Though few seem to have noticed, John F. Kennedy Jr. used "something old" in his wedding to Carolyn Bessette on Sept. 21. He borrowed from his mother the idea for a very private ceremony.

Both Kennedys' nuptials were protected from the press and the public by zipped lips, private security guards and natural moats.

Jacqueline Kennedy wed Aristotle Onassis on Oct. 21, 1968, on Skorpios. Her groom, the Greek shipping magnate, owned the Aegean island. Her son married on Cumberland Island, Ga., once owned by the Carnegie family and now run by the National Park Service.

John Kennedy -- who edits a magazine named George, after Washington -- may have known about the island because of his interest in the first president. It was once the property of Revolutionary War Gen. Nathaniel Greene and his flirtatious wife, Catherine. She was famous for dancing three hours with Washington at a ball. On his 1791 Southern tour as president, Washington visited the widowed Mrs. Greene. Jacqueline Kennedy was actually less successful than her son in fending off observers, in part because of the reporting abilities of the phenomenal gossip Maxine Cheshire. The Washington Post reporter, going through mud, water, guards and the Greek navy, made the scoop of the year. Then-Managing Editor Eugene Patterson once said that Cheshire had "the guts of a cat burglar."

Washington was evenly divided between those who wanted desperately to be in Cheshire's column, Very Important People, and those who were terrified they would be.

Anyway, she decided the rumors about the Onassis-Kennedy marriage were true when brushing her teeth one morning. She had sometimes suspected, she said, that she could read Jackie Kennedy's mind.

The impending wedding was finally officially announced by Mrs. Kennedy's mother, Mrs. Hugh D. Auchincloss, a few days before the event. By then, Cheshire was already on her way to Athens.

The Post's legendary women's editor Marie Sauer, with confidence in Cheshire's intuition, gave her $2,000 and sent her off on the next plane -- with only a pencil and a notebook.

In Athens, Cheshire found the bride's privacy was protected by four Secret Service men and the Onassis army. "The Greek navy," Cheshire said in an interview I wrote for Ladies Home Journal in 1970, "had four boats keeping people away from the island. A group of journalists had hired a boat to take them to a press yacht as big as Onassis's Christina, but they wouldn't let me on board. So, just as they were dashing off, I jumped into a man's lap, twisted my fingers into his hair, wrapped my legs around his and said I was going. We went. All we saw was the Onassis party entering and leaving the church."

She wrote in The Post that Onassis's Olympic Airways refused to "allow news media people to rent anything that flies." As a result, some 200 reporters spent a day and half trying to get to Skorpios. "Two Greek journalists somehow managed to sneak ashore and hide until they were discovered at daybreak and escorted {off the island} by sailors. The bedraggled newsmen were soaking wet and covered with sand and claimed they had been tossed in the sea to teach them a lesson," Cheshire wrote.

Back on the mainland, Cheshire slipped in the mud, breaking bones in her foot and spraining her ankle. At the orthopedist's office, she admired an 18th-century ormolu inkwell. (Cheshire's knowledge of antiques had been expanded by covering Jacqueline Kennedy's redecoration of the White House.) The doctor provided the antique dealer's address.

Riding in a cab to look for the Onassis villa in Athens, Cheshire said she saw the shop, went in, struck up a conversation with the dealer and mentioned why she was in town. He said he was at the wedding. Cheshire didn't believe him until "he got a copy of a newspaper from under the counter and showed me his picture with the wedding party."

Over lunch, "he told me every detail. He was the most poetic, the most eloquent source I ever had," she wrote. "I'm sure he remembered more than Jackie did."

Cheshire wrote that rain fell on the wedding day, causing the superstitious to say "the gods are weeping." Eight-year-old John-John (to those of us who were around when he was born) and his sister, Caroline, 10, were among the 20 or so attending their mother's wedding.

The two children carried white candles decorated with white flowers, brought by Onassis's son from Athens. The bride's beige chiffon dress was one she'd worn to a friend's wedding. Her shoes were flat to lessen the four-inch difference between her height and the groom's. After the relatives returned to the Hotel Bretague in Athens, Cheshire heard John-John, obviously well trained, announce authoritatively, "I'm not going to let the press inside and I'm not going to tell them anything."

After 28 years as a Washington Post reporter, Maxine Cheshire had her own spectacular wedding (her second) in 1982 -- not on an island but at a ranch near San Antonio -- with guests flying in aboard their LBJs (little bitty jets), fireworks, guitars, chamber music and best of all the groom, the very very rich Texan Jack Warren. They are living happily ever after in Houston, in a villa in France and in other delightful venues. Maxine told the Chronicler, "I have it all." CAPTION: John Kennedy Jr. followed in the footsteps of his mother, whose 1968 wedding to Aristotle Onassis took place under a shroud of privacy.