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Elton & David: Pink fizz and crystals for the A-list at the 'wedding' of the year

Elton John and David Furnish will be among the first gay couples to exchange vows. Steve Bloomfield reports

It could be said that, as with most of the couples solemnising civil partnerships on Wednesday, Sir Elton John and David Furnish will be having a few friends round for drinks after the ceremony.

This could be said, but only if that simple phrase encompassed the following: the friends will number 700, they will include most of the inhabitants of the world's gossip columns, the cost will be in excess of £1m, and the event will take place in a marquee large enough to house a medium-sized circus. And we do, given the media frenzy surrounding thegreat day, mean a circus.

And that is merely what is known about the event, which is to take place at Windsor Guildhall with the reception at Sir Elton's Windsor mansion. The rumours go beyond, orbitally beyond, that. Among those hyperactively circulating are: the table decorations at the banquet will be a figurine of two Action Men covered in Swarovski crystals; entire fields of white lilies have been plucked to adorn the reception; vats of pink champagne are on their way; Sharon Osbourne, Liz Hurley and actresses Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek have all offered to be bridesmaids; Victoria Beckham was going to be "best man"; Donatella Versace, a "close friend" of Elton, is designing the wedding outfits; shoe designer Patrick Cox has designed two pairs especially for the happy couple; guests are to eat roast lamb and gravy followed by a chocolate log; and, ostensibly the most unlikely whisper of the lot, Sir Elton has gone on a strict diet.

As far as who is going, it depends which breathless tabloid you read. George Michael is either snubbing it or about to make an emotional appearance; the Beckhams will both be there, or Victoria will be alone because David will be playing football. Madonna has apparently not even bothered replying, or has sent a polite "no"; Elizabeth Taylor is coming, or not, paying her own way, or on an Elton-sponsored freebie; and model Jordan has decided to go to another wedding on the same day - or has not been invited.

The wedding-of-the-year correspondents do, however, seem to agree that definite attendees include Liz Hurley, Paul O'Grady, Donatella Versace, Sting, Rod Stewart, Sharon Osbourne and Shirley Bassey.

The shakiness of the detail is perhaps understandable given the relatively late change in the wedding planner presiding over this festival of opulence. The original organiser, Matt James, was dispensed with earlier this month. His replacement, Peregrine Armstrong-Jones, has organised parties for various members of the Royal Family. More importantly for a party that is set to be high on kitsch, he was the brains behind David and Victoria Beckham's wedding in 1999, which featured ornate "his and hers" thrones. Yet even before the special day dawns, there is the not inconsiderable matter of Monday's hen night.

Again, hardly low-key, having, as it does, a cabaret performed by Bryan Adams, the Pet Shop Boys, singer Gary Barlow, Paul O'Grady, and Sir Ian McKellen in drag. Waiters will reportedly be dressed in £500 cowboy outfits.

But one aspect at least will not be over the top. Elton and David have decided against a gift list and have asked guests to make a donation to the Elton John Aids Foundation instead.