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Wedding Pros Offer Tips on Keeping Celeb Weddings Secret
"There are no limits," Vorce says, to what the paparazzi will do to infiltrate a wedding in hopes of getting photos that can be sold to tabloids for tens of thousands of dollars. So she shreds everything, knowing her trash is picked through regularly. And even as the wait staff and bartenders come on site for the big day, they won't know whom they're serving. By the time they find out, they will have signed nondisclosure agreements legally barring them from letting the word out -- though Vorce admits this rarely produces foolproof privacy. But if a wedding is under way, and the media is only then finding out about it, she's scored a victory.
Step 2: Control the Guests
The most crucial step to pulling off a secret wedding is keeping the guest list very small -- "and I don't know if that's possible for a family like the Clintons," says Yifat Oren, who's planned weddings for celebrities such as Charlie Sheen and Kevin Costner.
It's a simple equation: More people invited = more leaks and, therefore, more paparazzi scaling the walls with their cameras.
Paper invitations are the ultimate liability. It's like spoon-feeding the gossip-rag enemies. Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz risked sending save-the-dates, but left off the time and location; those details were delivered by phone and text message; and guests were asked to park at a remote lot and were then shuttled to the wedding. Fergie gave out invitations as favors at her January wedding to Josh Duhamel.
Couples who really don't want their guests to let the cat out of the bag just won't tell them. "Lie to your guests. Just lie to them," says New York City-based celebrity wedding planner Michelle Rago. "You get them there for a completely different reason, and by the time it's over, it's over." (See: Julia Roberts's Fourth of July party in 2002, where she and Danny Moder surprised their guests by getting hitched just before midnight; Sandra Bullock's ruse was a birthday party when she wed Jesse James in 2005.)
Anyone who is invited and given specifics about the event must be inducted into a sacred circle of trust. John F. Kennedy Jr., the last child of a president to pull off a secret wedding -- word of Jenna Bush's date and location were out, though they successfully sneaked off for a secret rehearsal dinner bash -- asked only 40 guests to watch him and Carolyn Bessette wed in a small chapel on Cumberland Island, off the coast of Georgia, in 1996.
The invitation came by phone, recalls friend Robert T. Littell, and Kennedy warned him, "You can't even tell your mother." But protecting the secret became kind of a game, Littell says, and added an exciting layer of tension to the event.
When word got out that photographers had sneaked onto the island but were caught by security guards, a cheer went up. And as the wedding wound down, "there was a sense of victory, frankly," Littell says, "that we did it."
Step 3: Scout the Location
Did you see those pictures of Scarlett Johansson's wedding to Ryan Reynolds? No. Because they got hitched last year at an island nature preserve off the coast of Canada with only 40 friends and family members. Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck invited no one to their 2005 nuptials in Turks and Caicos. Kenny Chesney and Renée Zellweger successfully pulled off a secret wedding in the Virgin Islands, also in 2005 (though their marriage was less than successful and ended four months later). Seal and Heidi Klum made it official on a Tuesday in Mexico.
If privacy is the biggest priority, it's best to leave the country. But when a high-profile pair wants to wed in the United States -- perhaps because it's the country the bride's father led for eight years -- seclusion is key.
Any open space must be tented to thwart prying eyes overhead in a helicopter. An indoor affair at a private residence is optimal. Beyoncé reportedly evaded onlookers by traveling in the cargo area of a flower delivery truck to Jay Z's apartment building for their 2008 wedding. Once inside -- and with her mother acting as caterer -- the affair was conducted in almost stunning privacy.
Wedding planner Oren thought Kevin Costner and his bride, Christine Baumgartner, would be protected by the expansiveness of their 160-acre ranch in Colorado. But sure enough, the paparazzi climbed a mountain flanking a nearby highway and, with high power lenses, zoomed in to catch images of the 2004 soiree.