The weddings of her dazzling sisters—Pia to Christopher Getty and Marie-Chantal to Greece’s exiled Crown Prince Pavlos—were tough acts to follow. But as BOB COLACELLO reports, it was a three day whirl of truffles, tiaras, and romance.
And so the last of Robert and Chantal Miller’s daughters has taken her trophy husband, Prince Alexandre von ünd zu Fürstenberg, bringing together an American fortune made in Asian duty-free shops since the Vietnam war and a European dynasty whose title goes back to the Holy Roman Empire. Three years ago, the Millers’ eldest daughter, Pia, exchanged vows with Christopher Getty, a grandson of the late oil billionaire J.P. Getty, as hundreds of Indonesian children showered them with rose petals in a sunset ceremony on a mountaintop in Bali. Last July their middle daughter, Marie-Chantal, wed exiled Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia in London, with the reigning monarchs of Britain, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, and Jordan in attendance.
"This wedding was the nicest," says a private jet-setter of the three-day celebration held in New York in October, which began on a Thursday with a black-tie ball for 650 in Battery Park, at the tip of Manhattan, and ended with a Saturday luncheon for 600 at the former Phipps estate in Old Westbury, Long Island. "Pia’s was a fabulous Cecil B. DeMille fantasy. Marie-Chantal’s was incredible, but almost too royal. Alexandra’s felt more like a real family party, cozy and warm." A New York guest adds, "The Miller girls are the best hing to happen to high society since the Cushing sisters arrived on the scene in the 30s—and went on to become Mrs. Vincent Astor, Mrs. John Hay Whitney, and Mrs. William Paley."
Of course, the von Fürstenberg have centuries of advantageous love matches behind them. The diamond tiara Alexandra wore with her Chanel wedding gown has been in Alexandre’s family since an ancestor of his married a descendant of Empress Josephine, to whom it was given by Napoleon. The groom’s paternal grandmother was born Clara Agnelli, of Italy’s de facto royal Fiat family. Diane von Fürstenberg, the daughter of a Brussels department-store owner, turned the little wrap dress with the aristocratic label into a big-time fashion and fragrance business before she and Egon divorced in 1983. Her onetime beau and constant adviser, Silver King Communications chairman Barry Diller, gave Alex and Alex as the newlyweds are called, a jar of earth in which he had buried a check for property in Malibu, where they plan to settle.
Nuanced extravagance seemed to be the theme of the wedding festivities, which combined 70s frivolity and 80s opulence with a sense of 90s proportion. The Millers donated a substantial amount of money to the Conservancy of Historic Battery Park so that party designer Robert Isabell could begin construction on two sumptuous tents a week before the "Alexander Ball," which was rumored to cost as much as $4 million. The first tent, a bamboo-filled winter garden facing New York harbor, was for sipping cocktails and watching Grucci fireworks burst over the Statue of Liberty. The second tent was a block-long red-black-and-gold Chinese pavilion with a pagoda ceiling for dining and dancing, which went on until five the next morning. There were four courses from Daniel Boulud’s four-star restaurant (with black and white truffles, but no caviar), three wines (Veuve Clicquot champagne instead of the showier Cristal), and three bands: fox-trot, salsa, and Crystal Waters, famous for her socially-conscious disco hit "Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)."
The guest list also spanned the decades and mixed European nobility, New York society, and Hollywood power, including Viscount and Viscountess Rothermere, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Lee Radziwill and Herbert Ross, Ronald Perelman and Patricia Duff, Priscilla Rattazzi and Christopher Whittle, Barbara Walters, Francesco Clemente, Sandy Gallin, Taki and Alexandra Theodoracopulos, Alecko Papamarkou, Ezra and Cecile Zilkha, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder, Calvin and Kelly Klein, and Lynn Wyatt. Marisa Berenson, with her teenage daughter Starlite Randall, and Hiram Keller, the star of Fellini’s Satyricon, mingled with Betsy Bloomingdale and Carroll Petrie in their Reagan-red ball gowns. Oscar de la Renta glided London Sunday Times columnist Barbara Amiel, the wife of Canadian press grandee Conrad Black, around the dance floor. The father of the bride jitterbugged with his dinner partner, Georgette Mosbacher, whose blue-sequined mermaid gown set her apart from the bopping grandchildren of David Niven, Estee Lauder, and Charles Engelhard in their sleek satin sheaths.
Two mornings later, at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Park Avenue, the wedding Mass was officiated by the papal nuncio to the United Nations. Almost all the male guests followed instructions and wore gray morning coats with tails, as did the security men, the official photographers, and Fran Lebowitz. The most notable exception was Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, who marched down the aisle in a navy pin-striped suit. "He doesn’t want to be photographed in the Italian press wearing anything fancy," whispered a titled Venetian in my pew. As jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane later put it, I wonder if the Millers realize that the Agnelli clan is much more complicated than the royal house of Greece."
As the chauffeured Mercedes and Lincoln sedans drove up to the Phipps estate, the drizzle stopped and a rainbow appeared over the pair of round silk tents—olive green for drinks, saffron for lunch, both festooned with boughs of autumn leaves. It was all so romantic that even the estranged Jann and Jane Wenner put their arms around each other and posed for Jean Pigozzi’s camera. Bianca Jagger arrived with publisher Mortimer Zuckerman, who asked her to change from the prim yellow suit she had worn to church into "something sexier"—a black velvet coat over a gossamer pink slip dress.
"Your Majesty, Royal Highnesses, Serene Highnesses, Highnesses, Excellencies, milords, ladies and gentlemen," was the way Robert Miller addressed the guests, who lunched on quail stuffed with figs and foie gras and included Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, Mrs. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Prince von Schwarzenberg from Prague, and Princess Corsini from Rome, Republic Bank founder Edmond Safra and his wife, Lily, C.Z. Guest, Dolly Parton, and the groom’s aunt, Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, with her two sons, Prince Christoff von Hohenlohe and his brother, Prince Hubertus, an Austrian rock singer.
The toasts that followed were a veritable love-in. Egon called Diane "my best friend." Diane praised Chantal Miller as "a wonderful magician who makes everything possible." Finally, the groom raised his champagne flute to the bride and declared, "I wish every decision I have to make in life would be as certain as my decision to marry Alexandra."
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