VENICE, Italy — In a scene that, at times, seemed straight out of a Hollywood film set, George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin managed to turn a 14-minute civil marital ceremony at the town hall into a four-day gala event, filling the city’s coffers and transforming the grand canal into an aquatic red carpet with five star-studded watercades that delighted tourists and Venetians alike.
The extravagant event started Friday afternoon with a true La Dolce Vita style arrival in a teak-hulled boat called “Amore” that shimmered down the Grand Canal, followed by his and hers bachelor and bachelorette parties on the town. On Saturday, guests were treated to a gala party in the seven-star Aman Hotel where they exchanged vows and rings—hers is diamond encrusted and his is white gold.
On Sunday, VIP guests had a late brunch with the newlyweds who finally left the Aman Hotel around 3 p.m., followed by yet another dinner party—this time at the Cipriani Hotel Granary restaurant after private excursions around the local Venetian islands. Bono serenaded the couple.
On Monday, most of the big guests went home and George, Amal and their families took care of the formal wedding business by signing the register at Venice’s town hall. Then, in what was an exit every bit as dazzling as the entrance, the couple glided down the Grand Canal straight to the airport (in a boat called “Amore”) for a flight to London as the crowds cheered and waved. Alamuddin’s father, Ramzi, said he was happy that his daughter’s nuptials could add a little glimmer to an otherwise dreary news landscape.
“It is very good news among the bad news we are living now," he told AFP Beirut by phone from Venice. “It was grand, simple and perfect. The couple really do match. The couple was very happy about how they were welcomed in Venice."
Venice is no stranger to the high society set, but there was something so genuinely sincere and gracious about the way Clooney and company used the city as a wedding prop without using it up, that it didn’t seem nearly as over-the-top as it so obviously was. Clooney’s future parents-in-law reportedly paid each of the water police who had to work overtime an extra €2,500 ($3,171) for the four-day event, which is more than half of their monthly salaries.
Alamuddin’s parents, who paid for the parties, reportedly left generous tips to the wait staff who helped make the event sparkle, no doubt helping buy their silence about the details. It worked. No one uttered a word. The city’s hotels, which are rarely vacant, overflowed with expensed account entertainment and mainstream journalists. One water taxi driver told The Daily Beast that he made more in two days hauling camera crews around than he had all summer. “Come back if this marriage doesn’t work out, George,” he yelled as the parade left the lagoon city.
Even the unionists who had been gathering in front of the Venice City Hall to protest job cuts for the better part of the last week turned to applaud the clearly happy couple when they passed by them Monday midday to Ca’ Fassetti town hall not far from the Rialto Bridge. A few held signs addressed to George, asking him to “adopt an unemployed worker.” They even sent a letter starting with “Caro (Dear) George” to the superstar asking him to remember their plight once the wedding party leaves the lagoon. “We needed a little bit of good news,” Roberto Doni, a vegetable vendor, told The Daily Beast as he unloaded pumpkins on the Grand Canal as Clooney and Alamuddin made it official inside city hall. “It’s nice to have a fairytale moment in the middle of this nightmare time.”
Italy has always been kind to the man formerly known as the world’s most eligible bachelor. He is such a regular at the annual Venice film festival that he gets to mix his own drinks at the Cipriani Hotel on the Giudecca Island where he always stays. His digs on Lake Como are a local tourist attraction for women who wish they were Alamuddin. No doubt, the Italians would have been offended if he had chosen to marry anywhere else.
With the exception of one extremely close call between a vaporetto water bus and a water taxi packed with long lens paparazzis on the Grand Canal, which could have easily turned the whole event into a Princess Diana Paris tunnel moment, there were no serious problems. Even the weather cooperated, with unseasonably warm sunny skies despite torrential hailstorms that pounded the city just a few days earlier.
Perhaps the best headline out of the whole event goes to The Business Woman, whose title “Internationally Acclaimed Barrister Marries Actor” went viral. “Little is known of Amal’s earlier relationships (we assume she was climbing that corporate ladder and smashing glass ceilings) but she’s tying the knot with an actor, whose name is George Clooney, we’re told,” the article states. “He’s probably a nice man, but seems to be a bit clingy, as since she met him it’s hard to find a photo or footage of Amal without him hanging around in the background.”
For Venetians at least, the honeymoon is over. For Clooney and Alamuddin however, it is just beginning—reportedly with a romantic Moroccan getaway. One can only hope that their life together is even a fraction as fabulous as their wedding.