It will be one of the most expensive weddings ever, estimated to cost a staggering £5m. But this is not about royalty, film stars or supermodels. It is about a pair of 22-year-olds from Liverpool, and how they are taking footballers' weddings to a new level.
Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLoughlin will finally begin their wedding celebrations on Saturday. The Manchester United star returned to Britain yesterday, after taking 16 mates to Ibiza for a few days of partying that cost £250,000. And Coleen has managed to rack up no less than three hen parties so far, costing more than £150,000.
But that was just the warm-up. The couple will mark their marriage in the sumptuous surrounds of the 16th-century Villa Durazzo in Santa Margherita Ligure on the Italian coast. More than 60 guests will be flown out for four days of celebrations, which will include a masked ball and a daily champagne breakfast. Resurrected Irish band Westlife will provide the entertainment.
Over the past few decades, the spiralling celebrity of footballers has been matched only by their salaries. Now every aspect of their lives has a monetary value, and agents work frenetically to sell players' weddings to the highest bidder. It was not always thus – what were the biggest names' weddings like in the past?
The Rooney nuptials are a world away from the low-key wedding of legendary Wolves and England captain Billy Wright to the singer Joy Beverley, of the Beverley Sisters, at Poole register office in July 1958. The pair were the Fifties equivalent of Posh and Becks. But in contrast to what footballers' weddings have become, theirs could not have been more ordinary. There were no limousines or luxuries, no multi-million media deals. But 50 years ago things were different.
Joy's sister, Teddie, now 76, was one of a handful of relatives and close friends who were there. "It was a very informal affair," she said. "Billy came on his own on the train to Bournemouth and walked to our house from the station. Then we drove to the register office from there. It was only family and a few close friends; it was a very quiet affair but very happy.
"Joy and Billy were very special people, and it was a very special day ... There were no gifts, no fuss at all, it was just love from beginning to end ... I think things have changed in the football world very much. The important thing is that the love lasts, not the dress. The love is what matters."
With England still basking in the glory of the 1966 World Cup triumph, there were early signs of the celebrity culture that now dominates football. But for Kevin Keegan, then a young star for Liverpool. His private life was not for sale.
His wedding to his childhood sweetheart, Jean Woodhouse, took place without any fanfare. "Jean and I, who had been planning to get married, decided to take advantage of my unexpected five weeks off and bring forward our wedding," said the former England captain, remembering how he got married while serving a ban for fighting with Leeds player Billy Bremner during the Charity Shield.
Writing in his autobiography, he added: "We were married in relative secrecy at St Peter in Chains Roman Catholic Church in Doncaster on 23 September 1974. Only our families were there. We all had to tell a few fibs to keep it quiet, but we didn't want such an important day being turned into a circus by the media and the fans."
Keegan, who went on to captain England and win more than 60 caps, was not even on the same pitch as today's players in financial terms. His transfer fee to Liverpool in 1971 was a modest £33,000 – in a deal that saw him get a basic wage of £100 a week – and his one extravagance on joining was to buy a Datsun 260Z for just over £2,000.
Football was awash with money and players a prime target for celebrity magazines eager to fuel ever more lavish weddings to feature. Paul Gascoigne, England's star of the 1990 World Cup and Euro '96, was snapped up by Hello! in a £150,000 deal to cover his wedding to Sheryl Failes in July 1996.
"I spent the whole lot on the wedding – the clothes, food and drink, the honeymoon ... The reception was held at Hanbury Manor, near Ware in Hertfordshire, a very posh Jacobean-style mansion set in huge grounds. We had the full treatment; the best of everything," Gascoigne recalled in his autobiography.
Guests arrived in white limousines with blacked-out windows, and security men and police kept out hordes of fans as the couple exchanged vows before a 100-strong celebrity-studded congregation. "Many of the England team came: David Seaman, Ian Wright, Chris Waddle and Paul Ince, and friends like Chris Evans and Danny Baker ... It was a great day. Euro '96, and the season, were over, so we could all relax and enjoy ourselves," he added.
Even his wedding, lampooned at the time for being over the top, has been made to look outdated by Wayne and Coleen in their attempt to become the new king and queen of football royalty.Reuse content