“Will you George Timothy Clooney take Amal Ramzi Alamuddin to be your lawful wedded wife?” With those words, or something like them, (and assuming they both say yes!) the silver haired Hollywood heart-throb will marry the highly-respected human rights lawyer in Venice this weekend. It’s the wedding of the year and the city is a-buzz!
The pair arrived earlier today not by private jet or limousine but rather private coach before decanting into a water taxi to travel down the Grand Canal.
Looking relaxed and gloriously happy the couple took in a few of the city of romance’s sights just like millions before them (although I doubt everybody else did it surrounded by boat-fulls of paparazzi!)
The exclusive Cipriani Hotel, established in 1958 by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar and inventor of the Bellini cocktail, is the Giudecca island base for George and Amal for the weekend.
And as the pair settled in, their A-list guests began to arrive via Marco Polo Airport. Big names spotted included Robert Di Niro, Matt Damon, American Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and Cindy Crawford along with her husband Rande Gerber who is rumoured to be George’s witness. Other guests expected to arrive in the morning include Brat Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Bono and Lana Del Ray who is due to sing.
But whilst the wedding party is based at the Cipriani, the couple will not be holding their wedding reception there an Italian couple already had it booked and apparently wouldn’t swap, not even for George Clooney!
So sadly George and Amal will have to make do with their second choice, the extraordinary and recently opened 7 Star Aman Hotel on the Grand Canal.
The Aman, originally the renaissance Palazzo Papadopoli with its two rooftop obelisks and canal-side garden, was built in the 1560s and houses ornately decorated reception rooms and a €3000-a-night wedding suite.
Its uniformed hotel staff spent this afternoon putting the finishing touches to behind the scenes preparations for tonight’s hen-party and tomorrow’s wedding reception as tourists passed to and fro water-buses along the canal.
Extra paintings were brought in to decorate the walls, additional curtains mounted to keep out prying eyes, pink disco-lighting staged, extra dining chairs delivered and candles set along the balcony of the hotel ready to welcome the bride-to-be.
And monogramed water taxi drivers delivered luggage to the hotel in preparation for the evening’s celebrations.
And throughout the afternoon international TV crews including RaiNews and RTL from Italy, Reuters from the UK and teams from Germany gathered in the San Marco district to find a canal-side vantage point for the Aman’s landing jetty.
But its no easy feat as the hotel is only overlooked by private palazzi, not public quayside, so cameramen, journalists and little old me made use of any and every wooden jetty available to await arrivals.
And wait we did! Bored journalists interviewed tourists, locals, paparazzi and eachother to build their stories and pass the time.
One presenter even closed his live broadcast to camera by pretending to push me into the canal, rewarding me with a kiss for my part in the charade! Fame at last!
As the sun dipped behind the horizon rumours were flying about when the hen-party would actually start but 8pm came and went without any arrivals, as did 9pm. Gradually, as the evening cooled, TV crews and photographers gave in and packed up but a few stalwarts pushed on.
And eventually, on the dot of 10pm, patience was finally rewarded as a flotilla of around 12 motor taxis cruised in formation up the Grand Canal.
First out was bride-to-be Amal in a beautiful red, floaty, full-length dress followed shortly after by other female members of her family in similarly glamorous pink, silver, sequined and sky-blue gowns.
Sadly my camera doesn’t like night-time photography without a tripod but I can promise you that this is Amal in red!
However, the surprise of the evening was that the fleet didn’t just include the ladies but also George Clooney!!
The Hollywood actor, surrounded by his stag-party mates, accompanied the ladies to the Aman hotel in convoy before bidding Amal goodnight at the door. The stag party aboard Clooney’s regular water taxi Amore then headed off down the Rio di San Luca canal towards St Mark’s and presumably back to the Cipriani, closely followed the paparazzi who had joined the fleet.
The bride and groom will, as tradition dictates, spend the last night of their single lives apart before the wedding tomorrow at the Aman followed by a civil ceremony on Monday. The civil wedding will take place at Venice’s City Hall, based in two 13th century palaces near the Rialto Bridge – Palazzo Loredan and Palazzo Farsetti.
Officiating will be the ex-Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, who became firm friends with George after the actor was honored in Rome in 2007 with a human rights award for his activism on behalf of refugees in Darfur. And for the fashionistas reading, the bride is expected to wear Alexander McQueen while the groom will be in tailored Giorgio Armani.
In the meantime, as the hen and stag parties undoubtedly continue into the wee small hours, fuelled by Clooney’s own-brand Casamigos Tequilla maybe, lets hope the city of romance can weave her magic to create a wonderful wedding day for George and Amal. And in the words of the Italians let’s wish them “I nostri migliori auguri e tanta felicità” or in other words, “All the best and wishing you both all the happiness in the world!” Buona note tutti! Until the morning!