ACTORS ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU and me, and nowhere was that more evident than at two weddings that last week bound four thespians in tinsel-strewn matrimony. On Saturday, Sept. 7, at a picturesque Carmel Valley, Calif., estate they had rented, L.A. Law's Harry Hamlin, 39, wed Knots Landing's Nicollette Sheridan, 26. The Episcopalian ceremony—she wore a cream silk gown, he wore white tie and black tails—was marred only by the clatter of helicopters overhead and prenuptial buzz about tabloid photos of Hamlin, in his underwear, ogling a stripper at his Aug. 31 bachelor party.

Just two nights earlier, in Paris, before the screening of a movie of his at the Deauville Film Festival, John Travolta, 37, had gotten hitched to two-months-pregnant Kelly (Twins) Preston, 28, in an unannounced ceremony at the elegant Hotel de Crillon (see following story).

But whatever the routes taken to wedlock, romance was clearly at the wheel in each case. The Hamlins' affaire de coeur began shortly after their first encounter in the fall of 1989, during preproduction for the Showtime movie Deceptions. "I could sense something was going to happen between them," recalls producer Ruben Preuss. "They talked about cars. She had a white Porsche and he had a black one."

Before they could ride off together into the sunset, though, Hamlin first had a nasty divorce battle with his wife of four years, former Falcon Crest star Laura Johnson. When that marriage was dissolved in 1990, Hamlin and Sheridan's relationship was free to flower. "We became friends," says Sheridan, "and that friendship ended up blossoming into this."

For his part Harry carried a pear-shaped diamond engagement ring with him "for months, waiting for the right time to pop the question," he says, before he finally did—last fall, on an undisclosed mountaintop.

"There was a full moon, and there were many stars in the sky, and there wasn't another person within miles," says Nicollette. "I'm not going to tell you what he said, but he was on both knees."

After she said yes, the couple's search for a fitting wedding site ended when Nicollelte's mother suggested the elegant country estate Stone-pine in Carmel Valley. "We wanted a location that was synonymous with who we were," says Harry. "A place that was elegant but rustic and not pretentious at all."

Some three months of intensive planning later, the couple exchanged traditional vows before 200 guests, including Harry's L.A. Law costars Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker, Sheridan's Knots Landing buddies Michelle Phillips and Michele Lee and best (jazz)man Kenny G. Not present was Hamlin's son by longtime lover Ursula Andress, 11-year-old Dimitri, who forsook the role of ring bearer to get back to school in Italy. "I tried to talk him into staying, says the bride. "He knows that he was wanted."

For all the glamour, the newly-weds admit there were a couple of hitches. When Sheridan's hand-beaded gown arrived from her London dressmaker, it was, she says, too long, too wide and six inches too short in the sleeves. ("I had nothing to wear!") Fortunately, Knots Landing's costumer, Anna Schaeffer, and an assistant managed alterations in the nick of time.

Hamlin's moment of truth came outdoors on the estate's grounds, just as he was beginning his long march down the aisle. "When the minister came down to gather the ushers," says Hamlin, "this huge industrial helicopter came swooping down over the site. An 18-piece symphony orchestra was playing the processional music and you couldn't hear it."

"It's amazing to me that the paparazzi could take such a beautiful, religious, spiritual ceremony and obliterate it." says Sheridan. "If I'd had a rifle, I would have shot 'em down.

But the bride as Annie Oakley is not the image that will linger with Hamlin. "The choppers were hovering above us," he says, but when Nicollette arrived for the ceremony in an open horse-drawn carriage and alighted, "I forgot about them completely. She walked up the aisle and, I mean, I was transported to another realm. I was not there. I was on a spiritual plane with Nicollette."

And she on one with him. Her wedding, says the bride, "was my fairy tale come true."

...LOOK WHO'S MARRYING, TOO

THEY SAID IT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN, and they were very nearly right. Since John Travolta presented his flame, Kelly Preston, with a six-carat engagement ring at the stroke of midnight last New Year's Eve in Gstaad, there has been at least one set of canceled wedding plans. But finally, again at midnight, the couple tied the knot in a flower-filled salon of the Crillon hotel in Paris. "How do I feel?" asked Travolta, repeating a reporter's query before the ceremony. "I'm literally high!"

Both newlyweds had cleared a number of romantic hurdles on the way to the altar. Before Travolta met Preston in 1988 while they were filming a box-office bummer called The Experts, his major affair was with the late actress Diana Hyland, who died of cancer in 1977. Preston, divorced from actor Kevin (Space Camp) Gage after a two-year marriage, became engaged in 1989 to actor Charlie (Hot Shots!) Sheen. And when their relationship ended, Preston, against Sheen's wishes, kept her 25-carat, $200,000 engagement ring.

The Travolta wedding, attended by just four of the couple's intimate friends and associates, was so secret that even the hotel staff did not know about the nuptials until 4 P.M., when a three-tiered wedding cake was ordered. The ceremony was presided over by a French Scientologist minister (both bride and groom are avowed practitioners).

Apparently the marriage was not registered with French authorities, raising questions about its legality. But at a press conference Travolta insisted that the pair would wed again in a U.S. civil ceremony "when we get over our jet lag." And, presumably, before the birth of the baby they expect in April. "I absolutely wanted a child," Travolta told a French newspaper before the wedding. "Otherwise I would probably never get married. Marriage is complicated and you can do without it. But a baby has to have a real father and a real mother."

On the day after the ceremony, the couple drove two hours to the Deauville Film Festival to promote Travolta's movie The Tender. Two days later the pair jetted back to the States, where friends and relatives waited to wish them well. "Kelly will make a wonderful wife. She understands him," says Jonathan Krane, producer of Look Who's Talking Too. "John has always had insomnia. She understands that and accommodates that." Travolta's 78-year-old father, Sal (his mother, Helen, died of cancer in 1979), was busting his buttons. "Johnny is the baby, so it's fitting that he would be the last one in the family to marry and have a child," he said. "We love Kelly. She's a very nice lady."

Preston's mother, Linda, and stepfather Lee Carlson, who live in Hawaii—and stayed there—didn't appear nearly so proud. "We know about it," said Lee of the wedding, "and we don't have anything to say to anybody."

Not so the French press, which was delighted by the whole affair. "I thought it might all be a joke, this wedding business," said one reporter. "But I'm impressed. They act very much in love."

SUSAN SCHINDEHETTE
KRISTINA JOHNSON and VICKI SHEFF in Los Angeles, CATHY NOLAN in Paris

  • Contributors:
  • Kristina Johnson,
  • Vicki Sheff,
  • Cathy Nolan.