Wedding Pros Offer Tips on Keeping Celeb Weddings Secret

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By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 21, 2009

THE MISSION: Successfully execute a full-scale, tulle-and-tuxes wedding for an A-list client in absolute secrecy.

THE ENEMIES: TMZ; Twitter; Us Weekly; an army of paparazzi; camera phones; text messages; helicopters; this newspaper; the Internet; loudmouthed Aunt Lucille; the tent company's receptionist; everyone within 10 miles of the venue; everyone else.

THE STRATEGY: Tell no one. Only those who are crucial to the mission's completion will be informed, and then only on a need-to-know basis. Accomplices will be required to take a blood oath of confidentiality. Remember, the most dangerous threat is the one that lurks among you. Your client will call them "guests."

"It's like a military operation," explains L.A. wedding planner Lisa Vorce, who's been coordinating the nuptial celebrations of high-profile celebrities, politicians and athletes for nine years.

So if Chelsea Clinton is getting married on Martha's Vineyard in the next 10 days -- and some chatty islanders plus the National Enquirer insist that she is -- it should help to have a former commander in chief, a current secretary of state and a brigade of Secret Service agents acting as her co-conspirators. Though they've never confirmed an engagement, rumor has it that Bill and Hillary Clinton's 29-year-old daughter will wed longtime boyfriend Marc Mezvinsky at the estate of Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, or some other family friend's estate, either this weekend or next. Or not.

Of course, everyone from the Clinton camp has vigorously denied that any such affair is in the works -- or that they will be anywhere in the vicinity -- but that's a strategy straight out of Secret Wedding Planning 101.

"We deny, deny, deny," Vorce says of the tack she takes with her celebrity clients. "So if anyone asks, 'Are you guys doing that event?' 'Absolutely not, no. Gosh, I would love to do that event.' " Any confirmation to the media, she says, could compromise the whole mission, er, blessed event. (What Danson told a Boston newspaper when asked whether he was hosting a wedding for Clinton, "I wouldn't mind doing that, it's just not true.")

It's all part of what's become the Manhattan Project of event planning: the secret celebrity wedding. And they're all secret these days. They don't have a choice, really -- if Madonna or Jessica Simpson were to announce the date and locale of their next wedding, the crush of paparazzi would be so thick that neither bride would make it anywhere near the altar.

When combined, our collective obsessions with fame and celebrity are the perfect tabloid storm, fueling a cottage industry of wedding watchers -- photographers, bloggers and gossip magazine editors who will stop at nothing to bring readers every crucial, taffeta-wrapped detail.

Hence, these weddings become clandestine affairs -- covert operations carried out by experts who've spent years strategizing maneuvers to allow their high-target clients to wed in private. Or at least, what passes for private in the land of the famous.

Step 1: Administer an Alias

"From the very first minute we meet with them, we give them an alias. It's 'John and Sally Smith,' wedding in August '09," says Vorce. And from that moment on, she is the conduit for her client, dealing with caterers, venues, florists and never telling any of them who the event is for.

To show couples various spaces where they might want to wed, Vorce videotapes tours of the venues rather than bringing them to the locations in person. It's too risky. Once she did an event for Kobe Bryant and decided to meet the caterer at the venue; paparazzi tailed her there, stole a logo off the caterer's van, traced the caterer's personal connections and called to harass her parents into giving up details of the soiree.


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