Legendary Brides
. Baldrige was particularly drawn to one gown with fabric created with hundreds of thousands of tiny pearls, saying, “It’s very quintessential Jackie.”

Keveza retired the fabric for 14 years, but brought it out of storage for a recent collection, which had Jackie-inspired elements throughout. “I don’t know what happened, but I looked at [the fabric] and I thought, ‘I would like to do another dress,’ and just very organically, very quickly came up with this strapless, tea-length dress with the circle skirt [and] put it into my line,” she says. “That is the dress that caught the eye of Cheryl Hines and lo and behold ended up being the dress she wore on her wedding day — and she didn’t know any of this!”

The designer, who says Hines “was a true pleasure” to work with, notes, “It’s interesting how it came full circle, [with] Letitia Baldrige, who knew Jackie so well and thought that fabric was very perfect for Jackie. I feel it’s almost as though Jackie was there at her wedding, giving her blessings to Cheryl who was wearing a dress inspired by her, and to Robert Kennedy, Jr. It’s quite magical in many ways.”

–Jessica Fecteau


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