Natalie Portman tied the knot this weekend, in her typically understated style. The Oscar winner married French dancer Benjamin Millepied at a private residence in Big Sur, Calif.
Portman joins an increasing number of stars who opt for nuptials not in lavish hotels or swanky resorts but in homes far away from prying eyes, invasive lenses and interlopers.
Celebrity wedding guru Colin Cowie says getting married in a private abode, as opposed to a more public and less secluded space, "is the most personal way to have an event. If your home is big enough to accommodate that many guests, all the better. It's so intimate to have it in your garden. It's more relaxed without that ballroom feeling. We're in a recession, and couples are conscious of being ostentatious."
In June, Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves said their "I dos" at their Austin residence, and Drew Barrymore and Will Kopelman did the same at her $5.7 million home in Montecito, Calif. And Reese Witherspoon married agent Jim Toth last year at her ranch in Ojai, California.
Even for those who opt to go outside the home, many, like Portman, keep things small and intimate. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard tied the knot in May 2009 in Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli, a luxury bed and breakfast in Brindisi, Italy, in front of about 40 friends and family. "We got married in Italy, in a tiny town," Gyllenhaal says. "We had 40 people there. It was no big deal, just a little thing. Just a small, little party."
Still, word got out, but after the fact. "Peter's cousin was e-mailing us during our honeymoon, saying, 'I saw pictures of you doing this and this and this,' " Gyllenhaal recalls.
When they're away from gawkers and paparazzi, celebrities are more relaxed. They can have a good time and maybe throw back a few extra drinks, without someone taking a photo and selling it — to that end, all camera phones are taken away when guests arrive.
"They feel like they're at home and people can't invade their space. It's a safe feeling. It's all about the feelings of comfort and familiarity," says wedding planner Mindy Weiss, who has worked with Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, Kimberly Williams and Brad Paisley, and Kate Beckinsale and Len Weisman. "We do have security inside the house — not a bouncer, but more someone who melts in."
The two drawbacks to having a celebrity wedding either at your own home or in a small, private venue: security and sound.
"You have helicopters and issues regarding privacy and paparazzi. And there are noise issues if you have a band playing," says Cowie, who has worked with Alyssa Milano and tells all his clients to put up a tent to shut out prying eyes and lenses. To avoid any complaints or 911 calls, "make sure your neighbors love you."
Of course, it may look more laid-back, but having a big party at home costs money. In fact, it's more expensive than going to a pre-equipped venue. Just think of all the amenities and incidentals you have to pay for, from toilet paper to napkins.
"You have to bring in all the rentals. You have to bring in bathrooms," Weiss says. "The tenting. The flooring because the grass is not level. You bring in salt and pepper shakers. Valet parking. It's a big deal.
"The people who have it home, like Drew Barrymore, you get your house ready to have people in your home. That means landscaping and everything. You want your house to look fabulous. You have to start setting up at least a week ahead of time at home, and in a venue you go in the way a day before."