VENICE—In what could only be described as a true Hollywood entrance, George Clooney and his blushing Lebanese-British bride Amal Alamuddin, glided down Venice’s shimmery Grand Canal in a water taxi named “Amore” on Friday afternoon to the sound of snapping paparazzi and applauding tourists. Clooney wore a lightweight autumnal gray suit; Alamuddin, a human rights lawyer, wore a black and white Gondolier-striped Dolce & Gabbana sundress amid snickers from Venetians who have already changed their seasonal wardrobes to leather jackets and long pants. No doubt Alamuddin, being used to British weather, would likely still consider the warm September sun summery. The multi-boat entourage, which included Cindy Crawford and her husband Rande Gerber, who is expected to be Clooney’s best man, along with the paparazzi who led and tailed them, created such a wake in the Grand Canal that gondoliers complained about the “Clooney tsunami.”
Mr. and soon-to-be-Mrs. Clooney arrived in the outskirts of the lagoon city from Lake Como in a non-descript mini van with family and friends, including Clooney’s aunt Rosemary’s son Miguel Ferrer, who starred in Jordan’s Crossing. Meanwhile, celebrity guests Matt Damon and his wife flew in by helicopter. By Saturday afternoon, there was still no sign of Brad Pitt or his newlywed wife, Angelina Jolie, who were expected in Venice by private jet from Paris. Bono was also expected to arrive in similar fashion from Dublin late Saturday.
Friday night, Alamuddin and her four bridesmaids and female entourage had an elegant hen party at the seven-star Aman Hotel in the 16th Century Palazzo Papadopoli on the Grand Canal, where an even more spectacular party will be held Saturday night. Rooms at the Aman cost more than $3,000 a night, though only Alamuddin and her family, who are said to be footing the bill for the entire wedding, are reportedly the only ones staying there. The Alamuddin family has shipped in furniture, original artwork and hundreds of candles for the Saturday evening event, which will reportedly end with a massive fireworks display over Venice.
Most of the other 120 guests are staying at the recently renovated Cipriani Hotel, though Robert DeNiro was spotted checking into the regal Danieli Hotel near St. Mark’s Square. Clooney, who is a long-time patron of the Venice Film Festival, garners an almost God-like respect from Venetians who are generally quick to snub glitterati. “We are used to celebrities here,” said Elena Giansoldati as she walked her dog along the Zattere boardwalk facing the Giudecca Island on Saturday morning. “But George Clooney is more like family, we are blessed to have his wedding here.”
Vogue editor Anna Wintour was spotted in a water taxi with the bridal party on Friday night as they disembarked at the Aman Hotel. Vogue has reportedly bought up the exclusive rights to the wedding photos, and Italian media reported that Wintour is personally advising Alamuddin what to wear from around a dozen couture and hand-picked ensembles she brought along for the three-day gala that will culminate with a civil ceremony at the Venice City Hall officiated by former Roman mayor and Clooney friend Walter Veltroni. Venice is currently without a mayor after a major corruption scandal tied to the Moses floodgates that should protect the city from flooding sank the local government. The Italian press has also named Amal’s gorgeous younger sister Tala the “Pippa Middleton” of this pseudo-royal event for having the potential to out-glam her older sister.
Il divo Clooney and a party of seven held his stag night party Friday evening at the appropriately named Da’Ivo Restaurant, where the owner told The Daily Beast they drank house wine and ate appetizers with pumpkin flowers, fresh crab and fresh figs followed by white truffle pasta and mushroom risotto. The men reportedly then returned to the Cipriani Hotel where Clooney is such a frequent guest he is allowed to stir drinks at the bar.
Near St. Mark’s square at Harry’s Bar, another favorite spot for Clooney when he is in Venice, waiters confirmed to The Daily Beast that there were a dozen reservations for “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” on Saturday which was being used as a secret code for Clooney wedding guests who were whisked up to a private corner of the dining room to sip Bellini overlooking the picturesque canals prior to the gala party.
When reporters and paparazzi in water taxis hovering near the Cipriani’s open garden yelled questions to him about the wedding on Saturday morning as he lunched al fresco with Cindy Crawford and her husband, he deadpanned, “I’m not getting married.” He later sent a bottle of his own Casamigos Tequila to Extra correspondent A.J. Calloway who was on a boat near the paparazzi and yelled, “Don’t drink it all at once.” Calloway later posted an Instagram shot with the bottle and a cigar to thank him.
On the nearby San Gregory monastery island, even the monks were protective of Clooney’s privacy, stopping anyone with a long lens camera from climbing the belfry that overlooks the Cipriani hotel swimming pool, though plenty of reporters with binoculars climbed the tower to sneak a peak.
A privacy tunnel was set up for guests arriving by water taxi at the Aman Hotel to presumably shield the bride from prying paparazzi. All the guests, staff and security detail are required to wear computer chip pins to get into any of the events, and they have been prohibited from taking smart phones or tablets to the parties as part of a “no selfie” stipulation.
All eyes will be on the Aman Saturday afternoon for the gala main event, which outshined whatever is left for the Monday morning civil service at the Venice town hall. Italy’s daily paper La Repubblica has even set up a livecam feed to capture the comings and goings of the star-studded guest list.
On Sunday, the Clooney wedding party is expected to have a celebratory dinner at the famous Antichi Granai on the Giudecca Island, near the Ciprani hotel, which was already booked for another wedding on Saturday night. On Monday, the three-day gala will wrap up with the bureaucratic civil ceremony, which is a simple formality at the Venice town hall in the Palazzo Cavalli across the canal from the Aman Hotel. There is no word where the newlyweds will spend their honeymoon.