All you need is love...and a police lockdown, Karl Lagerfeld, a tractor and 1,800 lilies
The little Gloucestershire village of Cranham is bracing itself for an invasion of beautiful people, as Lily Allen ties the knot with her partner, Sam Cooper. Tom Peck reports from the latest frontline of celebrity romance
Saturday 11 June 2011
For weeks they've camped out, braving all weathers, with only each other for company and a monotonous diet of grass and hay. But for two cows and a piebald horse in a rolling Gloucestershire field, all that hardship will be repaid this morning. They – and only they – will have front-row seats when the second-biggest wedding of the summer so far shoots past.
The road and footpath past St James the Great Church in the tiny Cotswolds village of Cranham is closed to the public this morning. The Mall it is not. Lily Allen, 26, is to marry her "builder" boyfriend (actually, he owns a building company), 33-year-old Sam Cooper, a short stroll away from the £3m home they have recently bought there.
Weddings are no stranger to summer – nor to pages of celebrity magazines – but this season has brought with it a glut of high-profile hitchings. The celebrity summer of love began, of course, with the biggest nuptials of them all, those of William and Kate. But while even Allen, the former pop star who retired at 25 to open a vintage dress shop with her sister, may struggle to fill Westminster Abbey, the interest in her big day has become greater than that in the average celebrity wedding. One florist in London has decided to celebrate the day by creating a floral portrait of the singer made of 1,800 lilies, which has been placed in the shop window.
Mind you, not everyone in Cranham is hanging up the bunting. "Lily Allen? Getting married?" says one gentleman in local watering hole the Black Horse. "I thought she was a drag act." (He is, presumably, thinking of Lily Savage, aka Paul O'Grady).
"Oh, it'll be a naughty wedding," Lin Rendall says. "There'll be drunken people with their clothes off. Her little brother, Alfie, will be there, won't he, smoking his weed." It's a topic his big sister has been known to muse on in her warblings.
For a passing group of walkers, the closure of the footpath is no laughing matter. "We were a bit disgusted when we found out about that. Public footpaths are public footpaths," said Colin Baker, a retired special needs teacher. "If I'd have organised this walk for tomorrow, which I nearly did, we wouldn't have been able to get through."
London's glitterati decamping to the countryside for a spot of nuptial bliss is nothing new, nor is the ill feeling it has often engendered. When Elizabeth Hurley and businessman Arun Nayar arrived in the town of Winchcombe, also in the Cotswolds, for their wedding, in 2007, a hungry pack of 200 journalists followed. One reporter boasted he had bought Ordnance Survey maps, climbing equipment and wellingtons on his way from London. Council leaders and locals, meanwhile, despaired of changes in parking restrictions and gridlock caused by preparations to welcome guests including Kate Moss, the Beckhams and Sir Elton John.
Opinion in tiny Cranham, no more than a handful of glowing blocks of golden Cotswold stone lodged in steep, green hills, is no different – if a little more light-hearted. Allen, whose father is the hellraising actor Keith Allen, is planning a wedding that sounds more twee than rock'n'roll. The reception will be held in the large grounds of the newly-weds' home, where the happy couple will arrive by tractor, hopefully without her Karl Lagerfeld dress being muddied. It has been described as a "cricket tea" with the singer's 12-year-old DJ nephew, Ted Lavender, manning the decks at a party expected to go on late into the night.
"We saw them all, setting up the marquees in the garden, loads of them," Mr Baker said. "Security will be tight, but we haven't ruled out trying to gatecrash," the head of a mirthful table of retirees claimed.
Cranham is not altogether short on retirees, a fact not lost on parish council head Nigel Cooper. "It's great to have some more young people here, and we welcome them with open arms," he said. "Although we don't see them all that much."
The greater nuisance, in fact, has been journalists and photographers snooping around the place. If the couple have been welcomed with open arms, this element of their entourage has been less well received. "They have been a nuisance for the last couple of weeks," Mr Cooper said. "Calling people up, knocking on people's doors. It's quite frustrating."
