September 27, 2014 - 11:33 AM
VENICE, Italy - George Clooney was spotted relaxing with friends Saturday ahead of his wedding to human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin in the romantic lagoon city, seemingly unbothered by a flotilla of photographers hovering in boats off-shore for a glimpse of the couple.
Clooney had a late-morning coffee with Cindy Crawford and her husband on a luxury hotel terrace the day after the betrothed couple and a host of celebrity friends arrived for the weekend wedding extravaganza. The bride was nowhere to be seen.
Hotel staff at the five-star Cipriani hotel formed a protective barrier blocking the view of Clooney and his guests from about a dozen boats of photographers, but then Clooney apparently waved them away. The actor, maintaining his ever-cool demeanor, even interacted briefly with the paparazzi.
After someone yelled "Is this really happening, George?" the actor feigned looking at a watch on his bare wrist and yelled back: "Yeah, right now."
Venice is perhaps a natural setting for Clooney's wedding. The star owns a villa on Lake Como north of Milan, feels at home in Italy and is a frequent visitor to Venice, often to promote his films at the Venice Film Festival.
While the Venetian waterways offer stunning views of the city's Byzantine and Renaissance architecture, where East truly meets West, its system of islands and maze of canals also permit privacy and easily restricted access.
Singer Bono and his wife were among the late arrivals on Saturday, joining Clooney's cousin Miguel Ferrer, Matt Damon, Ellen Barkin, Anna Wintour and Richard Kind.
Clooney, 53, and Alamuddin, 36, who were engaged in April, have not publicly divulged details of the celebrations — leaving plenty open to speculation.
There were signs of festivities at the luxury Aman hotel overlooking the Grand Hotel on Saturday, with large plants placed on the private arrival pier, which would afford more privacy. The hotel has been cited as the venue for the main festivities.
Venice city officials, meanwhile, have announced the closure of a 50-meter (yard) length of pedestrian way along the Grand Canal near the 16th-century Cavalli Palace, used for civil marriage ceremonies, for two hours on Monday because of the Clooney nuptials. The Cavalli Palace is just opposite the Aman hotel.
Media have speculated that the couple will have two ceremonies — one on Saturday followed by a civil ceremony Monday.
Clooney and Alamuddin are among thousands of non-Venetian couples, foreign and Italian, who chose each year to marry in Venice, and the Venice city administration smooth over the process with an on-line application form and list of documents needed to make the ceremony legally binding.
In St. Mark's Square a bride dressed in white was kissing her groom as photographers snapped away. The couple said they didn't mind sharing the spotlight with the Hollywood star and his bride.
"It is a pleasure for us that a person as famous as him is celebrating his wedding here just like us," said Michele Santoriello.
Alamuddin, a London-based human rights lawyer, is of Lebanese origin, and her wedding was also being celebrated Saturday in her family's village of origin, Baakline in the Chouf district. Alamuddin left Lebanon during the civil war and was raised in the United Kingdom. She met Clooney, who is active in many political causes, through her work.
As the wedding party descended on Venice, the Alamuddin family house in Baakline was empty. Her neighbors said the bride's cousins departed the night before.
Many villagers welcomed the news of the impending nuptials. "We congratulate them and we hope that the happiness will be international," said shopkeeper Ghassan Bou Hatoum.
Luca Bruno in Venice, Maeva Bambuck int Baakline, Lebanon and Colleen Barry in Milan contributed to this report.
News from © The Associated Press, 2014