How brains got George Clooney to the altar
How UN adviser Amal Alamuddin charmed Hollywood's bachelor
George Clooney's long-list of previous girlfriends is befitting of a Hollywood heartthrob who, for many years, embraced whole-heartedly his bachelor status.
They tended to be tall, slim and beautiful, often with a public profile of sorts, but certainly nothing that could compare to Mr Clooney's own A-list status. Lisa Snowdon; Sarah Larson; Elisabetta Canalis and Stacy Keibler. At various stages since 2000, they all regularly appeared on Clooney's arm.
But then, a year ago, he met Amal Alamuddin. A graduate of Oxford and New York University, she unexpectedly boasts the same striking features as many of his former love interests. However, rather more surprising are her professional credentials: a human-rights barrister who counts beleaguered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko among her clients, she is furthermore an activist, UN adviser and author of some repute.
It took Clooney just six months to get down on one knee and propose. He offered Alam a giant, ethically-mined, seven-carat diamond and platinum sparkler, said to be worth €575,000. She accepted.
Now, after months of covert planning, their big day is fast approaching. Although they are still doing their utmost to keep the exact date a secret, it seems likely the couple will exchange vows on Saturday, September 20, at Clooney's 20-room Lake Como villa in northern Italy.
Born to wealthy academic parents in Beirut in February 1978, Amal is fluent in French and Arabic, as well as English. After civil unrest in her native country, she moved with her family to south-east England as a young child, and was educated there privately. It is believed Clooney met his wife-in-waiting through their mutual work with the UN. Of course, the Oscar winner's resistance to remarrying has been well-documented. After the collapse of his four-year marriage to actress Talia Balsam more than 20 years ago, Clooney has long maintained that a second trip to the altar was unlikely.
So what changed? Bernadette Ryan, a leading therapist at Relationships Ireland, says: "To quote another George - George Bernard Shaw on this occasion - progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
"In summary, Mr Clooney is perfectly entitled to take a matrimonial U-turn.
"He was married a long time ago - when he was in his late 20s and early 30s - and while he's long protested that he won't be remarrying, relationships are actually hard-wired into human DNA. At some level, even subconsciously, we all seek out that companionship."
Bernadette also thinks that, in contrast to many showbiz unions, in Amal, George has found a good match.
"There is an age gap, but I don't think necessarily they're rushing into it. Things tend to move that bit more quickly when you're a little older. You know more clearly what you want."
She also likes how Clooney has seemingly been humbled by his union with Amal: "She's very much the brains of the operation with the 'real' career; he's the pretty face who's in show business. But that will level them - he won't rule the roost just because he's famous."
Indeed, even with her fiance's fortune of more than €150m, Alam's busy schedule shows no signs of abating. She has confirmed recently that she currently has no fewer than eight cases of significance on her desk.
In Lebanon, community ties are all-important, and the actor has been wise enough to court her family too. He has invited them to join the couple on exotic holidays in the likes of Tanzania and the Seychelles. A few weeks before he proposed, Clooney, Amal and her siblings spent a weekend yachting in Dubai.
Amal is the eldest of two daughters, and the sisters are said to be particularly close. Naturally, Tala, to whom she bears a striking resemblance (as paparazzi have discovered to their frustration), was Amal's immediate choice for maid-of-honour.
Their father, Ramzi, is a former university professor while their mother, Baria, is a high-flying journalist. Amal also has two half-brothers from her father's first marriage, as well as a stash of beloved cousins, aunts and uncles with whom she is in regular contact.
Clooney's friends are now wondering whether children are next on the list for the 53-year-old, who has sworn he's no interest in ever becoming a father.
Plenty of Hollywood men well into their sixth decade and beyond - Steve Martin, Robert De Niro and Michael Douglas among them - have proven to be dedicated parents in later life.
And, if a child is indeed on the horizon for the couple, it seems plausible that George Clooney will be the one to take charge of summer-camps and school-runs while his wife continues with her career.
An actor who started out on ER and went on to win the respect of the biggest names in showbiz, as well as a stash of awards, has nothing to prove. In short, Clooney has achieved more than anyone expected. He can now be selective, choosing an occasional project he is really passionate about, rather than committing to a string of blockbusters and promotional work.
George Clooney, the world's most famous bachelor, has been charmed entirely by Amal Alamuddin.
Married to a beautiful lawyer, and a stay-at-home dad... a year ago, it would have been ridiculous. But then, in Amal and George, we have a love story truly worthy of Hollywood.
Amal's big day
Venue: Italy is their country of choice. Venice has been mentioned, but George's beloved €32 million Lake Como home is always going to be the front runner.
Attire: Details of her dress are being kept under wraps, though Oscar de la Renta seems most likely. George will be wearing Armani.
Guest-list: Brad and Angelina, along with Barack Obama, are confirmed. Matt Damon and Vogue editor Anna Wintour have made the cut too, with Bono flying the flag for Ireland.
Entertainment: George approached Lana del Ray almost immediately after he proposed. She's had practice too: in May the singer performed at Kanye and Kim's A-list bash, also in Italy.
Honeymoon: An exotic location seem likely, however, they may yet surprise fans. Following the Kardashian-West honeymoon in Ireland earlier this year, and given the actor's own Irish heritage, they could end up on these shores.