Hollywood invades lake town for Scientology's big event

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The Independent Online

This small, pretty town on the shores of Lake Bracciano, 20 miles north of Rome, is watching with a mixture of delight and stupefaction as Scientology's wedding of the century gears up in its midst.

Tom Cruise, 44, and newly converted ex-Catholic Katie Holmes, 27, also an actor, are to marry tomorrow according to the Scientology rite at Bracciano's Castello Odesclachi. Security around the castle has been tightened, with public access to the museum barred. The organisers tried to get the air space above the town closed, but Roman mayor Walter Veltroni refused.

The town's cobbled lanes are rapidly cluttering up with vans serving broadcasters from around the world, piling into town to avoid a traffic ban from tomorrow morning. The town council is letting out windows with a view on the castle for rents on a sliding scale depending on the view: top price €1m (£680). But local home owners are offering the choicest windows at a top price of €6,000. Paparazzi face a tough challenge, as the castle's calls are well over 100ft high.

Up to 300 guests are expected, including fellow Scientologist John Travolta, flying his own plane, actors Russell Crowe and Will Smith, and director Steven Spielberg, who last year warned Cruise that his publicity on behalf of his faith was getting out of hand. David and Posh Beckham will be there, while the man officiating is expected to be David Miscavige, the short but telegenic successor to L Ron Hubbard as head of the Scientology Church, who has been Cruise's spiritual mentor for years.

What transpires at the ceremony is likely to remain a well-guarded secret. The television crews are unlikely to see much. The guests have had to sign a contract pledging to say nothing, and if they break it they promise they will pay a $1m (£530,000) penalty.

The television rights to the wedding have apparently been sold - it is not yet clear to whom - for €1.5m, which by a neat coincidence is also the amount that the Odescalchis, the noble family who own the castle and still live there, have demanded.

If the wedding goes according to Scientological form, Cruise will be reminded that "a girl" needs "clothes and food and tender happiness and frills, a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat" and will be asked to provide these. For her part, "the girl" will be reminded that "young men are free and may forget their promises", salutary advice given that she will be the star's third wife. Serious Scientologists, who believe that the "thetan" or soul goes on through an infinite number of lifetimes, pledge to stay faithful to their church for "billions of years". Whether the couple will make a similarly extravagant vow to each other remains to be seen. But if they fail, the pre-nuptial deal has already been struck. Holmes and the couple's daughter Suri, six months, will receive $14.7m in the event of a split, $25.7m if it goes to divorce. Each infidelity will cost $5m.

The site, which has seen a number of illustrious weddings, was proposed by Giorgio Armani, who also designed the outfits.