How Celebrities Keep Their Weddings a Secret

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux married recently in a quiet ceremony at their home in Los Angeles.
Credit Paul Buck/European Pressphoto Agency

A “secret” celebrity wedding: In the age of social media, it seems like a Hollywood oxymoron on the order of “late-career comeback” and “no-fault divorce.”

Even so, to judge by the number of celebrities trying off-the-grid nuptials, far from the prying lenses of the paparazzi (Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux, married Aug. 5 in a quiet ceremony at their home in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles, are but the latest), the underground wedding has become one of Hollywood’s biggest status symbols.

Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, and Zooey Deschanel and Jacob Pechenik are among the many couples to attract intense media speculation over their stealth unions, which generally managed to unfold in private without the tabloid scrum.

The famous friends who earn coveted invitations seem to acknowledge that, among the celebrity class, the No. 1 wedding gift on every registry these days is silence.

“I’m afraid to even talk about that wedding because everyone is on top-secret lockdown,” Howard Stern, a guest at the Aniston-Theroux ceremony, said on a recent SiriusXM broadcast. (“Howard Stern discretion,” of course, is another oxymoron; the Medusa-haired shock jock promptly let slip that Jimmy Kimmel had presided over the ceremony.)

No matter how much stars try to hide under the dome of silence, leaks are inevitable with some.

Ms. Aniston and her Ducati-loving husband, for instance, tried a major head-fake before their ceremony, reportedly hiding their party gear in a vacant house next door and telling guests they were being invited to Mr. Theroux’s 44th birthday party, not a wedding.

But within days, the tabloid-hungry public already knew about the guest list (which included Lisa Kudrow, Orlando Bloom and Lake Bell), Ms. Aniston’s dress (summery, boho-inspired) and their cake (Muppets-themed).

TMZ and People published numerous photos of the backyard setup, taken from high overhead, and grainy shots of a vendor carrying the cake. But no photos have emerged of the couple themselves, denying the gossip-hungry public even a mental image of the affair, the kind that can linger for years after, say, a royal wedding.

The truth is, the best efforts of the stars are not enough. Even the most discreet wedding is a team effort, so it comes down to the wedding planners, charged with overseeing the whole affair, to make sure that everyone, guests included, observes the lockdown.

“There’s no midpoint: It’s absolute secrecy, or it’s everywhere,” said Marcy Blum, the planner for several celebrity weddings, including LeBron James’s 2013 hyper-private event (the printed invitations did not even list a time or place). “Because of cellphones, TMZ doesn’t have to stake out a wedding for there to be a leak. Everyone’s an investigative reporter.”

Here are a few A-list planners discussing the new rules of the hush-hush celebrity wedding. (The following interviews have been edited and condensed).

Celebrity Weddings Spain: “That’s were celebrity wedding Spain comes in with our confidentially agreements, and un-cover operations. Only 2 staff members actually will know who the celebrity is.  When the workers and hired services arrive, they drop off with security, their cell phones, and purses.  Ladies who need something special, will be given a clear plastic bag for essentials. Everyone is locked out during the events.  Spain has many secluded  areas, or resorts where the wedding can still be made in paradise.  The celebrity arrives in Spain, on a private airstrip and escorted away in under cover vehicles.  All of our service partners, only know it is a regular wedding, because every wedding is special.” — Rob, managing partner at Celebrity Weddings Spain.

In Weddings, Too, It’s Location, Location, Location: “The secret is, look for venues that are hard to get to. Anything with ocean access is easier to get to for the press. If secrecy is really a problem, do it inside a building. Then the chances of people seeing it are a lot less. Or you can use a tent. But sadly, there lies the problem. How do you make it beautiful and romantic without compromising the vision by having to cover it all up?” — JoAnn Gregoli,

Keep Your Friends Close and Your Guest List Closer: “If you really want to keep it secret, you have to invite fewer than 100 guests, and that is really pushing it. Second, like in the case of Jennifer Aniston, or Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, it helps if people have no idea where they are going. When we planned LeBron’s wedding, we sent an invitation that said it was going to take place somewhere on the West Coast, but we didn’t give details until we called them back, after we vetted them to make sure it was an invited guest or their representative. Still, it’s rarely foolproof. One of their save-the-dates showed up on TMZ.” — Marcy Blum,

