, RHINEBECK, Jul 31 – After an intensely secretive build-up Chelsea Clinton and her hedge fund manager beau were to marry Saturday at a star-studded wedding outside New York.
Former Democratic president Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were to attend their daughter\’s big day in Rhinebeck, a quaint rural retreat for New York\’s elite.
Other details were kept secret right to the eve of the nuptials in an extraordinary effort to ensure privacy for Chelsea, 30, and husband-to-be Marc Mezvinsky, 32.
The news blackout has fed a media frenzy, with news teams flooding tiny Rhinebeck to cover what\’s variously been dubbed the wedding of the decade, century, millennium, or just plain royal.
Ceremonies were set to take place at the grandiose Astor Courts house in a wooded area near Rhinebeck. Paparazzi sneaked pictures over the last few days of tents being erected on the grounds next to the elegant white building.
Security tightened rapidly as Saturday approached and the airspace over Astor Courts was declared a no-fly zone. Local road access was also due to be restricted.
Locals were on the lookout for celebrities among the expected 400 to 500 guests at the wedding.
Bill Clinton, looking trim after having been instructed by his daughter to lose weight, arrived in Rhinebeck and briefly met crowds Friday, offering warm words for his future son-in-law. "I admire him. Hillary feels the same way," he said.
Guests were given strict instructions not to disclose their invitations and were only told in the final run-up where to go.
According to unconfirmed media reports they were to include TV chat queen Oprah Winfrey, Hollywood mogul Steven Spielberg and possibly also former British premier John Major.
President Barack Obama won\’t be there — he says he wasn\’t actually invited and that in any case two presidents would be one too many at a wedding.
As secret as the guest list were details of the party itself, leaving the public to grasp at rumors and leaks.
Estimates by wedding planners have put the likely cost of the bash at anything between three and five million dollars.
NBC television reported that just the air-conditioned tents will cost 600,000 dollars and the flowers — arranged by florist-to-the-stars Jeff Leatham — half a million.
The sumptuous and exclusive occasion has raised eyebrows in some quarters at a time when Obama and the Democrats are under populist attack ahead of Congressional midterm elections and the economy continues to struggle.
"This is out of control," Boston Globe columnist Lauren Beckham Falcone wrote. "This isn\’t tasteful. It\’s tacky."
Celebrity gossip specialists, such as TMZ and People, published what they claim to be insider information ranging from the music list — featuring Michael Jackson\’s "Billie Jean" and Cat Stevens\’ "Wild World" — to the installation of 15,000 dollar luxury portable toilets.
In contrast with the hype, Chelsea and Mezvinsky are barely known to the wider public.
Chelsea met her future husband when she was a teenager attending a retreat for Democrats.
Although now a wealthy banker on Wall Street, he is known chiefly as the son of a former Democratic congressman who recently completed a five-year prison sentence for fraud.
She is a Methodist and he is Jewish. Nothing has been announced about whether they will marry in both religions, whether Chelsea is converting to Judaism or other options.