The Chelsea Affair: A Perfect Wedding Day

Chelsea Clinton's wedding Saturday to Marc Mezvinsky in the bucolic Rhinebeck was a covert operation.

with contributions from Matthew Lynch
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Some local supporters.

Photo By Matthew Lynch

Live from Rhinebeck.

Photo By Matthew Lynch

The scene in Rhinebeck.

Photo By Matthew Lynch

The few boldface names that made the cut managed to upend this historic Duchess County town 100 miles north of the couple’s Gramercy apartment in New York City. Residents grabbed their cameras, as did the paparazzi, when Wang strolled into town, or “Wong” as some locals insisted (although she avoided them after lunch Saturday at Gigi’s by seeming to slip out a back entrance). Albright caused a frenzy Saturday afternoon by also dining at the not-so-private all-glass trattoria, where Bill Clinton and his brother Roger chose to break bread Friday. One twentysomething onlooker commented, “Look at this. When was the last time you even heard Madeleine Albright’s name? I bet half these people couldn’t even tell you what she did and everyone is pointing a cellphone camera in her face.”

Striding out of the restaurant with a pack of photographers and cameramen in tow, even the former madame secretary seemed bemused by all the attention. Known for her treasure chest of brooches, which prompted her to write “Read My Pins” last year, Albright was tight-lipped about her choice for the wedding. Asked what type of pin Saturday’s occasion called for, Albright said, “You will have to wait until tonight to see.”

As if — all media were barred from the ceremony and reception at Astor Courts. Some lensmen and scribes resorted to standing on benches to peer over a picket fence to eye guests at the Delamater Inn boarding dark-tinted minivans and a Peter Pan bus.

Burberry’s Christopher Bailey was one of a smattering of guests who dashed to the departure site unescorted, and the only one who actually stopped for a question. The Londoner would only say “could be” when asked whether he was dressing the groom for the wedding. Bailey was more forthcoming about his connection to the newlyweds. “Sharing in the happiness of Chelsea and Marc” was by far the best part of the whole affair, he said. “Simon, my partner, was at Oxford with Chelsea and Marc, and I love them very much,” said Bailey, who designed Mezvinsky’s black-tie outfit as a favor.

Not everyone was feeling the love to that degree. As the wedding-bound shuttle buses passed, James Langan, executive editor of the Hudson Valley News, said he never envisioned the wedding-related interviews he did for Paris Match, Japanese TV and a range of other international news outlets. Shaking his head at a slow-moving convertible carrying a couple wearing Bill and Hillary Clinton masks and waving to the media pack as if they were in a parade, he said, “The fact that the Clintons have not confirmed that the wedding is actually happening in Rhinebeck or anything else is somewhere between insane and manipulative. And as a result of the absence of information, there is a media frenzy.”

State and local police officers manned the entrances and exits of some hotels, and they too seemed relieved to see the crowds disperse. As for when the revelers would make the return trip, Ken Scattergood, a Rhinebeck policeman, just shrugged, “Two, three this morning — I’ll be sawing wood by then.”

As it turned out, the first shuttle bus didn’t leave the reception until 1 a.m. — two hours later than planned, one attendee said. Others didn’t turn in until 3 a.m.

Astor Courts’ owners wasted no time in trying to capitalize on last weekend’s publicity. Sunday’s New York Post featured a front-page photo of Bill Clinton walking his daughter down the aisle, while on page 2 was a full-page ad for the property where the wedding was held that proclaimed, “Yes, It’s for Sale. Home of the Recent Celebrity Wedding.” But the 50-acre property wasn’t the only local business trying to cash in. Joovay lingerie shop stocked up on Spanxx, a popular last minute pre-wedding purchase, and Haven Spa was said to be getting the bridesmaids glam on Saturday afternoon. In Face Stockholm’s store window, a wedding dress-wearing model had her makeup done by a man in a black suit. Co-owner and president Martina Arfwidson said a Clinton handler had requested video footage to display on the couple’s post-wedding Web site. But she was more jazzed about how the attention boosted local morale. “This is the first since the recession [started] that there is a sense of optimism and pride. I was just out on the street and there are housewives, business owners and all sorts of people. Everyone is so thrilled to have something good come to town,” said Arfwidson.

Not everyone was so upbeat, though. Another store owner, who requested anonymity, was less enthused, claiming last weekend was the slowest all summer. “People who come to gawk at celebrities don’t buy clothes,” he said.

Earlier in the week Samuel’s Coffee Shop welcomed “The Daily Show” for an impromptu taping, but owner Ira Gutner was gunning for what’s to follow. “This wedding is not about this weekend. This is about the next few months and the next few years. This is going to be incredible for Rhinebeck. We will forever be known as the town where Chelsea and Marc got married.”


WEDDING COVERAGE: Chelsea's Moment — The bride looked magnificent on her special day >>

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