Secure the Perimeter: “The problem is, once something leaks to one press outlet, it’s like sharks feeding on a dead carcass. They swarm. I did a wedding a few years back in the Hamptons involving some very well-known artists in the music industry, and we had security every seven feet around the perimeter of the property. The media will sit outside, waiting for leaks. And they don’t just show up the day of. They’ll be talking to people who provide luxury trailers, the generators, it could be the tenting company. We have to plant security four or five days in advance.” — Andrea Correale,

Establish a Paper Trail: “Very often in an event of this magnitude, you have two to three hundred people on site. It’s not just the caterers you have to worry about. There are lots of vendors involved: musicians, people renting lounge furniture, fabric people. You have to make sure you get the proper forms signed so no one in the other companies leaks word, either. You dot your I’s and cross your T’s, but in the end of the day, you can’t control everything.” — Andrea Correale.

Spare the Phones, Spoil the Party: “Unless you’re going to make every single guest including Cousin Harry sign a nondisclosure agreement, then nothing is foolproof. So we leave a letter in the guest rooms saying: ‘We really want you to be present for this. Please don’t bring a cellphone, if you do bring it we’re going to ask you to leave it at the check-in desk.’ Then we organize them and put them in separate plastic bags with the number on the outside. It’s not about the couple being so paranoid. There are a lot of non-famous people there. It could be a cousin, an old college roommate. It’s about the couple not wanting the famous guests to be bothered by the non-famous guests for selfies. It’s a wedding, not a red carpet event.” — Marcy Blum.

No One Is Above the Law: “With guests, you can say ‘Please don’t take pictures,’ but you know they’re going to Instagram it, so we have just said, ‘Please deposit your phones.’ You can ask them to shut them off, but they won’t. Some people take great umbrage and don’t want to give up their phones. There was a celebrity once who told me, ‘Hey, I’m not going to do it.’ We just had to watch that person. You can always tell what they’re doing. If someone takes a picture just to take a picture, they put the phone down. But if they take a shot and start typing simultaneously, they’re leaking it out.” — JoAnn Gregoli.

Cell phone blockers – “Another option is to install simple cell phone jammers at the event.  This ensure strict privacy.   We tell all the vendors, musicians, etc. Do not leave anything at home, once events begin, all vendors must remain on the property until the event is concluded.  We have backup vendor services for essentials, and extra replacement gear, so nothing is left out. At the end, celebs leave first, then guests leave second, and are transported 2 km away to the security checkin, then the operations leave last.  ” – Celebrity Weddings Planner Spain

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Testimonials

Oliver & Alexandra

Thank you and all your team for helping make Alex and Oliver wedding day absolutely PERFECT!!!!!!

They had the best day ever and so did we, all the guests did too J

We will post a testimonial on your website but wanted to thank you ladies personally.

All the very best for the future and take care.
5.0
2016-11-01T11:51:25+00:00
Thank you and all your team for helping make Alex and Oliver wedding day absolutely PERFECT!!!!!! They had the best day ever and so did we, all the guests did too J We will post a testimonial on your website but wanted to thank you ladies personally. All the very best for the future and take care.

Roy & Anne

Thank you so much to you and all the team for your help in celebrating the happiest day of our lives. It's been a whirlwind since the week before the wedding until now.

The wedding day was amazing, the food was out of this world (thank to your canape recommendations). the photography you provided was amazing and video, then the band was awesome and the DJ turned out to be a blast. The staff stayed well into the night so we could enjoy ourselves to the fullest 🙂
5.0
2017-08-09T10:37:53+00:00
Thank you so much to you and all the team for your help in celebrating the happiest day of our lives. It's been a whirlwind since the week before the wedding until now. The wedding day was amazing, the food was out of this world (thank to your canape recommendations). the photography you provided was amazing and video, then the band was awesome and the DJ turned out to be a blast. The staff stayed well into the night so we could enjoy ourselves to the fullest 🙂

Ronan & Audrey

Hi guys, hope your keeping well? We 're just about getting back to normal life now. We've both been working constantly since we got back from the honeymoon! I just wanted to let you know that we had an amazing and absolutely unforgettable day. Thank you so much for all your help and support to make our wedding day so special!

