THE WEDDING OF THE YEAR – CHELSEA CLINTON AND MARC MEZVINSKY

Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton will wed her longtime boyfriend Saturday in a ceremony that has been shrouded in secrecy but is likely to be attended by a plethora of famous faces.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, were seen leaving a party honouring their daughter and her husband-to-be, investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, in Rhinebeck, N.Y. shortly before midnight Friday.

wedding july 31
A couple of workers put a fence around the Beekman Arms Inn in anticipation of its closing to the public for the Chelsea Clinton wedding in Rhinebeck, N.Y.,
Friday, July 30, 2010
Photo By Mary Altaffer

It is believed the couple will wed in front of more than 400 guests at the grand Astor Courts estate.

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Roads were closed throughout the town of 8,000, while police, security guards and the Secret Service kept curious onlookers a safe distance from the estate and the Beekman Arms Hotel, where many wedding guests are staying.

astor-court
Astor Courts is seen in Rhinebeck, N.Y.,
on Wednesday, July 28, 2010.
Chelsea Clinton plans to marry fiance
Marc Mezvinsky at Astor Courts today
Photo By Mike Groll

While rumours have circulated that the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg are on the guest list, fans looking for Hollywood star power have so far only caught a glimpse of movie producer Steve Bing, who was seen Friday night outside the hotel.

A number of political heavyweights have also been spotted, including Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state during Clinton’s second term as president, and former Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan.

The former president himself wowed locals Friday by having lunch at a local restaurant, walking a few blocks of the trip to shake hands with dozens of people who shouted “Congratulations” and “We love you” as he walked by.

The notoriously publicity shy 30-year-old bride has kept many of the details around the ceremony under wraps. But one local resident said police told her earlier this week the road to Astor Courts will be closed from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., suggesting a late afternoon or early evening ceremony.

Andrea Alvin said Clinton’s wedding planner sent her a bottle of wine from the local Clinton Vineyards winery along with a note apologizing for the inconvenience.

“I think it’s great. It’s a happy occasion,” Alvin said. “It’s good publicity for the town. It’s just a weekend. What’s losing a weekend in the summer?”

Clinton and Mezvinsky were friends as teenagers in Washington, where the groom’s parents served in Congress, and both attended Stanford University. They now live in New York City, where Mezvinsky works at hedge fund G3 Capital. Clinton recently completed her master’s degree in public health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

The Couple

When Chelsea Clinton weds Marc Mezvinsky on Saturday, it will be the culmination of a long and largely private courtship. The two first met as teenagers at an elite retreat in South Carolina favoured by Ms. Clinton’s parents. Sparks didn’t fly, apparently. Both went on to attend Stanford University and then started dating a few years ago.

Like Ms. Clinton, Mr. Mezvinsky knows what it’s like to grow up in a prominent political family and survive a brutal public scandal.

marc-july-31
Marc Mezvinsky with his mother,
Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky,
when she joined Congress
Photo By Dennis Cook

Mr. Mezvinsky’s mother and father were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; his father, Ed Mezvinsky, later spent five years in prison after being convicted of fraud. Once the nuptials and honeymoon are over, the newlyweds will return to New York, where Mr. Mezvinsky, 32, works for a hedge fund and Ms. Clinton, 30, is pursuing a master’s degree in public health at Columbia University.

Marc Mezvinsky won Chelsea Clinton’s heart, and may also be the best-qualified fellow to survive such a pressure-cooker occasion. The 32-year-old hedge-fund trader is, like her, the son of two high-powered politicians who endured scandal and loss. Mom Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky was a popular correspondent for Washington’s NBC-4 in the ’70s and ’80s later elected as a Democrat to Congress from Pennsylvania; she lost her seat after one term. Dad Ed Mezvinsky served two terms as a congressman from Iowa before Marc was born; convicted of defrauding investors of millions in 2001, he served seven years in a federal prison.

So what if there are supposedly 400 people going to his wedding? Mezvinsky knows crowds: He grew up in a blended family of 11 kids, some adopted, who frequently shared space with refugee families his mother took in. (He lives a little more comfortably now, in a $4.million condo he bought in N.Y.C.’s Flatiron District in 2008.)

And he’s got extensive experience with having his love life scrutinized: He was already a gossip-column fixture at age 19. That’s when the Stanford freshman showed prospective student Chelsea (a friend from childhood) around campus and got everyone buzzing. “I think it’s an insult to young girls everywhere to say that someone as smart as Chelsea would pick a college because of a boy,” his mother huffed to New York’s Daily News at the time. “Marc and Chelsea are friends, that’s it.” Eight years later, they were dating.