The Cooper-Allen marriage continues this summer's trend, following events at Westminster Abbey six weeks ago that were hardly any more rock'n'roll (Elton John barely even sang along to the hymns.) As well as father Keith and brother Alfie, actress Jaime Winstone and Glastonbury Festival organiser Michael Eavis are expected in the small congregation at the church, which can hold only about 120.
Next up in the summer of love: Noel Gallagher and Sara MacDonald. Their wedding venue is being kept secret but villagers somewhere are probably bracing themselves if the Oasis singer's stag do was anything to go by.
By the end of the summer, however, things will have gone pleasingly full-circle. Just up the road from Cranham is Gatcombe, home of Princess Anne and, nearby, her daughter, Zara, and Gloucester and England rugby-playing fiancé Mike Tindall. They are decamping to Holyrood House in Edinburgh for their own celebrations, which will be, to the relief of any neighbours, reassuringly traditional.
The Summer of Celebrity Love
Lily Allen & Sam Cooper
Date: 11 June
Venue: St James The Great Church in Cranham, Gloucestershire.
Dress: A former face of Chanel, Lily Allen reportedly travelled to Paris earlier this year to discuss the dress with Karl Lagerfeld.
Hair and makeup: All remains top secret but a safe bet would be an Audrey Hepburn-esque look for the big day.
Entertainment: 12-year-old Ted Lavender has been lined up to DJ. While he was playing under the name Ted and the Controls, Allen heard his ska and reggae mix-tapes and booked him straight away.
Guests: Likely to be some top names in music and rumoured to include Sir Elton John, Professor Green and Mark Ronson. It's Kate Moss's hen weekend so she won't be attending.
Noel Gallagher & Sara MacDonald
Date: 18 June
Venue: The couple have done a good job of keeping their wedding venue secret. It's not even known whether they will remain in London.
Dress: Sara MacDonald's signature style is uncomplicated Primrose Hill glamour. She's unlikely to go for anything too fussy – but don't expect any expenses to be spared. The engagement ring was designed by London jeweller Solange Azagury-Partridge.
Hair and make-up: Famed for her long, glossy brown hair, the smart money is for MacDonald to wear her hair down. As for make-up: think natural, with no shortage of lip gloss.
Entertainment: Nothing's known about the couple's planned entertainment.
Guests: The guest everyone will be looking for is Gallagher's estranged brother Liam. Noel is reported to have said he wanted him there.
Zara Phillips & Mike Tindall
Date: 30 July
Venue: Canongate Kirk on Edinburgh's Royal Mile
Dress: Though not quite as speculated-over as Kate Middleton's dress, Zara Phillips's remains a secret, though the designer is likely to be British.
Hair and makeup: Phillips famously didn't sport a manicure in her engagement photos and is something of a tomboy, so makeup is likely to be minimal and natural. She recently unveiled a new bobbed haircut.
Entertainment: The couple will hold their reception at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the Queen's official home in Scotland.
Guests: Iain Balshaw, who played alongside Mike Tindall as part of England's victorious World Cup squad, and his future brother-in-law Peter Phillips have been rumoured to be best man. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expected to attend.
Kate Moss & Jamie Hince
Date: 30 July
Venue: Kate Moss's home in Oxfordshire
Dress: Despite his anti-Semitic rant that led to his sacking from Dior earlier this year, John Galliano is still believed to be making the dress.
Hair and makeup: James Brown has been mentioned as a possible stylist although he has been reported as saying: "I'm going to be the typical gay best friend, worrying about the flowers, the dress and what Kate's mum's wearing, so I don't know if I could cope with worrying about her hair too."
Entertainment: Moss has said that she wants the wedding to have the feel of a festival so expect plenty of rock bands to perform. Mario Testino is confirmed as the official wedding photographer.
Guests: No doubt a hedonistic mix of the worlds of fashion (Naomi Campbell, Sir Philip Green) and music (Bobby Gillespie, Alison Mosshart).
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