Carmel residents are inured to celebrity. During major events like the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am, the MotoGP World Championship at Laguna Seca, and the myriad events surrounding the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, it’s common to spy someone strolling down Ocean Avenue who’s been on the cover of People magazine—or possibly a checkout-stand tabloid. And quite a few household names call our area home, at least part time. For the most part, we respect the privacy of famous people. That is, no doubt, one of the reasons it feels comfortable for someone with an instantly recognizable visage to hang out here…and a great reason to get married here.
There are plenty more reasons, but there’s something less tangible…The fact is, this little piece of paradise is extremely romantic. And that’s why A-list celebrities such as Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, Nicolas Cage, Brooke Shields and Jim Nantz have chosen to celebrate their nuptials in various Peninsula locations. The owner of Colette Cuccia Wedding and Event Designs has been involved in dozens of high-profile weddings in and around town. “I think celebrities are attracted to the exclusivity of this area,” Cuccia says, “…the beautiful homes we have up and down the coast and venues such as Post Ranch, Stonepine, Tehama, Bernardus Lodge, the Highlands Inn, the Santa Lucia Preserve and Pebble Beach make spectacular scenes for weddings.” Hospitality is the Peninsula’s middle name, so the talent pool is deep in caterers, photographers, musicians, florists, decorators—all the vendors necessary to put on an event of any size, from laid-back to lavish.
Big Sur is a natural choice if one is pining for a place away from prying paparazzi. There’s only one way in and out (CA Highway 1) and there are dozens of venues to select from. That isolation prompted red-hot Academy Awardwinning actress Anne Hathaway to choose a private Big Sur home as the place to exchange vows with actor-jewelry designer Adam Shulman on September 29 of last year. If word of that ceremony had leaked out, the skies over Big Sur would have been thick with helicopters, long-as-your-arm telephoto lenses poking out of open doorways. Even People magazine got scant details, and that after the fact. According to People.com: “ ‘The wedding was lovely and Anne looked gorgeous,’” a source tells People of the bride, 29, who stunned in a custom Valentino gown. ‘She looked very pretty.’”
Another Hollywood notable lured to the locale was Natalie Portman for her recent wedding to choreographer Benjamin Millepied. Actor/musician Jack Black also wed Tanya Haydn in that bucolic location. And the quirky comedian got totally into the Big Sur vibe, “They had a package deal where you can get married by a woman named Soaring,” Black told Celebritycafe.com writer Angela P. Cobb about his nuptials. “The ceremony was pretty hippie, spacey and non-denominational.”
Not all wedding ceremonies performed on the Central Coast have escaped the limelight, however. In 1997, all eyes were on the fairy-tale romance between tennis star Andre Agassi and actress Brooke Shields. They were the celebrity couple du jour, so when they decided to tie the knot in Carmel, word naturally leaked out and the tabloids were dangling beaucoup bucks for images of the golden couple’s ceremony. Veteran lensman Tom O’Neal was one of four photographers hired by the couple to officially document the proceedings. “There was a last-minute venue change from the Carmel Mission to St. John’s Chapel on Mark Thomas Drive in Monterey,” he recalls. “In that short amount of time a paparazzi rented a cherry picker and paid off someone at the [Del Monte] golf course so he could have a perfect view of the stairs going to the church. Security had rented huge ficus trees and lined them around the doorway. He still managed to get the shot.” When the money is that big and the stakes that high, “The paparazzi will do anything.” Helicopters hovered overhead; it was a true media circus.
Shields and Agassi were staying at Stonepine, an exclusive Carmel Valley resort. Security there was drum-tight. “They even tethered weather balloons around the property to keep helicopters at bay,” O’Neal says. Thinking that was a tragedy waiting to happen, he casually mentioned it to U.S. Representative Sam Farr, who subsequently introduced legislation banning such activity. Despite all the hoopla, the couple was able to enjoy their day. “Brooke was one of the most beautiful brides I’ve ever seen,” O’Neal says. “Very nice, very charming. When she came out, she radiated; she sparkled.”
