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Published: Saturday, 11/18/2006

Cruise, Holmes exchange vows in medieval Italian castle

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BRACCIANO, Italy It's now Mr. and Mrs. Tom Cruise. Cruise and Katie Holmes exchanged vows Saturday in a lavish, star-studded wedding celebrated in a fairy-tale setting: a glowing 15th-century castle in this medieval lakeside town.

Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Jim Carrey were among the more than 150 relatives and friends at the union of ''TomKat,'' whose relationship has created a media firestorm since the superstar couple announced it little more than a year and a half ago.

Giorgio Armani, who designed the clothes of the entire wedding party, was there too, as was Brooke Shields, who has patched up a very public rift created when Cruise criticized her for using prescription drugs to treat postpartum depression.

Oil-fed torches and tiny candles flickered from the battlements and windows of the Odescalchi castle as the couple and guests gathered for the evening wedding in the town about 27 miles northwest of Rome. The ceremony was performed by a Scientology minister, the couple's publicists said.

The couple's baby, Suri, came dressed in white and in her mother's arms, seven months after her birth created a sensation of its own.

The wedding party included Cruise's two children, Isabella and Connor, from his previous marriage to Nicole Kidman, the publicists said in a statement. The best man was Cruise's best friend David Miscavige and the matron of honor was Holmes' sister Nancy Blaylock.

Holmes wore a black dress and boots before she changed into an off-the-shoulder ivory silk gown designed by Giorgio Armani for the ceremony. Her father, Martin Holmes, walked her down the aisle and she carried a bouquet of flowers made by Armani including calla lilies.

Cruise, who sported dark shades and waved to fans as he rode through the castle gates in a van, wore a single breasted navy blue Armani handmade suit, with an ivory silk French collar shirt of the same fabric as the bride's gown for the wedding.

Armani told The Associated Press that Cruise, then Holmes, walked down a stone ramp lined with flag bearers in medieval costumes and to the roll of drums.

They exchanged vows in a former stable decorated simply with white flowers.

''For the Americans, this was very special because Americans do not have this kind of thing back home, and they dream of such things in our beautiful country, and you can see the surprise and the awe on their faces,'' Armani said.

He added that the 20-minute ceremony ended with ''a never-ending kiss'' that prompted some of the guests to shout ''stop, stop!''

Italian singer Andrea Bocelli serenaded the couple at the reception and the bride and groom cut a five-tiered white chocolate wedding cake. Fireworks later burst above the castle, but the view was marred by a foggy night.

Other famous guests included soccer star David Beckham's pop star wife Victoria, formerly known as Posh Spice of the Spice Girls.

Cruise and Holmes arrived separately to the castle earlier Saturday, with pouring rain forcing Holmes and her daughter to take shelter under large, green umbrellas as they left their limousine. The sun was shining on the castle when Cruise arrived in a van from Rome, where the family had been staying in a luxury hotel near the Spanish Steps, with some fans shouting, ''Tom, Tom!''

When the groom drove up, Holmes watched from a castle window and anxiously gestured with her hand. Holmes was giving Cruise a Vacheron Constantin watch engraved simply, ''I Love You,'' as a wedding gift, the company said. It said she bought the gift in Los Angeles last week.

As the sun began to set, candles were placed in pots along the road to the castle and in some of the windows. Men wearing tuxedos and women holding up the hems of their long gowns walked up the steep path to the castle.

Security was tight, with Carbinieri paramilitary police patrolling the walls of the castle and all vehicles banned from the center of Bracciano.

The flag of the Odescalchi family, whose ancestors include Benedetto Odescalchi, the 17th century pope Innocent XI, fluttered over the castle's towers.

''When I first walked here, I didn't know why they chose this place,'' said Emily Roeder, 19, of Atchison, Kan., who came to Bracciano for the day from Florence, where she is studying. ''Then I saw the castle and the streets all around, and it's really romantic.''

Hundreds of the town's 14,000 residents and fans of the stars braved intermittent rain to catch a glimpse of the arrivals.

''I want to see at least one of them even if it's not Tom Cruise,'' said 15-year-old Erica Bandiera.

''I want to see Beckham's wife,'' said her friend Luca Costanzi, 15, with a huge grin.

Holmes and Cruise became engaged in June 2005, about two months after they went public with their relationship, kissing and posing for photographers in Rome. Their daughter was born April 18.

Much of the attention given to Cruise since he jumped up and down on Oprah Winfrey's couch proclaiming his love for Holmes has been negative. He was mocked for that episode, criticized for his comments about Shields and questioned about his embrace of Scientology, the religion founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard that holds an opposition to psychiatry and related medication among its tenets.

In August, Paramount Studios severed its 14-year deal with Cruise's film production company; Sumner Redstone, whose company owns Paramount Pictures, said ''his recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.'' Earlier this month it was announced that Cruise and his producing partner, Paula Wagner, are taking over the Hollywood movie studio United Artists.

Scientology ceremonies contain many elements of traditional weddings, including rings and vows. But they also include certain Scientology fundamentals, including vowing never to go to bed without communicating about any differences.

A spokesman for the Church of Scientology for Rome, Fabrizio D'Agostino, said an exchange of vows with a Scientology rite was not legally recognized in Italy, and would have to be preceded or followed by a civil union.

The publicists said Cruise and Holmes had ''officialized their marriage in Los Angeles prior to their departure for Italy,'' saying that was customary for couples marrying outside the United States. Cruise's publicist Arnold Robinson did not immediately reply to an e-mailed question about whether that meant they had been married in a civil ceremony.

Cruise, star of the ''Mission: Impossible'' series and ''War of the Worlds,'' was divorced from Kidman in 2001, was previously married to Mimi Rogers and had a high-profile romance with Penelope Cruz. Holmes, who starred in TV's ''Dawson's Creek,'' and last year in ''Batman Begins,'' had been engaged to Chris Klein.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.



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