- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2008

PARIS (AP) — They had a glitzy, jet-setting courtship, but when it came time for the wedding, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former supermodel Carla Bruni opted for a simple, classic ceremony — and the bride wore white.

Mr. Sarkozy, 53, and Miss Bruni, 40, were married yesterday in a small private ceremony at the presidential Elysee Palace, less than three months after they reportedly first met, and less than four months after his divorce from the previous first lady, Cecilia.

The newlyweds said only that they tied the knot “in the presence of their families in the strictest privacy.” The mayor who performed the ceremony filled in the details.

“The bride wore white; she was ravishing, as usual,” Francois Lebel, mayor of Paris’ eighth arrondissement, or neighborhood, told Europe-1 radio. The groom wore a suit and tie, and he “wasn’t bad, either,” Mr. Lebel said.

About 20 friends and family members attended the 20-minute official ceremony in an Elysee drawing room, Mr. Lebel said.

Under French law, couples must marry before a mayor to make their union official. Usually weddings take place at a city hall, with an official wedding announcement published beforehand, but Mr. Sarkozy and Miss Bruni apparently had a dispensation to maintain their privacy.

On a busy day, Mr. Sarkozy squeezed the ceremony in along with official business. Addressing a crisis in the former French colony of Chad, where rebels penetrated the capital, Mr. Sarkozy also called a meeting at the Elysee Palace and spoke by telephone with Chad’s president.

As of yesterday evening, no images of the ceremony had leaked to the press. The small wedding contrasted with their highly publicized romance — which surprised many Frenchmen, accustomed to presidents keeping their love lives under wraps.

Mr. Sarkozy and Miss Bruni carried out their courtship in such public locations as Disneyland Paris and the ruins of Petra, Jordan. The tabloids even showed the couple at an Egyptian beach resort, Miss Bruni clad in a tiny black bikini, Mr. Sarkozy in trunks, gold chain and Ray-Ban sunglasses.

Mr. Sarkozy’s approval ratings dropped while they were dating — in part, analysts say, because older, more traditional voters were put off by the budding romance and by Mr. Sarkozy’s glitzy style.

Their relationship proved tricky for protocol planners in foreign countries Mr. Sarkozy visited. Before a visit to Saudi Arabia, a senior official in the Gulf state urged Mr. Sarkozy to respect conservative Islamic culture by leaving his girlfriend at home. She did not accompany him.

Mr. Sarkozy was not the first French president to marry in office: Gaston Doumergue tied the knot at the Elysee Palace in 1931.

The wedding was the third for Mr. Sarkozy, who has three sons. It was the first for Miss Bruni, an Italian-born heiress whose mother is a concert pianist and whose late father was an industrialist at the head of a tire company, as well as a composer.

As a young woman, Miss Bruni dated rockers Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, tycoon Donald Trump and actor Vincent Perez. She has a young son, Aurelien, from a relationship with philosophy professor Raphael Enthoven.

Miss Bruni has reinvented herself as a singer in recent years. French news reports have said the Elysee Palace is being fit with a recording studio for the new first lady.

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