Politics: These modern nuptials are so New Labour

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair would have been there, but he is in Japan. Gordon Brown will be among the guests. Andrew Buncombe previews a wedding which is likely to be one of the high points of New Labour's year.

In keeping with the best traditions, details of the dress are a closely guarded secret. Likewise the honeymoon destination. The guests will drink champagne - but then again, wedding guests often do.

At that point much of the tradition ends. Guests have been invited to bring even their youngest children: a baby-sitting service and special entertainment will be available. The couple are marrying this afternoon in the hotel where the reception is taking place, and tomorrow morning all 300 guests are invited to brunch. If it all sounds a little, er, trendy, bear in mind this wedding is New Labour. About as New Labour as you could conceivably get.

The wedding couple is Ed Balls, the affable special adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Yvette Cooper, 28, formerly a leader writer on The Independent, but now firmly ensconced as Labour MP for Pontefract and Castleford.

The civil ceremony is to be held at the Cavendish Hotel at Eastbourne at 3pm this afternoon. At 4pm guests are invited to high tea before cocktails and then dinner and dancing later this evening. The Cooper-Balls, known for throwing good parties at their home in Islington, are unlikely to disappoint on this occasion.

Ms Cooper, an Oxford graduate with a first in PPE, was yesterday keeping silent about her special day, declining even to say whether she'd had a hen night. Her assistant at Westminster was equally unforthcoming, saying only: "Of course she is excited about it. It's her wedding day."

Mr Balls - something of a television star, following this year's documentary series tracking the Chancellor's spin doctors - did have a stag night, organised by his best man, Tom Linden. It was, by all accounts, a fun- packed, fashionable and varied occasion.

It kicked off with an afternoon watching Arsenal play Port Vale before cocktails at Quaglino's and then dinner at Pont de la Tour, the upmarket restaurant near Tower Bridge renowned for its modern French cuisine and for being the place where Tony and Cherie dined with Bill and Hillary.

"It was a very respectable event, as you would expect from a group of respectable gentleman," said one of the eight revellers. It is not known whether Gordon Brown, who will be accompanied today by his girlfriend Sarah Macaulay, was one of the eight.