Match made in a heavenly 14 minutes
In the end, it took just 14 minutes. After four days of parties, gala dinners and water taxi rides amid the splendour of Venice, the formal wedding of George Clooney and his British fiancee, Amal Alamuddin, lasted about as long as it takes to drink a cappuccino in one of the waterfront bars lining the Grand Canal.
The couple swept up to Ca' Farsetti, the 13th century town hall, for a civil ceremony which formalised an exchange of vows they performed beneath an archway of white roses at a party in a seven-star hotel on the Grand Canal on Saturday.
Yesterday's brief ceremony, which took place behind closed doors, was the culmination of a wedding extravaganza that never seemed to end.
Since arriving in Venice on Friday the couple had thrown endless brunches, pool parties and dinners for their Hollywood glitterati friends, with A-list guests like Matt Damon, Bono and Anna Wintour zipping about the floating city for drinks at Harry's Bar and late dinners in tucked-away restaurants.
As had become almost routine ever since they arrived in the lagoon city, their water taxi, named Amore or Love, was mobbed by more than 20 speedboats full of photographers and television crews and escorted by a clutch of police launches.
Clooney (53) in a crisp grey suit, and human rights lawyer Alamuddin (36), in an elegant white trouser suit and a chic, broad-brimmed hat, stepped out of the taxi and walked into the town hall, as hundreds of tourists and Venetians cheered and clapped.
After waving briefly to the crowd, they entered the palazzo at 1.26pm, filmed and photographed by media from around the world. Venice's distinctive red and gold flag, depicting the winged lion of St Mark, billowed gently from a balcony above.
At 1.40pm, they were back, smiling broadly and greeting the crowds once more.
Clooney clapped his hands to applaud the crowds, who had waited for hours under a baking autumn sun, and beamed at a gondolier.
"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," said Rina Loizzi, from Montreal, who was in Venice for another wedding in the Cipriani Hotel, where Mr Clooney and his friends stayed.
"What are the chances of being in Venice for George Clooney's wedding? Even from a distance he looks very dashing."
Then they were off, whisked up the Grand Canal and under the Rialto Bridge, which was lined with yet more curious crowds.
"That's that then - no more chance of marrying George Clooney," said a Belgian woman in her 30s as she sat on the canal bank. It was a sentiment shared by millions of other women.
The wedding spectacle - the fourth in as many days involving Clooney plying Venice's crowded waterways in the midst of a flotilla of boats - brought the Grand Canal to a standstill, with water buses having to gun their engines in reverse to make way for the cavalcade.
Finally, it was over - the end of a wedding marathon which Clooney's publicists had always insisted would be low-key and private but which turned out be choreographed down to the last detail.
"If they had really wanted a secret wedding, then they shouldn't have done it down the Grand Canal," said one Venetian woman, as locals hung out of windows and strained from balconies to catch a glimpse of them.
In an unlikely convergence of Hollywood magic and prosaic reality, dozens of disgruntled Venetian council workers staged a protest either side of the town hall as the star arrived.
They were demonstrating against cuts to be imposed on social services, police and cultural heritage staff by a caretaker administration installed following the resignation of the mayor.
"It seems George might want to go into politics in America so this might give him a taste of what to expect," said Claudia Visser, an environmental officer who was protesting.
After motoring down the length of the Grand Canal, the couple were taken in their water taxi across the Venetian lagoon to the city's Marco Polo airport, from where they were due to board a flight to London, Italian media reported. They are believed to be planning to honeymoon in Marrakech. (© Daily Telegraph, London)