Image: Parrot Cay Resort
Parrot Cay Resort
Most people aren't fortunate enough to call Bruce Willis a friend. Even fewer have the luxury of using his private villa in Parrot Cay as the setting for their nuptials. Most people aren't Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. When the big-screen duo said "I do" in the summer of 2005, the scene couldn't have been more picturesque: Affleck and Garner exchanged rings at sunset on the white sandy beach of the 1,000-acre property.
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updated 11/8/2007 5:03:34 PM ET 2007-11-08T22:03:34

Their actual marriages may last no longer than they take to consummate. Yet, living in a world where Brangelina, Bennifer and TomKat have become staples in the general population’s lexicon, it’s no surprise that we look to celebrities for tips on everything — beauty, fashion, and particularly weddings — especially since, when it comes to a bash, the rich and famous spare no expense. And although our notable idols could have their pick of wedding locales — from Scottish castles to private islands in the Mediterranean — many of them opt for hotel soirees for a number of reasons, first and foremost convenience.

“The opulence of a hotel is already there. The bride and groom don’t have much setting up to do in terms of having a reception,” says Laura Schreffler, senior writer at celebrity weekly OK! Magazine. “It’s all laid out, and the hotel workers will generally take care of everything for them so they don’t have to do much planning.”

Picking a location is just the first step in the wedding planning process, and celebrities go about it in many different ways, whether they leave it all in a professional’s hands or decide on somewhere that’s close to their hearts.

“A lot of times people will choose destinations because they’ve never been there before — that’s one way to do it,” Rosie Amodio, editor of InStyle Weddings, reveals. “Other times it’s a place that they just absolutely love, or another experience might be just because certain places are great at pulling off weddings. It’s more about personal taste and what specifically [the bride and groom] are looking for.”

But with hundreds, often thousands, of hotels to choose from in any given country, not to mention access to all the extravagant accoutrements one could desire, how are celebrities to even begin to choose where to say their vows? Many factors play a part, the experts say, yet the prime ingredient is elemental: privacy. Whereas lesser-known stars trying to work their way up the hierarchy of fame may revel in the thought of hosting a wedding covered by every media outlet known under the sun, those who have already reached the top tend to value low-key affairs.

“In terms of weddings, I think the first thing celebrities really look for is privacy. And if it’s not full privacy, it’s the ability to have some control over what is seen. I think that’s definitely at the top of their list,” comments Amodio. “With Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, there was quite a bit of media attention surrounding the wedding even though it was in Italy, but it still was nothing like it would have been had it taken place in a Hollywood hotel.”

Adds Schreffler, “Most of the bigger stars tend to go for remote location — somewhere incredibly beautiful that is sort of untouched, as if you were the first to discover it.”

Image: Hotel Bel-Air
© Hotel Bel-Air
With the beauty and class of one of Southern California's most famed hotels easily accessible for Hollywood residents, it's not uncommon for stars to get hitched at the sophisticated, cream-of-the-crop Hotel Bel-Air. Acting duo Jay Mohr and Nikki Cox tied the knot there in 2006, as did Kate Beckinsale and her filmmaker hubby Len Wiseman in 2004.
Finding such an untapped spot is difficult, but not impossible.

“People like Angelina Jolie, if she were ever to get married, travel so much and explore parts of the world that are not really touched,” Schreffler explains. “That’s her thing — to go where people need help. She had her last baby, Shiloh, in Namibia, so she might get married in Africa, for example — somewhere unspoiled that’s very hard to get to.”

International locations have always been fashionable: David Bowie and Iman jetted off to Italy more than a decade ago for their wedding. As one might expect, California is another focal point for weddings of all tastes: From vineyards in Napa to elegantly restored five-stars in West Hollywood, the Golden State has every option one could dream up. In particular, L.A.’s Hotel Bel-Air remains a constant draw for those like Kate Beckinsale and Len Wiseman who are in a hurry to head to the altar.

Not far north of L.A., ritzy Santa Barbara continues to be a hotbed of wedding activity, as does California’s neighbor Mexico, which has become increasingly popular as a wedding destination.

“For people who live in California, Mexico is just a hop, skip and jump away. It’s like Martha’s Vineyard is to New Yorkers,” Amodio says.

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Holding a wedding at a single-resort island or, more broadly, hotels in tropical locales is another growing trend — whether it’s somewhere far off the radar, like the South Pacific, or as nearby as Barbados, where Tiger Woods and his wife, Swedish model Elin Nordegren, celebrated their 2004 nuptials.

Other laid-back duos like Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger, whose short-lived marriage was made official in St. John, and Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, who fended off the paparazzi in the Turks and Caicos, took to the Caribbean when the time came to say “I do.”

Once a remote location has been pinpointed, finding a hotel equipped to handle a high-profile event is vital, as is the hotel’s resume of previous functions of a similar magnitude.

“The most important things [in a celebrity affair] are privacy and security,” says Mindy Weiss, L.A.-based celebrity wedding planner. “It’s crucial that the hotel has dealt with high-end and celebrity clients and has the highest regard for client confidentiality.”

After the first two requirements — finding a remote location and booking a private venue — are met, the final step is to ensure that couple and location are a good match.

“In general, whether you’re a celebrity or not, you just want to find a place that’s really compatible with your personality. I think the hotel route is a really nice one because hotels can afford any type of experience,” Amodio says. “You can have a more regal experience, like holding it in a castle hotel, or it can be a more secluded island in Fiji where you get married. Hotels are very equipped for destination weddings and have systems to bring in whatever you want. They’re just sort of all-in-one in a lot of ways.”

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