Somehow it didn't seem like the sort of wedding that would start a trend: When Julia Roberts wed Lyle Lovett just 19 days after their first; date, it was in a pine-paneled Lutheran church in Marion, Ind. Pulled together in just 72 hours, the ceremony on June 27, 1993, featured a dazed-looking groom, a shoeless bride and a small contingent of friends and family. The paparazzi were nowhere in sight; not until that evening—when the newlyweds swayed to "Stand By Your Man" at his concert in Nobelsville—did the press latch onto the story.

Never mind that the Lovetts' passion is already said to have cooled. Other couples have taken their cue, and the bolt-from-the-blue wedding is now the rage in Hollywood. In the past 12 months, brides including Natasha Richardson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Geena Davis and Kim Basinger took the express route to the altar with steady beaux, while Drew Barrymore and Shannen Doherty wed men they'd known only for weeks. "It's definitely a trend," says Renée Strauss, a Beverly Hills wedding-dress designier who created gowns for Jennie Garth, Delta Burke and Doherty (who never picked up the gowns she ordered before splitting with fiancés Chris Foufas and Dean Factor). "We're doing a lot of dresses for quick weddings."

What's the appeal? According to Strauss, it's privacy, privacy, privacy—that and the fact that, if you're powerful enough, you can stage a boffo wedding on a few days' notice. "These people know that they can wait till the last minute and still get it done beautifully," she says. 'And since they want to keep it out of the press, they do it quickly and announce it later. When you take months to plan, there's too much opportunity for leaks."

News of Richardson's July 3 wedding to actor Liam Neeson trickled out to a mere handful of reporters—and they were warned that state police would be called if they set foot on the couple's Millbrook, N.Y., property. Even the 70 invitees were asked to give their names to security guards at the couple's hilltop home.

At least Natasha and Liam's guests knew what they were there for. On Nov. 13, 1993, Pfeiffer and TV producer David Kelley invited friends to the christening of Pfeiffer's adopted daughter, Claudia Rose—and then treated them to a snazzy wedding with a four-tier cake and 11-piece orchestra.

Alec Baldwin has described his Aug. 19 wedding to Basinger as a "military operation." To thwart photographers helicoptering over the shore in East Hampton, N.Y., the couple had the ceremony at night, encircled by 65 guests on the beach. Waiters held up a canvas sheet to block the view, and police arrested a photographer who impersonated an undercover police officer.

At Davis's ultraprivate wedding to director Renny Harlin (a three-day, $700,000 festival in Sonoma County, Calif.), guests were required to sign an agreement not to speak to reporters. Tuxedoed attendants held a canopy over the bride (shielding her from a helicopter with a tabloid team inside) as she walked, wearing a backless, cream-colored gown, to the old stone winery where the ceremony was held on Sept. 17. An army of security guards patrolled the estate.

Luke Perry outfoxed reporters who got wind of his surprise wedding to Minnie Sharp at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills on Nov. 20: By the time the paparazzi collected at the front of the Pinot Bistro in Studio City, where the reception was held, the newlyweds had slipped out the back. And talk show host Ricki Lake and artist Rob Sussman beat the press by skipping off to Las Vegas on March 26. "We were supposed to get married in November, and John Waters was going to marry us," says Lake. As soon as the news broke, she says, reporters started grilling her, and "we both got scared."

Of course, not every love-struck celeb wants privacy. Donald and Maria Maples Trump had a photo op at their almost-impromptu Dec. 20 glitz fest at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel, where guests included gossip columnist Liz Smith. And on April 16, a champagne-fueled Dudley Moore mugged for photographers on the beach in Marina Del Rey, Calif., after his marriage to Nicole Rothschild.

Whatever their impulses, celebs have found that fast weddings can head off second thoughts. "The longer they wait, the worse the tension becomes," says Delores Rivellino of Malibu's Godmother Catering. "If it's one-two-three, they don't have time to reflect." (Confidential to Oprah in Chicago: Just do it.)

Unfortunately, some quickie marriages last only slightly longer than the courtships that inspired them. Barrymore split from bar owner Jeremy Thomas (whom she met six weeks before the wedding) after less than two months. Doherty—who had known actor Ashley Hamilton just two weeks when she became his bride—filed for divorce after five months.

Others may have more staying power. Pfeiffer and Kelley are happily expecting their first child, and Basinger and Baldwin remain starry-eyed. The jury, it seems, is still out on the couple who started it all; for now, Julia and Lyle are lying low and letting others speculate on what's happening in their marriage. And isn't that what celebrity's all about?