From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
UNTIL THE VERY LAST, THEIR SPOKESPEOPLE swore it wasn't happening. And for a few tense minutes on July 3, it seemed, at least, as if it might not happen as planned. The bride's mother, Vanessa Redgrave, didn't show up (filming in Italy, she sent a note instead). Two minibuses full of guests got lost and arrived late—as did several individual stragglers. Actor Aidan Quinn didn't pull his gleaming black Toyota Camry up to the white clapboard farmhouse in rural Millbrook, N.Y., 90 miles north of New York City, until nearly 5:30 p.m.—half an hour after the black-tie event was to begin.

But by 6 p.m., the remaining 70-plus guests—including Mia Farrow, Lauren Bacall and Schindler's List Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes—were seated beneath the huge white tent not far from the 180-year-old barn. And a few moments later, in a 40-minute ceremony during which a priest conducted mass, a choir sang "Morning Has Broken," and a herd of cows chewed their cud in the nearby pasture, Natasha Richardson, of Britain's prolific Redgrave acting dynasty, and Liam Neeson, working-class Irish kid turned Hollywood hunk and Schindler's star, exchanged wedding vows.

For Neeson, 42, and Richardson, 31, getting to the altar may have seemed as daunting as getting the guests to the $1.2 million home they just bought. The actors met in January 1993, when they costarred in the Broadway production of Anna Christie. By April, Richardson had ended her four-year marriage to British producer Richard Fox and become involved with Neeson. "He has a raw and open sexuality," she said, declaring herself "madly, passionately" in love.

But Neeson had a prior attachment of his own to overcome: to bachelorhood. The actor lived with British actress Helen Mirren in the mid-'80s and later stepped out with Julia Roberts, Barbra Streisand and Brooke Shields—but resisted stepping down the aisle. "I've never had marriage and families and stuff," Neeson said recently. "I operate better on my own."

Until now. There, after all, was his bride, resplendent in a Donna Karan dress. And as the lilting sounds of flute and fiddle at their five-hour wedding reception suggested, Liam Neeson—at last—had changed his tune.