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

        

 

Testimonials

Martina & Shane

I just want to say thanks for all your help over the last year, everybody was so impressed with everything from the food to the villa to your calmness...I just really want to say thanks again from both of us.
5.0
2017-08-11T08:08:23+00:00
I just want to say thanks for all your help over the last year, everybody was so impressed with everything from the food to the villa to your calmness...I just really want to say thanks again from both of us.

Matt & Laura

For a year and a half you guys helped us immensely with every aspect of our planning for our big day. No question was too silly or small and if you were busy, your lovely assistant Rob was always on hand and just as helpful. Swen helped us create exactly what we wanted from the smallest details to the really big! Even a month on, our guests are still talking about how amazing everything was and that it was the best wedding they've ever attended! As Swen has lots of experience he can really advise you of the best decisions etc. Swen has helped us make our dream a reality and we cant thank him enough for this.
5.0
2017-08-11T11:44:39+00:00
For a year and a half you guys helped us immensely with every aspect of our planning for our big day. No question was too silly or small and if you were busy, your lovely assistant Rob was always on hand and just as helpful. Swen helped us create exactly what we wanted from the smallest details to the really big! Even a month on, our guests are still talking about how amazing everything was and that it was the best wedding they've ever attended! As Swen has lots of experience he can really advise you of the best decisions etc. Swen has helped us make our dream a reality and we cant thank him enough for this.

Kevin & Isabel

Well we are finally back in the UK and have 5 minutes to sit down and think about our big day, WOW what a great job you did for us, we really appreciated all your help and it could not have run so smoothly if you were not there to help. Every single person we spoke to has said that it was the best wedding that they have ever been to and the friends who live in Mojacar have said that it was the best night out they have ever had !!!! So you all deserve a well earned pat on the back and a big thank you again from us both. We would highly recommend Paradise Event Productions to anyone who is looking to get married and that we would like to thank you again for all your help and support.
5.0
2015-06-09T09:11:08+00:00
Well we are finally back in the UK and have 5 minutes to sit down and think about our big day, WOW what a great job you did for us, we really appreciated all your help and it could not have run so smoothly if you were not there to help. Every single person we spoke to has said that it was the best wedding that they have ever been to and the friends who live in Mojacar have said that it was the best night out they have ever had !!!! So you all deserve a well earned pat on the back and a big thank you again from us both. We would highly recommend Paradise Event Productions to anyone who is looking to get married and that we would like to thank you again for all your help and support.

Paul & Alison

Thank you for everything!! We couldn’t have done it without the help from you. We have only got compliments from our guests about their whole experience in Mojacar so sending a huge thanks to you all. Maybe some day they will get married in Spain too & will highly recommend you guys!!

Thanks again & Take Care,
5.0
2017-05-09T10:27:08+00:00
Thank you for everything!! We couldn’t have done it without the help from you. We have only got compliments from our guests about their whole experience in Mojacar so sending a huge thanks to you all. Maybe some day they will get married in Spain too & will highly recommend you guys!! Thanks again & Take Care,

Steven & Martha

Our day was truly magical and stress free with thanks to Paradise Event Productions. 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 Martha and Stephen
5.0
2017-08-10T10:52:18+00:00
Our day was truly magical and stress free with thanks to Paradise Event Productions. 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 Martha and Stephen

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.

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 🙂

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.

Leon & Stephanie

We just wanted to say thank you very much for the enormous amount of help we had from you both in the run up to the wedding and on the day itself. It turned out to be a perfect day in every way. We know that it wouldn't have been so perfect without your help so a million thanks from us both.

From the first meeting you understood us as a couple and exactly what we wanted the day to be like, which was the most important thing. You then provided us with the guidance we needed through the whole planning process and supported us with the best services we could have asked for. 


Thank you! 
5.0
2017-08-11T09:47:28+00:00
We just wanted to say thank you very much for the enormous amount of help we had from you both in the run up to the wedding and on the day itself. It turned out to be a perfect day in every way. We know that it wouldn't have been so perfect without your help so a million thanks from us both. From the first meeting you understood us as a couple and exactly what we wanted the day to be like, which was the most important thing. You then provided us with the guidance we needed through the whole planning process and supported us with the best services we could have asked for.  Thank you! 

