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On June 14, when John Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston, hosted an intimate dinner at their Mediterranean-style Brentwood mansion for a few friends—Tom Hanks, his wife, Rita Wilson, and the usually reclusive Marlon Brando, among others—one invited guest was late. Noticeably late. The phyllo duck appetizer sat untouched, along with the tagliolini Alfredo and the 1975 Château Lafite Rothschild. But when Barbra Streisand finally arrived, she managed to upstage even the Godfather: Streisand confided to her hosts that she had just met with the rabbi who was going to perform her wedding to fiancé James Brolin. "After her mother, Kelly and I were the first to know the big news," says Travolta. "We got misty-eyed, then thrilled that we were in on it so quickly. But Barbra asked us to keep it a secret."

And when a colossal white tent was pitched conspicuously on Streisand's property two weeks later, attracting a swarm of chopperazzi, it was as close as she would get to a public announcement. Two days later, on July 1—the second anniversary of their first date—Streisand, 56, in a shimmering crystal-beaded Donna Karan gown with a 15-foot diaphanous veil, walked down the aisle in her formal Malibu living room. The 105 guests included her 89-year-old mother, Diane Kind, Karan, Travolta and Preston, Hanks and Wilson, record producer Quincy Jones and Sydney Pollack (who directed Streisand in 1973's The Way We Were). "We wanted to be surrounded by people we've loved for a long time," says Streisand, who held hands with Brolin, 58, while Rabbi Leonard Beerman did the honors. Then, to enthusiastic applause, the newlyweds engaged in "just a really incredible kiss," says the groom's sister Sue Desper, a computer engineer.

"It was probably the most beautiful wedding I've been to," says Travolta. "Kelly and I cried." "I'm the happiest person in the world," said Brolin, hugging his family—mother Helen, 83, father Henry, 87, son Josh, 30, daughter Molly, 10, and grandchildren Trevor, 9, and Eden, 4—after the nuptials. As for the bride, "In all the years I've known Barbra, I've seen her happy, but always with a cloud," says her longtime friend, songwriter Marilyn Bergman. "This time it was a clear blue sky." Filled, in this case, with the fragrance of 200 lilies of the valley, 500 gardenias, 2,500 stephanotis blossoms and 4,000 roses. Another longtime friend, composer Marvin Hamlisch ("He was my rehearsal pianist when I was in Funny Girl," says Barbra), conducted a 16-piece orchestra.

That everything was planned with martial precision by the redoubtable auteur was hardly surprising, considering her litany of acting, directing and producing credits. "Everyone here knows and loves Barbra and particularly knows how she wants everything to be letter-perfect," Hamlisch began in a tongue-in-cheek toast. "Therefore I have been asked by Jim and Barbra to thank everyone who came to this, their third wedding rehearsal." To much laughter he added, "All of you who weren't that effusive might not get an invitation to the real one, which will be Aug. 10, 9 p.m."

In fact, just days before the ceremony the eight-time Grammy winner came down with a case of pre-wedding jitters—"She had that normal anxiety," says friend Marge Tabankin, head of the environment-friendly Streisand Foundation. The bride-to-be not only canceled plans for a huppah (a ceremonial canopy under which couples exchange vows in a Jewish wedding) at the last minute, but also ordered Hollywood florist David Mark to create an amaranthus and rose scrim over the living room's picture window to foil prying cameras. She instructed gardeners to replace plants trampled by workers erecting the party tent and asked Hamlisch to play Andre Previn's "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," one of her favorites, in addition to the "Wedding March." "I told Marvin that I didn't like traditional wedding music," says Streisand, "and asked him, 'Could you do a more atonal version of "Here Comes the Bride"?' And he did." Finally, hours before the ceremony, as heavy-metal music (White Zombie's "Thunder Kiss '65") blasted from banks of outdoor speakers to deter the gang of TV crews outside, Streisand, in slippers, bathrobe and with gardeners and caterers following close behind, surveyed the grounds. "Breathtaking," she pronounced. "It all looks gorgeous."

High praise from the impresario of an event once thought improbable. Just two years before, "without being in despair, I was finally liking my solitude," Streisand told PEOPLE last February. But that was before Christine Peters, ex-wife of Streisand's former live-in boyfriend, producer Jon Peters, fixed her up with the 6'4", silver-haired former Marcus Welby star. After their first dinner date, the twice-divorced Brolin (his first marriage, to casting agent Jane Agee, ended after 20 years; his second union, to WKRP in Cincinnati's Jan Smithers, dissolved in 1995 after nearly a decade) drove Streisand home. There they talked until 3 a.m. and then stood in the foyer, trying to decide whether to kiss or shake hands. "We were both shy," recalled Streisand, who offered Brolin a glass of port and a chair. "You know how comfortable Duncan Phyfe furniture is?" he says of Streisand's early American antiques. "You can't lounge and get comfortable."