5.0
2017-08-11T10:19:38+00:00
Hi guys, hope your keeping well? We 're just about getting back to normal life now. We've both been working constantly since we got back from the honeymoon! I just wanted to let you know that we had an amazing and absolutely unforgettable day. Thank you so much for all your help and support to make our wedding day so special!

Larry & Caroline

Thank you so much for all you did to make our day and days so special. I cannot think of a single thing that did not go off like clockwork. It thoroughly vindicated our decision to get married abroad and every single guest has reiterated this to us.
5.0
2017-08-11T10:56:11+00:00
Thank you so much for all you did to make our day and days so special. I cannot think of a single thing that did not go off like clockwork. It thoroughly vindicated our decision to get married abroad and every single guest has reiterated this to us.

Jer & Lorraine

Thank you for all your efforts, everyone totally enjoyed the day!
5.0
2017-08-11T08:13:41+00:00
Thank you for all your efforts, everyone totally enjoyed the day!

Mick & Louise

I just had to thank you once again for being a wonderful wedding planner, fairy godmother and friend - we had such a fabulous time and everyone was thrilled to be there. All of your contacts were lovely and helped to make the day the special occasion that it certainly was. We shall never forget it and loved the fact that you just appeared whenever we needed you as if by magic, but we were unaware of the behind the scenes activities going on whilst enjoying our day - the flowers were perfect, the food delicious and music certainly got everyone up dancing - thank you so much!
5.0
2017-08-11T08:52:53+00:00
I just had to thank you once again for being a wonderful wedding planner, fairy godmother and friend - we had such a fabulous time and everyone was thrilled to be there. All of your contacts were lovely and helped to make the day the special occasion that it certainly was. We shall never forget it and loved the fact that you just appeared whenever we needed you as if by magic, but we were unaware of the behind the scenes activities going on whilst enjoying our day - the flowers were perfect, the food delicious and music certainly got everyone up dancing - thank you so much!

David & Hilary

Thanks very much for all you did to make our wedding day perfect, ceremony, food, music, everything! Everyone had a ball.
5.0
2017-08-11T07:46:35+00:00
Thanks very much for all you did to make our wedding day perfect, ceremony, food, music, everything! Everyone had a ball.

Sam & Emma

It was Beautiful. On our special day, Rob made sure our day went perfect, and it really was. Our food was BEAUTIFUL!! All our guest's thoroughly enjoyed it. The Spanish Tunas made our day special too. Everything was Perfect!! We want to do it all again!!!!!! Maybe we'll return in 10 years for our renewal of our vows!!!!!!
5.0
2017-08-11T11:56:57+00:00
It was Beautiful. On our special day, Rob made sure our day went perfect, and it really was. Our food was BEAUTIFUL!! All our guest's thoroughly enjoyed it. The Spanish Tunas made our day special too. Everything was Perfect!! We want to do it all again!!!!!! Maybe we'll return in 10 years for our renewal of our vows!!!!!!

Eduardo & Lauriel

Dear Paradise Event Productions,
The holidays were busy, and so wonderful.  Now we're back to the real world and so happy.  What a perfect Wedding.  Thank you so much for all you did to help us coordinate everything and to make the day run just as we'd planned so that we could just relax and enjoy every moment.  You are fabulous, and we are so happy and grateful for all that you did for us.  Thank you!
5.0
2017-08-11T10:39:21+00:00
Dear Paradise Event Productions, The holidays were busy, and so wonderful.  Now we're back to the real world and so happy.  What a perfect Wedding.  Thank you so much for all you did to help us coordinate everything and to make the day run just as we'd planned so that we could just relax and enjoy every moment.  You are fabulous, and we are so happy and grateful for all that you did for us.  Thank you!

