Weddings, like it or not, are public affairs — so, after months of rumors and denials, Madonna and film director-boyfriend Guy Ritchie had to commit their names to paper — if only to reserve a date and location to show their private love: Dec. 22 at Dornoch, Scotland's Skibo Castle.
The "banns" — a term used in the United Kingdom to describe a public announcement signaling a forthcoming marriage — were posted at the Dornoch registrar's office in Sutherland today. The couple's names — Guy Stewart Ritchie and Madonna Louise Ciccone — were last on the list of four.
Speculation about the wedding had reached a fever pitch in the past few weeks, as reporters pursued "clues" like the diamond ring on the singer's finger and reports of a wedding gown made by hip designer Stella McCartney. But even after Madonna reportedly told U.K. tabloid The Sun that she had accepted Ritchie's offer of marriage, her camp claimed the quote was taken "out of context."
The wedding will cap an eventful year for the Queen of Pop — she's starred in The Next Best Thing; remade Don McLean's 1972 No. 1 hit, "American Pie"; given birth to her second child, son Rocco; returned to the top of the charts with the single "Music" and the album of the same name; and set a record by having more people watch an Internet broadcast of a concert than anyone in history.
Fans will be watching to see how the Ritchie-Madonna nuptials compare with the glitzy wedding of Hollywood stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in New York's Plaza Hotel last month.
Madonna's 4-year-old daughter, Lourdes, is expected to be a bridesmaid at the Skibo Castle ceremony, but Ritchie's father speculates that the singer won't be treating guests to any songs.
Weather forecasters warned that the sexy icon could be in for a windy day. "It is notoriously unsettled at this time of the year," said a spokesman for the local meteorological office.
Perhaps that's a good omen. The Material Girl's first wedding was held on a sunny California day in 1985 — but the union with actor Sean Penn was a stormy one that ended after four years.
Madonna and Ritchie, who is 10 years her junior, paid a visit to Scotland earlier this week, sparking speculation that they were laying plans for their big day.
The Rev. Susan Brown, who will officiate at the wedding, said, "This is a wonderful thing for Dornoch, in the sense that it is going to bring a lot of people here. This is important, as it has not been a very good tourist season here."
Skibo Castle, a turreted fortress on Scotland's northeast coast, is a favorite backdrop for the weddings of the rich and famous, including Trainspotting actors Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle.
The castle, which was bought in 1898 by Scottish-American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, is also reputed to be a favorite bolt-hole for Hollywood stars Sean Connery and Jack Nicholson, as well as billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
The castle owners have refused to comment on whether the singer has made any bookings there. But today security guards barred photographers from the premises.
Reuters contributed to this report.