LONDON -- It may not have been a royal wedding -- although a king was there -- but it was the closest thing to one in years. That old standby storybook doesn't even begin to describe the beauty and lavishness of it. All of stylish London and friends...

LONDON — It may not have been a royal wedding — although a king was there — but it was the closest thing to one in years. That old standby storybook doesn’t even begin to describe the beauty and lavishness of it. All of stylish London and friends that had come from all over the world — more than 800 strong — for the festivities were agog — and agog is something that group isn’t very often.

Dressed by Givenchy in pristine white silk crepe embroidered with flowers and diamantes, wearing a crown of gardenias in her hair and a white tulle veil that trailed for what seemed like miles, beautiful Arietta Livanos, the Greek shipping heiress, married tall, dark and handsome Giorgios Vardinoyannis, the Greek shipping heir, in a traditional sacred ceremony at the magnificent Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sophia in London’s Moscow Road. They were attended by eight of the most beautiful children imaginable, all members of the bride’s family; four tiny flower girls dressed in white taffeta sashed in blue with little headbands topped with a single gardenia, and four wee pages in white trousers and pale blue cummerbunds. One of the flower girls was nine-year-old Athina Roussel, the exquisite child of the bride’s cousin, the late Christina Onassis, who may well be the richest little girl in the world. Another was the bride’s little sister, four-year-old Christina, named after her aunt Christina.

Among the little ones were five Niarchoses, grandchildren of the Greek tycoon Stavros Niarchos — three by his son Philippe, two by son Spyros. The groom’s best man was the bride’s 14-year-old brother, Stavros, manly in his morning coat.

During the ceremony, a symphony orchestra played classical music, the first time ever in that cathedral — and the perfumed pack in the church marveled at that and at the magnificent flowers, all white, that filled every inch of the place.

As you have read here before, the bride comes from a long line of beauties, not the least of whom is her mother, Lita, who, dressed in short terra cotta silk crepe by Saint Laurent — the women guests were asked to wear short evening dresses — was as lovely as the jeweled butterfly that shimmered on her shoulder. Other family beauties were the bride’s sisters, Eugenie, outstanding in a blue off-the-shoulder dress with a white collar, and Marina, dressed in light green set off by mummy’s emerald bead necklace and earrings. “Mummy is lucky if she ever gets them back,” said mummy.

The six ushers, all in morning coats, included the Duke of Marlborough, who was once married to the bride’s late aunt Tina Livanos; the duke’s son, Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill; John Radziwill of New York; Bluey Mavroleon; George Goulandris, and the bride’s uncle Alex Voivoda. All of the bride’s and groom’s extensive families were seated in the first three rows. Of course, all those who could bear to drag their eyes from the altar stared at everyone else. After all, there was a lot to see: King Constantine of Greece and Queen Anne-Marie; the ravishing English-born Begum Aga Khan, otherwise known as Princess Salima, there without her husband but with her daughter Zahra and her brother-in-law Prince Amyn Aga Khan; Lord Charles Spencer-Churchill; the automotive heir, Muck Flick, with his wife Donatella; his brother Mick and his divorced wife Maya; press lord Conrad Black and his decorative wife, London Sunday Times columnist Barbara Amiel; Princess Firyal of Jordan, whose Mayfair residence — where she entertains beautifully — is more a palace than a house; Randolph Hearst of the Hearst Hearsts and his wife, Veronica, in a red chiffon Valentino; Drue Heinz of New York and London and 57 Varieties; Rosemarie Kanzler, in from Paris, wearing Saint Laurent’s pink gazar; Cecile and Ezra Zilkha; Eugenie Radziwill in Saint Laurent’s periwinkle blue hit of the collection; Carroll Petrie; Charles Price, our former Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, and his wife, Carol; Vivian Duffield and Jocelyn Stevens; Tina Fanjul of Palm Beach; Judy and Alfred Taubman; the adorable Daphne Niarchos; Caroline Mavroleon; Alexander Papamarkou; Boaz Mazor; Lady Russell, once a Miss Greece, in a white organza hat you couldn’t miss, and more, more, more.

After the evening wedding came the dinner dance in the Great Room at Grosvenor House, the only room in London big enough to hold 800 guests plus what must have been hundreds of thousands of white flowers, daisies, roses, peonies, lilies. From the room’s four giant chandeliers, each 30 feet in diameter, great circular wreaths of white flowers were suspended and more white flowers burst from the center of 80 dinner tables covered in Porthault cloths printed with pink, blue and green hearts. The favors were tiny silver heart-shpaed pillboxes engraved with the bride’s initials.

Everywhere you looked you saw such notables as Jayne Wrightsman of the Fifth Avenue Wrightsmans; Lord (Jacob) Rothschild; Lord (Evelyn) Rothschild and his gorgeous American wife Victoria; Luciana Pignatelli; American-born Robin (Mrs. Rupert) Hambro, wife of the British banker, scintillating in bare black and white polka dot chiffon by Valentino; Liz and Damon Mezzacappa; Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera (she wore drop-dead, one-shouldered brown chiffon designed by, well, guess); Prince Ernst of Hanover and his wife Chantal; hotel millionaire Rocco Forte and his fetching wife Aliai; Fayez Sarofim, the Houston tycoon; Milana and Heinrich von Furstenberg; Pauline and Dixon Boardman; Lord and Lady Weidenfeld; Cathy Ford; Lady Lambton; Princess Marina of Greece; Christina and Gerald Goldsmith; Gaby and Thierry Roussel; Anouska Hempel and Mark Weinberg; Susan and John Gutfreund; Diana and Philip Harari; Lily and Edmond Safra; stunning Eliza Reed; Jackie and Jean-Charles de Ravenel; Lynn Wyatt; Nan Kempner; Jane Spencer-Churchill; Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia; Spyros and Constantine Niarchos; Maria Niarchos Goaze and her husband Stefan; Princess Ira von Furstenberg; Georgina Brandolini, and a ton of others too august to mention.

The bride’s parents, George and Lita Livanos, have residences in London, New York, St. Moritz and Nassau, never mind their own beautiful private Greek island, Coronis. Some thought Arietta and Giorgios would spend their honeymoon on Coronis, but they can stay there any time. So they’re off in Italy, all over Italy, especially the most romantic spots — and that’s all anyone will say. When they get back, they will live in London and, sometimes, New York. Or anyplace else they feel like living. You can do that when you’re in shipping, you know. It’s the only way, really.

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