Karen and Martin

I would highly recommend Paradise Event Planner as a service. All our questions were answered promptly and honestly during the planning. We always felt in control of our own decisions and yet appreciated the experienced advice provided. The attention to small details really made the day special. Your calm approach to a potentially stressful time helped to keep the nerves at bay. I was pleased that you allowed us lots of flexibility in our choices and didn't try to persuade us into anything we didn't want/need but appreciated your opinion when requested.
5.0
2017-08-10T11:55:45+00:00
I would highly recommend Paradise Event Planner as a service. All our questions were answered promptly and honestly during the planning. We always felt in control of our own decisions and yet appreciated the experienced advice provided. The attention to small details really made the day special. Your calm approach to a potentially stressful time helped to keep the nerves at bay. I was pleased that you allowed us lots of flexibility in our choices and didn't try to persuade us into anything we didn't want/need but appreciated your opinion when requested.

 Caitríona & Patrick


Patrick and I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all of you for all your help with planning our wedding. Our day was fantastic from start to finish and we thoroughly enjoyed it! Our guests commented on how well everything went from the venue choice to the ceremony to the reception and the entertainment. We know everyone really enjoyed themselves.


You all took the pressure off with the marvelous organizing you did and we sailed through the day. I had no nerves all day until I walked up the aisle! Thanks again for helping create some amazing memories for us to take away from our day.

5.0
2017-08-11T11:49:29+00:00
Patrick and I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all of you for all your help with planning our wedding. Our day was fantastic from start to finish and we thoroughly enjoyed it! Our guests commented on how well everything went from the venue choice to the ceremony to the reception and the entertainment. We know everyone really enjoyed themselves. You all took the pressure off with the marvelous organizing you did and we sailed through the day. I had no nerves all day until I walked up the aisle! Thanks again for helping create some amazing memories for us to take away from our day.

James & Julie

The wedding was brilliant, even better than we'd imagined, right down to the bits we couldn't control, like the weather which was perfect! We're so glad we got you lot to organise it, I now think it's a myth that planning a wedding is stressful - it was pretty easy really, but I bet I wouldn't be saying that if we hadn't had you doing all the hard work! Thanks again for everything - we're so happy!
5.0
2017-08-09T09:23:12+00:00
The wedding was brilliant, even better than we'd imagined, right down to the bits we couldn't control, like the weather which was perfect! We're so glad we got you lot to organise it, I now think it's a myth that planning a wedding is stressful - it was pretty easy really, but I bet I wouldn't be saying that if we hadn't had you doing all the hard work! Thanks again for everything - we're so happy!

Mark & Kelli

A huge thank you for doing such a fantastic job of our wedding, which I have to say is the best I’ve ever been to! ... I cant think of one negative thing to say about the whole week (except perhaps that the day didn’t last long enough!).
5.0
2017-08-11T08:02:08+00:00
A huge thank you for doing such a fantastic job of our wedding, which I have to say is the best I’ve ever been to! ... I cant think of one negative thing to say about the whole week (except perhaps that the day didn’t last long enough!).

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!

Malcolm & Lynne

Malcolm and I had a fabulous time at our wedding. Everything went according to plan. They did not only made the whole day run smoothly but it was the extra effort they made for us that we really appreciated.
The flowers were amazing. I was totally overwhelmed by them. It was the only thing i really didn't want to compromise on and my choice of flowers were not available locally. They sourced them for me and they came all the way from South Africa!
It was a stress free experience for us and we would recommend any of our friends to get married with your help!
5.0
2017-08-10T11:33:22+00:00
Malcolm and I had a fabulous time at our wedding. Everything went according to plan. They did not only made the whole day run smoothly but it was the extra effort they made for us that we really appreciated. The flowers were amazing. I was totally overwhelmed by them. It was the only thing i really didn't want to compromise on and my choice of flowers were not available locally. They sourced them for me and they came all the way from South Africa! It was a stress free experience for us and we would recommend any of our friends to get married with your help!
5.0
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