Paul McCartney weds in nostalgia-filled ceremony

LONDON (AP) - A hint of autumnal Beatlemania was in the air Sunday as Paul McCartney, for the second time in his improbable life, climbed the steps of venerable Old Marylebone Town Hall to take himself a bride.

True, thousands of heartbroken female fans crowded the columned building in 1969 when he married Linda Eastman, and only a few hundred showed up Sunday as he wed another American, Nancy Shevell, at the very same registry office.

But the feeling this time was not regret at the loss of a bachelor heartthrob. Instead there was joy that McCartney, regarded as a national treasure and revered the world over, seemed happy again.

The 69-year-old former Beatle appeared proud, content and eager to share his joy with the crowd, raising his bride’s hand in triumph as he walked down the steps after they became man and wife in a simple civil ceremony attended by close family and friends, including drummer Ringo Starr and Barbara Walters, a second cousin of the bride.

“I feel absolutely wonderful,” McCartney told fans as he arrived at his home after the ceremony. He was expected to sing a new song he had composed for his bride at the reception.

Gone was the memory of McCartney’s terribly unhappy marriage to Heather Mills, which ended in 2008 in an ugly public divorce. Remembered was his marriage to Eastman, a serene union that lasted nearly three decades until her life was cut short by breast cancer, leaving McCartney alone and adrift despite his fame and wealth.

The ceremony Sunday afternoon was everything his wedding to Mills was not: simple, understated, almost matter of fact. By contrast, McCartney and Mills married in an over-the-top lavish spectacle at a remote Irish castle that was disrupted several times by news helicopters flying overhead, hoping for a glimpse of the A-list guests.

This time, the smiles seemed genuine.

The affection _ and rose petals and confetti _ showered on McCartney and his bride captured his particular place in British life.

Long gone are the days when the Beatles divided Britain between young and old, or between hippies and straights. The band is revered as part of a glorious musical and cultural era when Britain seemed a more confident place. There was no controversy whatsoever when McCartney received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1997.

Today Sir Paul _ or Macca, as he’s usually known _ is celebrated as a musical legend who is still composing and releasing CDs, even if they no longer routinely shoot to No. 1 on the charts. His forays into opera, ballet, painting and poetry have not been critical successes, but none of these have tarnished his reputation.

Shevell, 51, appeared radiant and composed in an elegant, ivory gown cut just above the knee. She wore a white flower in her long dark hair, and only light makeup and lipstick.

The dress was designed by McCartney’s daughter, Stella, a star in the fashion world who also helped concoct the three-course vegetarian feast served to guests at the reception at McCartney’s home in St. John’s Wood, a property he bought in 1965, when the Beatles were topping the charts with metronomic regularity.

McCartney, who has long admitted to tinting his hair to keep out the gray, looked youthful in a well-cut blue suit and pale blue, skinny tie.

The couple married on what would have been band mate John Lennon’s 71st birthday. Some guests speculated that Lennon would have been among the guests had he lived, with the rift between them having healed.

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