"I can't believe they sold the pictures to that magazine," wailed a woman in the waiting crowd. "What an omen, don't they want the marriage to last?"
Yesterday's civil ceremony at Richmond Register Office, in south-west London, was to seal Imran Khan and Jemima Goldsmith's recent Muslim marriage. The cost of exclusive pictures of the once notorious playboy cricketer and the young heiress was a reported pounds 100,000. It seemed a fitting price for an event as hyped as a royal wedding which drew 500 onlookers and 100 journalists, cameramen and leading lights of the paparazzi.
Meanwhile, at the Goldsmiths' Ormley Lodge on the edge of Richmond Park they were checking the portaloos, repositioning the Grecian urns and checking the vast marquee. Imran had wanted a small do. Last night more than 150 people were set to join the 40 register office guests. All over London socialites sobbed, having been excluded from the social event of the year.
Back at the register office, the crowds had started gathering at 11am. By 1pm, an hour before the event, every garden wall and rooftop was taken in the register office's rear garden, layers of photographers on ladders stood poised. A predicted protest by Muslims angered at Imran's marriage to a Western half-Jew had not materialised.
Speculation was keen about Jemima's outfit. Would she turn East to the shalwar kameez, or West, allowing a little leg to show. Yasin Soofi, 20, a student, did not care as long as she was modest. "We don't care if Imran married an Afro-Caribbean so long as she is beautiful," he said. "And she is beautiful." Across the road Pakistani women, led by the barrister Huma Price, 35, sang Urdu wedding songs. "My husband is English and we are very happy," she said. "You try harder because of the pressure from both sides."
For most the draw was the expected glamour of the fabulously rich although some were disappointed by a stream of thin young women, bronzed legged, with hair that stopped inches from the shortest skirts. No danger of Muslim modesty here.
Imran arrived in traditional Pakistani dress 20 minutes early and Jemima 10 minutes late, causing the crowd to surge forward. All eyes were on her legs as she stepped from the Daimler, but the skirt of her cream silk Bruce Oldfield suit reached reassuringly to her ankles - no split, no hint of flesh. Her parents, Lady Annabel and Sir James, waved regally.
Around the back, photographers waited. A white sheet was placed over the rear patio doors, protecting the couple's privacy and Hello!'s copyright. When the torrent of camera flashes from within eased, those outside knew Hello! had finished and the register was signed. Outside, they held hands, looking bashful and embarrassed; Jemima giggled and clung to Imran. More clicking shutters and it was all over.
Those worried about omens may be reassured by the Daily Mirror, which yesterday said a numerologist Imran had consulted confirmed Jemima was the woman for him. The man himself was more pragmatic in an eve-of- ceremony interview. He had prepared for marriage like a cricket match. He had no guarantees it would work but he would give it his "best shot".