Stonepine was also the site of another high-visibility Hollywood wedding when actor Dennis Franz (then riding high after starring in TV series “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue”) and Los Angeles businesswoman Joanie Zeck tied the knot. Gary Geiger was on board to document the proceedings on film. “The guest list was a Who’s Who of the Hollywood entertainment biz,” Geiger recalls. This accomplished photographer shot hundreds of weddings during his career (“At my peak, I was doing 125 a year,” he says. “I did 27 in one month.”) This one definitely stood out. “It was one of those weddings you don’t forget.” Again, security was heavy. No one got through the Stonepine gate that didn’t belong there. But: “No matter how you try to keep a cap on things,” Geiger says, “the word always gets out.” When the bride got wind that paparazzi were at the Monterey airport having the doors removed from helicopters so they could hang out the sides to shoot the wedding, the ceremony was delayed until after dark to foil their attempts. As with the Shields/Agassi affair, though, the couple was able to relax and have fun. “Franz was super easy to work with,” Geiger says. “He enjoyed everything and had a great time.”
Besides the obvious natural beauty, there are deeper reasons people align with the Monterey Peninsula. “Pebble Beach is a very spiritual place to me,” says CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz. “I’ve felt it calling me there for a long time…a strong, deep tug.” Nantz has covered the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am every year since 1986. While staying at the Lodge, he would rise early each morning and “watch the dawning of a new day…to me it was a place where I felt a certain peace, a place of prayerful introspection.”
In 2009, Nantz brought Courtney Richards to the tournament with him, and she joined him for one of his morning ruminations. “As the sun came up, there was a glorious rainbow stretching over our heads,” she recalls. Nantz had never witnessed that before and took it as an omen. On June 9, 2012, he and Courtney exchanged vows in a jaw-dropping Pebble Beach setting. Tom O’Neal was there with his camera. “That wedding was just spectacular,” he recounts. “It was one of the most amazing weddings I’ve ever done. Everything went perfectly; even the weather was outstanding.”
The Nantzes had such a wonderful experience that they subsequently chose to make Pebble Beach their home. “Being fortunate enough to have my life centered here, and to have my life with Courtney commence here is truly a wonderful, beautiful and glorious dream come true,” the proud groom says.
Some couples choose Peninsula venues for other aspects of their journey to the altar. When actor, businessman and avid golfer John O’Hurley (he is perhaps best known as portraying J. Peterman on “Seinfeld,” and later became a coowner of the real J. Peterman company) gathered up the courage to propose to Lisa Mesloh, he decided to do so on the 7th hole of Pebble Beach while the two enjoyed a round of golf. Tom O’Neal, a friend of O’Hurley’s, set up a faux fashion shoot nearby to surreptitiously capture the event. “I had the ring, and stashed it in the hole,” O’Neal recalls. “When the moment came and John got on his knee, I snapped the shots. It was a fairytale moment.”
“CSI: Miami” star Eva La Rue and native Monterey businessman Joe Cappuccio actually exchanged vows in Mexico, but because of Cappuccio’s Peninsula roots, had an engagement party at Spanish Bay. “We pretty much took over the patio and enjoyed the sunset and the bagpiper,” La Rue says. “Kids were rolling around on the grass…it was a fantastic, fun family time.” And for an anniversary gift, her mother-in-law presented the couple with a four-night stay at Stonepine, a thrilling experience for this avid equestrian.
To the average person, it seems that celebrities lead fairy-tale lives. So it should come as no surprise that for their most special of days, movie stars, sports luminaries and other high-profile people would choose to come to a magically romantic locale such as the Monterey Peninsula.
MAKE MY (WEDDING) DAY
Casual Was Key for This Celebrity Couple
BY MICHAEL CHATFIELD
While it’s true that many out-of-the-area celebrities travel here to celebrate their weddings, the opposite is also sometimes true. Case in point: Alison Eastwood is the daughter of perhaps our best-known citizen, Clint Eastwood, and as an actress has gained fame in her own right.
So when she and chainsaw artist and reality show star Stacy Poitras were scouting locations for their nuptials, they settled on Calabasas, California, where the couple make their home.
“There was discussion about having our wedding and reception at Tehama [in Carmel],” Poitras says “…a big production with all our friends invited. We changed that plan because we have friends in faraway places that wouldn’t have been able to come.” “So we decided we leave everybody out,” he jokes, “and have a party later.”
“Originally we talked about Hawaii,” Eastwood adds, “because my mom [Maggie Eastwood] spends a lot of time there.” They ultimately settled on an intimate ceremony at Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas on March 16, attended by close family and a few friends. “What we chose to do fit our personalities,” Eastwood says. “A good way to start a marriage is to get clear on what you want as a couple, and that’s what we agreed on.”
And that party? “We’re having a big BBQ in our backyard in May,” Poitras says. “This way, we can relax and have fun with our friends.”