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

Colin & Sheena

A huge thanks to you again for such brilliant organisation, without you it would not have been the day it was. What can I say, you were great. 
5.0
2017-08-10T11:54:06+00:00
A huge thanks to you again for such brilliant organisation, without you it would not have been the day it was. What can I say, you were great. 

Mark & Ciara

Thanks so much for the well wishes, we had an absolute ball, a big part down to your amazing work. Everything went off without a hitch, our friends are still talking about ‘the best wedding they’ve ever been to’!! Everything ran so smoothly and it was such a relaxing day knowing that Joan had everything sorted in advance, so reassuring. 
5.0
2017-08-11T11:39:32+00:00
Thanks so much for the well wishes, we had an absolute ball, a big part down to your amazing work. Everything went off without a hitch, our friends are still talking about ‘the best wedding they’ve ever been to’!! Everything ran so smoothly and it was such a relaxing day knowing that Joan had everything sorted in advance, so reassuring. 

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.

Simon & Claire

5.0
2017-08-11T07:54:27+00:00
We've just got back from our honeymoon and we wanted to thank you very much for all your hard work and professionalism arranging our wedding. It was exactly as we'd hoped and more - we loved everything.

Kevin

5.0
2017-08-11T07:44:05+00:00
I have been to many weddings and this is by far the best ever!

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!

Joey & Joanne

We cannot recommend Paradise Event Productions enough. It whas a stroll in the park from beginning to end. We chose them through a recommendation of a friend & we are so glad we did. everything was taken care of, from flowers, music, venue, transport church, paperwork, the bbq the following day to name but a few! The day itself was a total dream. from getting ready in the hotel, & making sure everyone (including me!) were on time for the church - it all went so smoothly, cava afterwards on the terrace & onto our fabulous venue. Paradise Event Productions thank you so so much for making it such a special & stress free day. We could not have done it without you, we will never forget you guys xx
5.0
2017-08-10T11:51:50+00:00
We cannot recommend Paradise Event Productions enough. It whas a stroll in the park from beginning to end. We chose them through a recommendation of a friend & we are so glad we did. everything was taken care of, from flowers, music, venue, transport church, paperwork, the bbq the following day to name but a few! The day itself was a total dream. from getting ready in the hotel, & making sure everyone (including me!) were on time for the church - it all went so smoothly, cava afterwards on the terrace & onto our fabulous venue. Paradise Event Productions thank you so so much for making it such a special & stress free day. We could not have done it without you, we will never forget you guys xx

Shane & Aideen

We would just like to thank you so much for all your hard work and all the effort you
put into our beautiful wedding, the music, the hotel, the meal, organizing everyone which was a job in itself! You kept everyone, including myself so calm. We had such a great time and everyone loved the day from beginning till the end, and they all had wonderful things to say about you. How you looked after people in the hotel on the day. Thank you again for the wonderful memories and time we had. I have nothing but the highest of praise for both you and the hotel staff.
5.0
2017-08-11T08:38:11+00:00
We would just like to thank you so much for all your hard work and all the effort you put into our beautiful wedding, the music, the hotel, the meal, organizing everyone which was a job in itself! You kept everyone, including myself so calm. We had such a great time and everyone loved the day from beginning till the end, and they all had wonderful things to say about you. How you looked after people in the hotel on the day. Thank you again for the wonderful memories and time we had. I have nothing but the highest of praise for both you and the hotel staff.

Michael & Claire

I just wanted to thank you both for all you help and support planning the wedding, you did an amazing job and the wedding day was everything I wanted and more. All the guests commented at how smoothly every stage of the day went and that the day flowed perfectly so thank you so much, it really was the best day! I want to do it all over again now!! Thanks so much.
5.0
2016-09-09T09:25:47+00:00
I just wanted to thank you both for all you help and support planning the wedding, you did an amazing job and the wedding day was everything I wanted and more. All the guests commented at how smoothly every stage of the day went and that the day flowed perfectly so thank you so much, it really was the best day! I want to do it all over again now!! Thanks so much.

 Conor & Diane

"We had the best day, our guests have been raving about it since and have complimented you on numerous occasions for how smoothly the whole day ran. 

Thanks so much for all your help over the last 18 months. Our wedding day could not have been any more perfect!"
5.0
2017-08-11T11:50:50+00:00
"We had the best day, our guests have been raving about it since and have complimented you on numerous occasions for how smoothly the whole day ran.  Thanks so much for all your help over the last 18 months. Our wedding day could not have been any more perfect!"

Richard & Kathryn

Hi Paradise Event Productions,

Just wanted to drop a line to say thank you so much for helping us to have the best day we could possibly have hoped for! We really enjoyed the whole week but of course most of all our wedding day. We have lots of very happy memories and can’t stop talking about it to whoever will listen!! Thanks again for helping us to make it happen.


 Love & best wishes,


Richard & Kathryn
5.0
2017-08-11T11:34:41+00:00
Hi Paradise Event Productions, Just wanted to drop a line to say thank you so much for helping us to have the best day we could possibly have hoped for! We really enjoyed the whole week but of course most of all our wedding day. We have lots of very happy memories and can’t stop talking about it to whoever will listen!! Thanks again for helping us to make it happen.  Love & best wishes, Richard & Kathryn

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.

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

Victor & Cathy

We were so happy how the day went and that all ran so smoothly.  We and our guests enjoyed everything about the day,the music at the ceremony, entertainment for the evening, the food, the priest, the photographer,hairdresser etc.  And all of this was made possible by you so we would like to sincerely thank you for making this such an enjoyable day for us that we will cherish in all of our days.
5.0
2017-08-11T11:54:15+00:00
We were so happy how the day went and that all ran so smoothly.  We and our guests enjoyed everything about the day,the music at the ceremony, entertainment for the evening, the food, the priest, the photographer,hairdresser etc.  And all of this was made possible by you so we would like to sincerely thank you for making this such an enjoyable day for us that we will cherish in all of our days.

Dominic & Zoe

Hi Jennifer,

Wow WOW wow what a wonderful time we had. You did an incredible job. It was an amazing day and so so well organised. I didn't have to think about a thing.

The band where brilliant everyone is still talking about how good they where. The DJ was great and very chilled out. and the FLAMENCO was AMAZING!!! Well Dominic is now saying it was the best wedding present and one of the highlights of the day. I cannot believe then Dance until they are in pain, it adds to the emotion on their faces.
Like you said it gives you goose pimples.

You looked wonderful and all the guests said how great you where. You made the day so relaxing and easy for us. Thank you thank you thank you.
5.0
2017-08-11T09:57:07+00:00
Hi Jennifer, Wow WOW wow what a wonderful time we had. You did an incredible job. It was an amazing day and so so well organised. I didn't have to think about a thing. The band where brilliant everyone is still talking about how good they where. The DJ was great and very chilled out. and the FLAMENCO was AMAZING!!! Well Dominic is now saying it was the best wedding present and one of the highlights of the day. I cannot believe then Dance until they are in pain, it adds to the emotion on their faces. Like you said it gives you goose pimples. You looked wonderful and all the guests said how great you where. You made the day so relaxing and easy for us. Thank you thank you thank you.
5.0
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