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Cruise disappoints fans with "invisible wedding"

Written by: Staff

BRACCIANO, Italy, Nov 19 (Reuters) It may have been the celebrity wedding of the year, but people in the Italian medieval town that hosted Tom Cruise's star-studded marriage to Katie Holmes saw none of it -- and they are not happy.

Cruise and Holmes wed yesterday in a Scientology ceremony whose details were kept secret until Cruise's U S-based publicist released a statement.

By then, residents of Bracciano, the lakeside venue near Rome picked by the couple for the wedding, were fast asleep.

''The invisible wedding'' and ''Tom&Katie: the newly-wed ghosts'' read the headlines in Italian newspapers today, reflecting the frustration of residents and the hordes of paparazzi who descended on Bracciano for the event.

Throngs of fans and onlookers had gathered since the early hours of yesterday outside the 15th-century castle where the much-anticipated evening ceremony took place, hoping to catch a glimpse of the galaxy of Hollywood stars attending.

But virtually all they could see from behind the barriers keeping them at a distance was a parade of black Mercedes minivans and limousines with tinted windows, driving the couple and their 150 guests through the castle's iron gate.

SILHOUETTES As darkness fell, the candles flickering from the castle's battlements did little to help identify the silhouettes of those inside as they waved from the windows from time to time.

The couple left Italy today for a honeymoon in the Maldives.

''It's a huge disappointment. After all the hype and the publicity, nobody has seen anything of this wedding. They did not even come out to say hello,'' said Sergio Pagliaro, a 76-year-old pensioner who had waited for hours with his wife.

Townhall officials, who had basked in Bracciano's moment of glory and charged photographers and TV crews 1,000 euros for positions overlooking the castle, were more scathing.

''I feel they should have showed more respect for the people of Bracciano who waited to see them for so long,'' said Armando Tondinelli, Bracciano's councillor for public works.

''These people behave as if they are above these things, they don't look at what is important in life. A greeting would have been right, it's a matter of politeness,'' he said.

The town, taken over for the past four days by the world's media and their satellite trucks, had put on a show for the ceremony. Pictures of the couple were put up all over the place, including on ornate brass clocks sold by an antique shop.

Restaurants had ''Tom&Katie'' menus, clothing retailers offered ''Top Gun'' outfits, and many shop windows had good will messages such as ''Forever'' and ''Best wishes for your fairy tale'' on display.

But with intermittent rain falling and the celebrities nowhere to be seen, the crowd dwindled to a few hundreds die-hard fans, some of whom had come from Rome for the event but had to content themselves with a midnight display of fireworks.

''This is just like a bad movie,'' said 19-year-old Barbara Giuri as the evening fog shrouded the castle. ''And now my feet hurt.'' REUTERS SP KP2059

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