Friends stars Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow were getting antsy. Minutes before 6 p.m. on June 12, they stood at the entrance of San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton hotel, waiting for the limousine that was to whisk them and four pals to nearby Grace Cathedral, the historic church high atop Nob Hill. There, on that cool, breezy evening, their friend and costar Courteney Cox Arquette was marrying actor David Arquette. But the limo, one of a fleet of cars shuttling A-list guests to the church, was stalled in traffic.

Cooling his heels in the hotel lobby was Saturday Night Live alum Jon Lovitz, who was supposed to be sharing a ride with Friends vixen Jennifer Aniston and her beau, some guy named Brad Pitt. They, too, were running late. But somehow they and Lovitz made it to the church on time, as did Friends stars David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc. And, of course, Perry and Kudrow. Just before their own limo pulled up, two paparazzi, alerted to the festivities, began shooting them from across the street. Perry turned away and then cracked, "I wonder if Courteney's getting top billing."

You bet she was. By the time the guests were seated in the stately gothic church, it was clearly the Courteney and David show. Indeed, it would have been hard to upstage a groom decked out in a Valentino-designed morning coat with a gray vest and matching gray suede spats. The age gap between Arquette, 27, and Cox, 35, who met on the set of the 1996 hit horror film Scream, seemed minuscule. "They looked like two little kids looking at each other," recalls one guest, actress Lisa Mordente. In her white satin, three-inch-heel shoes, Courteney walked down the aisle wearing a silk-crepe gown with shiny silk-inlaid embroidered stripes and a 6-foot-long train. Her tulle veil was attached to an ornate silk-flowered headpiece, like the dress itself a one-of-a-kind Valentino creation. She also had on the antique diamond choker that David had given her. Recalls her aunt Ann Cox: "She carried a bouquet of red roses and was beaming the entire walk down the aisle with her father" (Richard Sr., a building contractor). Her mother, Courteney Copeland, divorced from Richard since their daughter was 10, looked on from her seat as Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" filled the cavernous church.

Maybe the groom was amazed too. As he waited for Courteney at the altar, Arquette stood, riveted, beside his father—and best man—actor Lewis Arquette. They were flanked by five groomsmen, including Courteney's brother Richard Jr. and Arquette's siblings Alexis and Richmond. In front of their 250 guests, the bride and groom "were so nervous," says Mordente. "They didn't want to screw up their lines!" In the exchange of rings, "David had some trouble getting the ring on her finger," recalls his dad, laughing. "[So] he licked her finger"—and the ring slid on.

Then, near the end of the 35-minute ceremony, Arquette shattered a wine goblet with his foot, performing a revered Jewish wedding ritual—"since David's mother, who's deceased, was Jewish," explains Rev. Douglas Carpenter, who conducted the service. An Episcopal minister from Courteney's hometown, Birmingham, Ala., Carpenter had also presided at the nuptials of her sister Virginia McFerrin, who was now a bridesmaid, along with Courteney's other sister Dottie Pickett and David's actress sisters Rosanna and Patricia Arquette.

The 1997 death of Mardi Arquette from breast cancer hit her youngest son particularly hard. Cox helped him through his grief, and their relationship deepened. (Cox, as it happens, will play Arquette's therapist in the upcoming comedy The Shrink Is In.) Last September, Arquette proposed to Cox on a Florida beach as fireworks exploded overhead. Soon he was sharing his fiancée's smartly furnished four-bedroom house in Brentwood, Calif.

From the beginning, it struck many as an unlikely attraction of opposites. Cox is a cautious, level-headed woman whose last serious relationship, with actor Michael Keaton, ended in 1995. Arquette, who was previously linked with Ellen Barkin, is best known as Scream's dopey Deputy Dewey and as the wacko pitchman on AT&T spots. "Most people see him in his acting roles, which are sometimes pretty crazy," says Reverend Carpenter, who counseled the couple before the wedding. "But David is a very warm person. He has deep reserves of gentleness."

They were on display when it came time to kiss the bride. Arquette gingerly lifted her veil. Their lips met. Then, says Mordente, "they buried their heads in each other's shoulders and held onto each other for a long time." After Reverend Carpenter introduced "David and Courteney Arquette" to thunderous applause, a gospel group broke into an upbeat tune as the couple danced in place.

The effervescent Cox could have boogied all night. She and Arquette lasted, in fact, till about 1 a.m. at a reception at Bimbo's 365 Club near Fisherman's Wharf, where the bride still wore her wedding gown. A seamstress had tacked up a portion of the floor-length dress after the ceremony, enabling Courteney to kick up her heels to the strains of two different bands. Also on the dance floor were Jennifer and Brad—"He can move!" one guest marveled—and Courteney's new sister-in-law Patricia, who tripped the light fantastic with Enzo, her 10-year-old son from a previous relationship. Her husband, Nicolas Cage, was content merely to watch. An embarrassed Aniston, despite her friends' urging, sat out when the bridal bouquet was tossed. David's cousin Edward Goldstein caught Courteney's red-and-black garter, which David had wound up pulling off with his teeth.

Everyone dug in on salad, lobster and steak, followed by slices of a multi-tiered wedding cake, as local actors impersonating such stars as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and Laurel and Hardy entertained at each table. Before the evening was over (the couple had to delay their honeymoon to start shooting Scream 3 a few days later), a giant padlocked heart and key were brought out. "Courteney was laughing as she explained that she had unlocked the key to David's heart," recalls her aunt Ann.

If the groom's heart was racing, it didn't show. "David is the wild, crazy one," says Mordente. But his garter act aside, "he did no over-the-top stuff," she says. "Near the end of the evening, I saw him looking over at her, and he just had this silent beam on his face. You can see how deeply in love they are."

Michael A. Lipton
Lorenzo Benet and Michelle Caruso in San Francisco, Paula Yoo and Steven Cojocaru in Los Angeles, Fannie Weinstein in Miami and Joanne Fowler in New York City

  • Contributors:
  • Lorenzo Benet,
  • Michelle Caruso,
  • Paula Yoo,
  • Steven Cojocaru,
  • Fannie Weinstein,
  • Joanne Fowler.