It is a truth universally acknowledged that media and infotainment companies in possession of a gigantic fortune are in want of a massive celebrity wedding, and this is the biggest imaginable, until Joseph Ratzinger announces his engagement.
Human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin finally married her movie actor fiancé George Clooney in a five-day festival in Venice, which has been like an affair of state, conducted in what paparazzi brusquely call “goat fuck” conditions.
The boat carrying George Clooney and his wife Amal Alamuddin is surrounded by media and security boats as they cruise the Grand Canal after leaving the Aman luxury Hotel in Venice on Sunday
Clooney and Alamuddin’s boat is flanked by media and security on Sunday. Photograph: Luigi Costantini/AP
Innumerable reporters and photographers in speedboats and chartered water taxis have been drenching canalside gift shops with tidal waves of murky water as they whoosh madly back and forth looking for stories. Meanwhile, thousands of columnists all over the world have all filed “Does-this-mean-I-can’t-marry-George?” articles.
The ceremony itself has been locked down, picture rights having been sold for charity to US Vogue – whose editor, Anna Wintour, has been pictured gingerly stepping aboard a bobbing craft – but snippets have got out. The ceremony was performed by Rome’s former mayor Walter Veltroni, and the bride and groom processed through an arch of imported white roses while the assembled guests beamed and a string quintet played Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Later, guests were reportedly offered a choice between sea bass and Chianina steak. The couple have released a lovably goofy snapshot of George biting Amal’s hat.
Anna Wintour takes to the waves for the wedding. Photograph: Olycom SPA/Rex
That Venetian location was almost outrageous, positively Bondian in its glamour. So much so that one might almost suspect a huge tongue-in-cheek stunt or hoax on Mr Clooney’s part, a delicious diversionary tactic that could have been dreamt up by Danny Ocean (Clooney’s roguish heist-caper mastermind in his movie Ocean’s Eleven) as a ruse to distract the media’s attention from the fact that the real wedding had happened, or was about to happen elsewhere: in Rome, or Paris or Wood Green register office in north London.
What a difference to his first wedding in 1989, in which the younger George Clooney, unencumbered by these almost constitutional responsibilities, just jumped into a Winnebago with his girlfriend Talia Balsam, headed for Vegas and got hitched. The couple parted some years later, on perfectly amicable terms. That cheap’n’cheerful scenario, together with his new wife’s job, call to mind one of George Clooney’s greatest and in my view most underrated performances: as Miles Massey, the divorce lawyer in the Coen brothers’ comedy Intolerable Cruelty, from 2003.
Miles Massey specialises in protecting older rich guys with what he calls the “Massey prenup”, a specially worded clause that will ring-fence their fortunes in case of marital breakdown. He himself is not susceptible to the blandishments of beautiful women – or so he thinks, until he meets serial divorcee Marilyn Rexroth, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, a woman so seductive she gets rich men galloping to Las Vegas to tie the knot without taking any form of legal precaution. At the time, Zeta-Jones’s witty performance was especially savoured because she had just married Michael Douglas.
Well, there is of course no comparison here. Alamuddin is highly successful and respected as a professional in her own right: a brilliant and serious person who was perhaps the only plausible marital prospect for a man who has become almost a byword for handsomeness, a bachelor from another, more glamorous age who could surely not expect or want to remain single forever.
They are clearly radiantly happy, and she is quite possibly the dominant partner. With this wedding, Alamuddin and Clooney have co-directed a sensational piece of multimedia street theatre: a spectacular event played out in the canals of Venice, in exclusive hotels, and in glossy magazine pages. They have led the media a dance: to paraphrase the biggest hit from Clooney’s aunt, 50s singing star Rosemary Clooney, it’s been a Mambo Italiano of self-aware glamour.