At just before 3pm, it wasn’t quite the morning after the night before. But the wait didn’t seem to matter to the crowds of tourists and paparazzi who cheered and whistled from the banks of the Grand Canal as George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin emerged in public for the first time as a married couple.
Smiling and waving from the motorboat that picked them up from the luxury Aman Canal Grande resort in the centre of Venice on Sunday, the Hollywood heart-throb and his British-Lebanese wife showed no signs of being any the worse for wear after the drama of Saturday night.
More than an hour after the grand spectacle that was the actor’s black-tie arrival by a paparazzi-surrounded motor boat called Amore on Saturday, Clooney’s representative Stan Rosenfield had put out a one-sentence statement announcing that he and the human rights lawyer had been “married today … in a private ceremony in Venice, Italy”.
Και, on Sunday, as the couple spent their first day together as husband and wife, the first purported details of the year’s most eagerly anticipated celebrity wedding began to emerge. The ceremony is understood to have been held in English and was officiated by former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni, an old friend of Clooney, who was seen leaving the Aman in a water taxi on Sunday morning.
The couple said “I do” at 8.18pm, prompting huge applause and cheers from the assembled guests, according to Il Gazzettino, which also claimed that a trio of musicians – a saxophonist, pianist and double-bassist – played while guests arrived for the ceremony.
Clooney’s hands were shaking so much after the vows that he had trouble cutting the cake, according to an unnamed source close to the hotel quoted by AFP.
The details of the wedding and subsequent reception have been mostly shrouded in mystery, with all staff of the “seven-star” Aman sworn to secrecy under a confidentiality agreement. But with the media hungry for any tidbit – and photographers seen on Sunday morning rifling through bags of rubbish in the streets behind the hotel – some elements were certain to leak out.
Corriere del Veneto reported a “small group of strings” played Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The five-course dinner included lemon risotto with lobster and a choice between sea bass and Chianina steak, AFP said. A local paper, Εν τω μεταξύ, revealed the devastating scoop that the bouquet had been kept on ice to stop it wilting.
Despite the lavish scale of the celebrations, the news that the couple had actually married caused surprise among the world’s media as the pair had been expected to make things official on Monday in a civil ceremony at Venice city hall.
On Sunday, a spokesman for the council was quoted as confirming that that appointment would go ahead as planned in a historic palazzo just across the Grand Canal from the Aman. It is understood that that ceremony – expected at about 1pm – will be when the marriage is written into the council register and made fully official under Italian law.
But the ambiguity was too much for Il Gazzettino, Venice’s local newspaper, which showed evident irritation with the smoke and mirrors involved in the huge celebrity and media circus. “All cinema,” declared journalist Alda Vanzan of the ceremony, which she dismissed – for good measure – as “fiction, for now”. Only when Clooney, 53, and the 36-year-old Oxford University graduate registered their marriage in the comune, she insisted, would their nuptials be valid.
“But when you’re in show business, when you’ve sold the exclusive photographs to an American magazine for charity, when you invite relatives and friends from half the world for a wedding in Venice, the most romantic city in the world, bureaucracy can be snubbed,” she wrote. “Who gives a stuff about the laws of the Belpaese?"
With the huge attention focused on the nuptials, fed in part by the location and the sheer spectacle of scores of VIPs arriving on the Grand Canal, “the wedding which had to be secret … and marked by discretion in the end exploded into a party that was terribly bling bling,” remarked La Nuova Venezia waspishly.
Vanzan agreed. “They had to get married in great secrecy – but they seem to be doing everything they can to end up in the limelight,” she wrote.
One person who stayed firmly out of the spotlight was Brad Pitt, who had been expected to attend but who appeared not to have arrived. Among the confirmed guests were actors Bill Murray, Ellen Barkin, Emily Blunt and Matt Damon; model Cindy Crawford and her husband, the entertainment industry entrepreneur Rande Gerber, U2 frontman Bono and US Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
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