Byline: Aileen Mehle
In a word, exquisite. The wedding of Prince Pierre d’Arenberg and Silvia de Castellane left the most sophisticated, even jaded, guests awed by its joyousness and beauty. And complicated though the arrangements were, every aspect was clockwork perfection. It was agreed by all that it was the grandest and most beautifully organized wedding they had ever attended in their lives. Praise indeed from all those Caesars.
Family and friends of the beautiful couple, whose bloodlines go back forever, came from everywhere for the ceremony at the magnificent Cathedral at Bourges and the wedding lunch afterward at nearby Menetou Salon, the groom’s romantic chateau, filled with silken treasures and brocades. They had arrived in France on their private planes or via Concorde, and arrangements had been made to transport them from Paris to Bourges by train, car and helicopter. The wedding train left the Gare d’Austerlitz at 9:30 a.m. carrying 400 guests, resplendent in their finery, hatted and gloved. There was a mariachi band to greet splendid creatures like Florence Grinda of Paris society; Cornelia Guest of New York, dressed by Chanel; Lucy Ferry in a huge, leopard-print Christian Lacroix hat; Lord Frederick Windsor; striking Princess Hermine de Clermont-Tonnere, and others of that ilk and stripe. There was Dom Perignon for everyone on the train and little dainties to help them keep up their strength for the almost three-hour ride.
The glorious flowers which filled the Cathedral, all white, stretched along the center aisle from the entrance of the church to the altar, where Pierre and Silvia took their vows at brocade prie-dieux. Overhead, the many crystal chandeliers were festooned in white lilies. (A Bourges florist was heard to say that he had done more business for this wedding than he had done in an entire year.) The bride, who arrived at the cathedral with her father in a 1930s Rolls-Royce, was beyond beautiful in an embroidered white satin gown designed by Oscar de la Renta, with a 24-foot train embroidered in white and gold with the d’Arenberg family flower motif and a short veil held in place by a diamond flower diadem. The look of the little pages and flower girls was inspired by Van Dyck family portraits, Pierre’s idea — just one of his many.
The ceremony took two hours, and when the guests left the church, it was raining. But Pierre Celeyron, Paris’s great event organizer, had provided for young girls and boys with umbrellas to protect the guests on the way to the private buses that conveyed them to lunch at Menetou Salon. More champagne — and then the seated lunch for 1,200 — can you imagine? — with Jerry Hall in black and feathers and Mary McFadden holding her own in wine-colored velvet. Other head-turning beauties were Fiammeta d’Arenberg, nee Frescobald, and Eleanore de Rohan-Chabot. What was so amazing was that everyone in this privileged and pampered group was simply thrilled with his/her placement. The hot meal (lobster bisque with truffles, grilled quail and Parfait de la Belle au Bois Dormant) was served under a wrought-iron pavilion — no tent for this bride and groom — and Pierre had done the entire seating himself, making sure that each guest had someone at their table they knew, a feat well nigh impossible, and I mean it. Each lady found a silver box bearing the d’Arenberg crest at her place, and for the ladies and gentlemen both, there were silver stickpins. The only photographers present were Pierre’s own, who took pictures of the bride and groom at the ceremony and, by the time lunch was served, delivered photos to each of the assembled guests — by helicopter, if you please. But by the time dessert had been served, the fog had set in, so the 10 white helicopters that had flown guests to the wedding had to stay put in a line at the edge of the vast lawn while their passengers went back to Paris on the train.
Among the Americans who flew over for the festivities were Lee Thaw, Lynn Wyatt, Dodie Rosekrans, Barbara and Henryk de Kwiatkowski, Nan Kempner, Kenneth Jay Lane and lovely Muffie Bancroft Murray, Pierre’s all-American half-sister.
The on dit in Paris is that Silvia told Pierre she didn’t mind how many people were invited to the wedding, but she didn’t want to share their honeymoon with anyone. Apparently, their destination was a surprise to her, but Pierre did tell her to pack three suitcases, one for cashmere and tweed, one for sarongs and bikinis, and one for ballgowns. Maybe we all need a Pierre in our lives.
Two nights before the wedding, there was a dinner at Versailles with a grand concert of gems from Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Chopin and Mendelssohn, laid on in the Royal Chapel by Olaf Guerrand-Hermes and his wife, Olga, the daughter of the famous Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. It was a wedding present offered in memory of Pierre’s late parents, Prince and Princess Charles d’Arenberg, and was followed by a gold and silver fireworks display in the Royal Gardens, viewed from the windows of the Hall of Mirrors. Princess Caroline of Monaco was there with her big romance, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, Prince Pavlos and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, Vera and Julio Mario Santo Domingo Jr., Anne Bass, Dora Loewenstein, Elle Macpherson with her lover, Arky Busson, and, yes, Christian Louboutin, who designed all the bride’s shoes. The jewels and the dresses were huge. Eugenie Livanos, who herself will be married outside London on Saturday, wore a necklace designed by JAR, a present from her husband-to-be, British banker Nicholas Clive-Worms, declared by many “the prettiest piece JAR has ever made.” Dodie Rosekrans had an Art Deco diamond tassel hanging from a see-through makeup bag that she was using as an evening purse. Leave it to Dodie.
Dinner was served in the Galerie des Batailles where one — and only one — huge table, 150 feet long, was set for 400 guests. Divided in the d’Arenberg colors, yellow and red, half sat on the yellow side and half on the red. Truly amazing. There were truffles galore and lobsters and profiterolles and chocolates with coronets on top. Coronets, you understand, are something these people understand very well. Pierre Celeyron organized the evening brilliantly, and the bride looked like a little Infanta in her black and cream dress. Also outstanding was the bride’s beautiful maternal grandmother, Beatriz de Patino, who invented charm, and her paternal grandmother, Madame Killian Hennessy. Among the perfumed pack at Versailles or the wedding or both were Prince Charles-Louis de Lobkowicz, Prince Charles of Yugoslavia, Veronica Toub-Buisson, Astrid Kohl, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Prince Michel of Yugoslavia, Viscount William Lewisham, Prince Charles-Antoine de Ligne, Viscount Roland de Rosiere, Prince Stephane Ratibor and such beautiful little children making up the cortege d’honneur as Princess Anne-Helene d’Arenberg, Milena and Nastassja Gaubert, whose mother is Princess Helene of Yugoslavia, Lord Worsley, the Countess of Yarborough’s son, Isabelle Espirito-Santo of the celebrated Portuguese family and Pierre’s nephew, Antoine de Boncourt-Humereuil.
Describing this as a fairy tale wedding doesn’t quite make it. Along with exquisite and perfection, try incomparable.