The Town

The “ClintVinsky” wedding, as some have dubbed it, is the biggest thing to happen to the hamlet of Rhinebeck since the place was founded by Dutch settlers in 1688. Situated on the eastern bank of the Hudson River about two hours north of Manhattan, the town – population 8,000 – is already overrun with media sniffing around for details of the weekend’s festivities. While small, Rhinebeck has long attracted an upscale crowd. Annie Leibovitz, Liam Neeson, and Bette Midler are among the celebrities who have homes in the vicinity. Some wedding guests will be staying at the Beekman Arms Inn, which claims to be the oldest continuously operated hotel in America. (Not to fear, all guest rooms were renovated in 1995.) The hotel has an impeccable presidential pedigree: George Washington slept there during the Revolutionary War and Franklin Roosevelt was a frequent visitor.

The Venue

For America’s equivalent of a royal wedding, there is an appropriately regal venue. Astor Courts was built as a sporting retreat in 1902 by millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and modelled after the Grand Trianon pavilion at Versailles. Set back from prying eyes among 20 hectares of wooded fields, the building originally included guest bedrooms, an indoor swimming pool, two squash courts and a shooting range. Helicopters have been spotted flying over the venue in recent weeks, according to locals. For the rehearsal dinner, the setting is no less grand. It’s reportedly being held at Grasmere, an estate built in 1774 encompassing a Georgian manor and Edwardian stone barns set in hundreds of hectares of farmland.

The Bruised Feelings

After a lifetime in politics, the bride’s parents have accumulated a universe of friends, donors, and hangers-on. The wedding’s guest list, however, is restricted to an inner circle of about 500, with the bride and groom reportedly insisting that they know each person themselves. Those who made the cut include Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg and Ted Turner, reports say. As for presidents, only one – the father of the bride – will be in attendance. President Barack Obama wasn’t invited, he revealed this week. (“Hillary and Bill properly want to keep this as a thing for Chelsea,” he said magnanimously.) Also not coming: former vice-president Al Gore. And of course, what’s a wedding without a little family drama? The groom’s uncle, Norton Mezvinsky, who had a falling-out with his nephew, didn’t receive an invite.

The Budget

The tab for the Clinton-Mezvinsky extravaganza is a source of intense speculation among wedding planners, who put the price tag at upwards of $3-million, according to the New York Daily News. Big-ticket items include an enormous air-conditioned tent, extensive security measures, transportation for guests, elaborate flower arrangements and luxury port-a-potties (more like trailers, featuring porcelain sinks). The man responsible for ensuring it all goes off without a hitch is Bryan Rafanelli, a Boston-based event planner who handled some of the inaugural festivities for Mr. Obama and oversaw the nuptials of Red Sox owner John Henry.

The Security

Keeping gate crashers, reporters, and worse from the assembled luminaries is a major focus of the planning. Two people – a newspaper editor and a photographer – have already been arrested for trespassing at Astor Courts. As the appointed hour draws nearer, security will tighten. Planes will be restricted from a swath of airspace along the Hudson River from 3 p.m. Saturday to 3:30 a.m. Sunday. Then there’s the information blackout. Anyone connected with the wedding has reportedly signed a confidentiality agreement not to disclose any choice tidbits. And forget about seeing unauthorized videos on YouTube: Guests will have to surrender their cellphones and BlackBerrys at the door.

The Gossip

As with any wedding, the bride’s dress is a focus of much curiosity. Early punters bet on a custom creation by Oscar de la Renta, a favourite of the bride’s mother, who also dreamed up the wedding gown worn by another first daughter, Jenna Bush, in 2008. But Women’s Wear Daily snapped photos of Ms. Clinton heading into Vera Wang’s studio earlier this week looking suspiciously like she was headed for a trial run of the bridal ensemble. (Under a huge floppy hat, she wore a chic updo and perfect makeup.) Another source of fascination: the ceremony. While Ms. Clinton was raised a Methodist, Mr. Mezvinsky is Jewish, prompting rumours that a rabbi will be involved. Some are even buzzing that Ms. Clinton might jettison her famous last name, though others say that’s highly unlikely.

See Related: AMERICA’S DAUGHTER NOW CHELSEA CLINTON MEZVINSKY

See Related: CHELSEA CLINTON REGAL WEDDING A NO-FLY ZONE

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