Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria and NBA champion Tony Parker will marry in Paris Friday, the first of two wedding ceremonies that will culminate with a lavish reception at a 17th-century castle here Saturday.
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë will officiate the private civil ceremony at City Hall, to be attended by a few close friends and family, People reports.
Longoria, 32, and Parker, 25, will exchange vows again Saturday in a religious ceremony at the Saint Germain l'Auxerrois church in Paris, across the street from the Louvre museum.
About 250 guests have been invited, including Housewives co-stars Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman (Marcia Cross is staying home with her 4-month-old twins), Jessica Alba, and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, People says.
The celebrity wedding of the year has been shrouded in mystery. The couple and their publicists have deflected questions about the plans. Employees involved in the ceremony have been sworn to secrecy.
About the only thing known for sure is that the reception will be held at the Chateau Vaux le Vicomte, 30 miles southeast of Paris. Blame Parker, who spilled the beans about the location to France's Canal+ television network last month.
"We signed a confidentiality agreement, so we can't say anything about the wedding," says Jean-Charles de Vogue, whose family has owned the chateau since 1875. "We have never had such press coverage before. If this increases visitors to the chateau, we will be very happy." De Vogue relies on entry fees for upkeep of the 1,200-acre estate.
The castle's Grand Salon, which can seat 220 people, was closed off to the public for about an hour while workers were taking measurements and photographs Thursday. Its domed ceiling is painted to look like a blue sky, with a gray dove with its wings outstretched in the center. The room is lit by candles.
Unlike the circus atmosphere that surrounded last year's Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes wedding near Rome, the Longoria-Parker party appears sedate.
Journalists were most interested in what was going on the grounds. "This is a huge story in France because of Tony Parker and Desperate Housewives," says Maxime Switek of Europe 1 Radio. "Boys know Tony. Girls know Eva. Well, boys like Eva too. They like looking at her. I'm surprised how quiet this place is. I was expecting to see people painting and setting up.
"As long as they don't break anything or play basketball in the Grand Salon, I don't have a problem with them having the reception here."
Few tourists at Vaux le Vicomte Thursday were aware, or cared, about the wedding.
"I can't say that we're fans. I didn't even know who she was," says David Byrne of Sydney, who was visiting with his wife, Annie, and their daughter, Rosie, 5.
"We watch the show from time to time and get a few laughs out of it," says Kerry Rutz, a landscape artist from San Francisco who came to see the gardens, not the celebrity glitter. But he complimented the couple's taste in locations: "If you can afford it, why not?"
About a dozen workers were busy building a basketball court-size tent on the chateau's famous gardens. Another worker was unloading gold and red chairs and a silver candelabra from a catering van. A group of French and Americans, some in business suits, were looking at plans and taking measurements on the grounds. Beefy security guards wearing black uniforms were patrolling the grounds with fierce-looking dogs.
Outside the gates of the chateau, Sharon van Derplas of The Hague, Netherlands, was one of the few celebrity watchers who turned out Thursday in hopes of spotting a famous face.
"I am a huge fan," van Derplas says. "Desperate Housewives is very, very popular in Holland. When Desperate Housewives is on television, nobody is on the streets."
A few French reporters milled about the chateau, but the hordes of paparazzi had not yet materialized.
"What wedding?" asks a grinning Valerie Lafourcade, promotions director for Vaux le Vicomte. "I can't answer any questions about the wedding because it is very secret." She gives a handful of reporters a history lesson on the castle.
The chateau was built by Nicolas Fouquet, finance minister to King Louis XIV. At the 1661 housewarming party, the king was so jealous of the castle and festivities that he had Fouquet arrested. Shortly thereafter, Louis XIV began construction on the larger Château de Versailles. "This is the original Versailles," de Vogue says.
Renting the chateau for five hours will set you back 35,000 euros ($47,596). About three weddings are held at the chateau every year, de Vogue says.
But the Longoria-Parker extravaganza at Vaux le Vicomte could have poor Louis XIV rolling in his grave. The couple has rented the castle for two days. It has not been closed to the public that long since the filming of 1998's The Man in the Iron Mask, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The chateau has appeared in 16 films, including the James Bond flick Moonraker and Sophie Coppola's Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst.
The reception Saturday will cap off a week of parties that began in the posh resort of Saint Tropez in the south of France, where Longoria and Parker held a joint bachelor and bachelorette party, People reports. On Wednesday, the couple accompanied friends and family to Disneyland in Paris.
Longoria fan Rita Overend, who was at Vaux le Vicomte Thursday, recalls that the couple created a spectacle at the Disney resort.
"I didn't know what was going on at first," she says. "There was a large crowd around him. He was hard to miss." Overend chalks up the whole affair as a case of keeping up with Joneses. "It seems to be a fad of celebrities to hold fairy-tale weddings in castles," she says while strolling through the chateau's garden. "This is something you only dream about."