When Brolin left for Ireland three months later to direct My Brother's War, the two began burning up international phone lines ("I remember falling asleep on the bathroom floor with the phone pressed against my ear," she says). In November, as she prepared to release her 5 million-selling CD Higher Ground, Brolin decamped from his nearby two-bedroom condo and moved in. Despite rumors that they might elope to Tahiti or marry on a Marine base to avoid helicopter hounds, the couple instead decided to take their vows at home. Streisand, whose 1963 marriage to actor Elliott Gould was performed by a Nevada justice of the peace (and ended eight years later), "never had a real wedding before," says a friend. "And Jim really encouraged it."

So began an undertaking worthy of Cecil B. De Mille. In early June the couple's respective managers (who refused to comment on press reports that their clients signed a prenuptial agreement) spent five hours with caterer Mary Micucci discussing confidentiality, logistics and security. After deciding to hold the ceremony indoors, Streisand selected fruitwood ballroom chairs, cream-colored vintage damask tablecloths with matching napkins and seat covers, 18th-century Sèvres porcelain plates and oversize French silver flatware. Throughout, Brolin, who calls his bride Beezer, "was as patient as a saint," says Micucci. "Appreciative, funny and...just gorgeous."

In late June, discreet phone calls began going out to selected friends, asking them to keep the evening of July 1 open "for a special celebration." When ice cream heir Richard Baskin, an ex-boyfriend of Streisand's, ran into Quincy Jones soon after, "Quincy asked, 'So, are you going to Barbra's on Wednesday?' " recalls Baskin. "I laughed knowingly. We were afraid to say anything more. That's how tight security was."

Two days before the wedding, a 2,800-square-foot ivory voile tent was raised on the ocean-view lawn, and predawn on the wedding day, four vans disgorged a team of 10 florists who latticed 750 roses to the staircase Streisand would descend, floated 50 pink water lilies and 100 candles in the swimming pool and set tables with pink miniature rosebushes. By 6:30 p.m. arriving guests were ushered to an expansive side lawn where, as Uilleann Irish pipe music played from hidden speakers, they sampled lemonade, iced tea and hors d'oeuvres of sushi, vegetable wontons, smoked salmon on warm corn cakes, potato rostis and ricotta-filled blintzes with cherry jam.

Upstairs in the main house, designer Donna Karan, who jetted in from Manhattan with two assistants, attended to Streisand and helped her slip into her gown. Just before 8 p.m., preceded by her mother, half-sister Rosalind Kind and Josh Brolin, who served as his father's best man, Streisand made her entrance, escorted by her son Jason Gould, 31. "Barbra looked like a vision from a dream time," says her close friend Joanne Segel. "And Jim looked at her with total adoration."

After the 15-minute traditional ceremony, guests gathered around the oceanfront pool and took their seats under the big top, which was swagged with white satin and rose garlands. Announced as "Mr. and Mrs. James Brolin," the newlyweds entered to their favorite song, Gershwin's "Isn't It a Pity?" After a dinner of soft-shell crabs, rotisserie-cooked baby chickens and porcini ravioli, the couple danced to such tunes as "I Finally Found Someone," followed by a half dozen toasts. Streisand's assistant of 24 years, Renata Buser, gave an emotional tribute ("Jim, you have the rarest flower...") and Josh Brolin read an original poem ("My father and his bride—Look at how they watch each other..."). But the highlight came when Streisand, who once suffered from terrible stage fright, sang two new love songs (including "Just One Lifetime," written specially by Melissa Manchester and Tom Snow) to Brolin. "It was something no movie could capture," says Segel of the moment.

"You expect me to follow that?" Brolin replied. "I don't think so. I'll only screw it up." But he didn't. "I can't tell you how lucky I am that this would happen to me so late in life," he said to the gathering of friends. "Every night is a new adventure. Sleeping is a waste of time. I can't wait to see her again in the morning."

Shortly before 1 a.m., after revelers filtered out, the couple went inside to pack for a brief honeymoon in the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara. (Brolin was scheduled to return to his syndicated TV series Pensacola: Wings of Gold on July 8.) But the couple were obviously keen to hold onto their magical evening. When a cleanup crew arrived Thursday to cart away decorations, workers were instructed not to touch the flowers. "Barbra wanted to see them when they get back from the honeymoon," says florist Marks. "She thinks they'll last."

Susan Schindehette
Todd Gold and Jill Schary in Los Angeles

  • Contributors:
  • Todd Gold,
  • Jill Senary.