George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin in Venice for their wedding

Celebrity guests including actor Matt Damon, model Cindy Crawford, actor Brad Pitt and American Vogue’s Anna Wintour arrive ahead of the big day


The paparazzi were in place, stationed on jetties and skipping in and out of motorboats. The reporters were scurrying from calle to calle.

The resorts were readying their suites. The florists were hard at work on the Lido - and the water-taxi drivers at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani were kitted out in shirts embossed with an entwined A and G.

From the frenetic Grand Canal to the tranquil island of Giudecca, Venice was looking even more like a film set than usual today as it put the finishing touches on preparations for the most glamorous celebrity wedding of the year.

And, right on cue, as the sun was glinting off the canals and tourists gathered on bridges above, the star couple glided into the limelight on board a boat named - what else? - Amore.

George Clooney, talented filmmaker that he is, couldn’t have directed it any better if he’d tried.

For weeks rumours of the nuptials between the 53-year-old Hollywood heartthrob and his British-Lebanese fiancee, the human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, had been circling.

But finally the four-day celebrity carnival had arrived. In the early afternoon the couple were filmed steaming along the Giudecca Canal, presumably on their way to the booked-out Belmond Cipriani. It was quite some entrance.

With just hours to go before the lavish wedding reception, however, many elements of the celebrations were being kept well under wraps, the details covered by a strict confidentiality agreement.

“We are so busy I don’t even have the time to talk on the telephone,” said a spokeswoman for the hotel, where the actor was reported to be throwing a bachelor party attended by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon among others, later that day.

Over at the Aman Grand Canal resort, the “seven-star” hotel in the city centre where the main reception is to be held on tomorrow evening, the wrought iron gates were being opened but, for journalists at least, closed soon after.

An employee declined to expand on the “big event” she said was being planned for later, saying: “Our guests are our guests and we respect their privacy.”

Soon after, the Guardian was escorted from what the official brochure describes as the “lofty-ceilinged Reception Hall” by an impeccably mannered security guard.

Alamuddin (36), is reported to be staying in the Alcova Tiepolo suite, which, according to the brochure, has “a Chinese painted sitting room and a bedroom ceiling by (18th century painter) Giovanni Battista Tiepolo”.

Rooms at the Aman start - this month, at least - at €1,150. “Shame - I was thinking I could have a nice romantic weekend!” guffawed a garrulous Italian cameraman stationed on a jetty by the hotel with a colleague, waiting, apparently in vain, for a celebrity - any celebrity - to show up in a taxi on the Grand Canal. “There was one person earlier today,” he said, “but neither of us knew who he was.”

There was no doubt the media were excited about the marriage, due to be made official in a civil ceremony at Venice city hall on Monday.

Speculation that had been building for weeks went into overdrive: would Clooney, as predicted, wear Armani? Would his bride, like Kate Middleton, opt for a dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen?

Could it really be that she would change outfits 12 times during the four-day celebrations and she had - as local paper La Nuova Venezia claimed - been advised on her wardrobe by American Vogue’s Anna Wintour? Would there be enough tequila?

The answers to all these questions and more will no doubt emerge eventually - rumour has it in the pages of the very same American Vogue. But, for the moment, the media were kept at arm’s length.

At the Munaretto florists on the Lido, we glimpsed a table of wrapped bouquets before a harassed employee firmly shut the door, declaring: “We’re very hard at work.”

Amid all the stress and excitement, however, ordinary Venetians went about their daily business. It takes a lot to flap a population whose city is perhaps the closest thing to a real-life fairytale and whose waterways regularly play host to VIPs.

“We’re used to seeing celebrities,” shrugged Grazia, a middle-aged woman sipping an espresso on the island of Giudecca. “And we’ve just had the film festival so they were all here for that. We’re happy about it (the wedding)- but we’re not particularly perturbed.”

Some locals, indeed, were verging on irritation.

Vittorio Manfre, a 56-year-old gondolier, said neither he nor his colleague had got any work out of the wedding yet, nor did they expect to: it is hard, after all, to stay incognito on Venice’s symbolic mode of transport.

Mr Manfre was riled at suggestions in local media that authorities considered closing the Grand Canal to all traffic. “We have to work!” he said.

Laura Stefani, meanwhile, a glamorous Venetian in a leopard-print jacket and stiletto heels, was stalking the cobbled calli “on the hunt”. “He’s not that tall, I think,” she said, musing on the possibility of picking her prey out of a crowd.

Was she looking for Clooney? No. “It’s Bono I want to see.”

A water-taxi driver friend had told her on Facebook she’d taken the U2 frontman and his wife on a tour of Venice.

Ms Stefani had responded with a long line of angry orange emoticons.

Guardian News & Media