'Wedding of the century' for Chelsea

2010-07-31 23:01

Rhinebeck - After an intensely secretive build-up, Chelsea Clinton and her Wall Street banker beau were tying the knot on Saturday at a lavish bash outside the quaint town of Rhinebeck, rural New York.

A carnival atmosphere took over Rhinebeck in the final hours before what US tabloids hyped as "wedding of the century", or even of the "millennium".

Throngs of well-wishers and celebrity watchers gathered in the sunshine at Rhinebeck's main crossroads for a glimpse of A-list guests staying at the Beekman Arms Inn before heading to the exclusive party at a mansion outside town.

The bride's parents - former president Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - arrived on the eve of the wedding. Other guests were expected to include the likes of TV chat show queen Oprah Winfrey.

"This is exciting. There's so much trouble in the world but this Saturday everything stops just for this wedding," said Anne McConnell, who'd secured a strategically placed bench opposite the Beekman in hopes of seeing members of the Clinton family.

"It's just a shame it's not on TV," she said. "This should be live on TV like Princess Diana's wedding."

High-security seclusion

There was no chance McConnell's prayers would be answered.

Chelsea, 30, and Marc Mezvinsky, 32, prepared their nuptials in the kind of secrecy usually reserved for state affairs.

The wedding itself was taking place in the high-security seclusion of Astor Courts, an estate just outside Rhinebeck.

Authorities declared a no-fly zone there to prevent paparazzi photos and police were blocking cars from approaching the site.

Right up until the last week the location was not confirmed and even in the hours up to the ceremony it remained unknown which designer made Chelsea's dress or which guests were invited.

Yet another mystery was whether a minister, rabbi - or both - would preside, since Chelsea is a Methodist and Mezvinsky is Jewish.

The news blackout fed a media frenzy, with news teams from Japan to Israel flooding Rhinebeck.

Obama not invited

Reports from gossip websites such as TMZ and tabloids like New York's Daily News painted an extraordinarily lavish occasion likely to cost $3m to $5m.

That included renting Astor Courts, which was commissioned a century ago by John Jacob Astor IV, who died on the Titanic.

Chelsea is believed to have ordered a dress from top designer Vera Wang, while just the air-conditioned tents erected for the day are estimated to cost $600 000, with the floral arrangements only slightly less.

Although guests were given strict instructions not to disclose invitations, they were reported to include Winfrey, Hollywood mogul Steven Spielberg and possibly also former British prime minister John Major.

President Barack Obama won't be there - he says he wasn't actually invited and that in any case two presidents would be one too many at a wedding.

Joining in the news blackout, staff at the Beekman Arms refused to respond journalists' questions about guests after having reportedly signed confidentiality agreements.

That left locals to gossip on street corners or the local diner, Pete's Famous Restaurant, and to cheer at the sight of a humorous couple parading around town in Bill and Hillary rubber masks.

Or for $25, they could just buy the T shirt - a white number inscribed "The Wedding, Rhinebeck, NY", with a picture of two interlocking rings.