Paul & Elaine

Thank you so much for everything you have done for us. We thoroughly enjoyed the wedding day and you did an excellent job with everything on the day and of course all the work over the last few months. We couldn’t have done it without you!
5.0
2017-08-11T07:56:34+00:00
Thank you so much for everything you have done for us. We thoroughly enjoyed the wedding day and you did an excellent job with everything on the day and of course all the work over the last few months. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Dave & Orla

We just wanted to say thank you for making our day, you were really
wonderful!  You took all the worry out of everything and left us free to
relax and enjoy the day.
5.0
2017-08-11T08:15:54+00:00
We just wanted to say thank you for making our day, you were really wonderful!  You took all the worry out of everything and left us free to relax and enjoy the day.

Graham & Lynda

Well we are finally back in the land of the living after a wonderful honeymoon, but to be fair, nothing could top the amazing day we had on the 4th September!!!

We cannot thank you both enough for making it such a magical day, but most of all, we were overwhelmed by all the work and organisation you put into it – it meant that we had a hassle-free day that we enjoyed every minute of and our guests cannot stop raving about!!  From the Wally Trolley to the piper to the fairytale venue to the fireworks, everyone agreed it was the best wedding they had been to and Graham and I are convinced they are not just being polite!

Thanks again for everything you did for us, we are so very very appreciative and we wish you both the very best for everything in the future.
5.0
2017-08-11T10:10:37+00:00
Well we are finally back in the land of the living after a wonderful honeymoon, but to be fair, nothing could top the amazing day we had on the 4th September!!! We cannot thank you both enough for making it such a magical day, but most of all, we were overwhelmed by all the work and organisation you put into it – it meant that we had a hassle-free day that we enjoyed every minute of and our guests cannot stop raving about!!  From the Wally Trolley to the piper to the fairytale venue to the fireworks, everyone agreed it was the best wedding they had been to and Graham and I are convinced they are not just being polite! Thanks again for everything you did for us, we are so very very appreciative and we wish you both the very best for everything in the future.

Family of Ricardo

We were extremely happy with all at Paradise Event Productions, both Rob, Swen and team helped along every step of the planning process and their support on the wedding day itself was second to none. We would strongly recommend them as they made the whole day run smoothly and this meant we could enjoy every minute without the stress of worrying about the little things. Thank you so much to all at Paradise Event Productions for helping make our day so so special.
5.0
2016-10-09T10:33:38+00:00
We were extremely happy with all at Paradise Event Productions, both Rob, Swen and team helped along every step of the planning process and their support on the wedding day itself was second to none. We would strongly recommend them as they made the whole day run smoothly and this meant we could enjoy every minute without the stress of worrying about the little things. Thank you so much to all at Paradise Event Productions for helping make our day so so special.

Stephan & Marta

Our day was truly magical and stress free with thanks to your coordinator and staff. Everything was so efficient and ran like clock work. The venue was perfect, food was excellent and service was impeccable. We never once worried or stressed over any of the arrangements because they were both so helpful and understanding. HUGE HUGE HUGE thank you and continue with your miracle work 🙂 love Stephan & Marta
5.0
2013-08-10T06:54:01+00:00
Our day was truly magical and stress free with thanks to your coordinator and staff. Everything was so efficient and ran like clock work. The venue was perfect, food was excellent and service was impeccable. We never once worried or stressed over any of the arrangements because they were both so helpful and understanding. HUGE HUGE HUGE thank you and continue with your miracle work 🙂 love Stephan & Marta

Siobhan & Craig

I would just like to thank you so much for all the hard work and the huge effort you put into our beautiful wedding, it was the most amazing day. Everything went perfect, from the venue, catering, minister, and the DJ was fantastic !  All our guests had a brilliant time.  Everyone commented on how hard you worked and how much they enjoyed it. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend your service to anyone, our wedding was without a doubt even better than we ever hoped or dreamed it would be.
5.0
2017-08-11T09:53:07+00:00
I would just like to thank you so much for all the hard work and the huge effort you put into our beautiful wedding, it was the most amazing day. Everything went perfect, from the venue, catering, minister, and the DJ was fantastic !  All our guests had a brilliant time.  Everyone commented on how hard you worked and how much they enjoyed it. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend your service to anyone, our wedding was without a doubt even better than we ever hoped or dreamed it would be.
5
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