Star Jones admits it: When it came to her wedding, she had an acute case of Cinderella Complex. And so as she headed to her suite at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel on the eve of her Nov. 13 nuptials to Wall Street banker Al Reynolds, The View
cohost ascended into a white-horse-drawn carriage as her bridesmaids sang the '60s hit "Chapel of Love." "That is my ace fantasy," says Star, who has adopted her new husband's surname. "It was spectacular to ride down Park Avenue with the lights on and really feel that the city was yours. I called Al while I was in the carriage. I said, 'I'll be the one in the white dress [tomorrow].' He said, 'I might be able to find you.' "
No worries there. Maybe it was the near-blinding spotlight that illuminated the bride's walk down the aisle in Manhattan's St. Bartholomew's church. Or the 27-ft. tiara-topped crystal-encrusted veil that "was like several New York City blocks long," says actress pal Lorraine Bracco. Or the huge diamond pendant (featuring an "R" with an "A" and "S" on either side) adorning the bride's slimmer-than-ever body. In any case the daytime gabber ensured that all eyes were on her as she realized the fairy-tale moment she had been planning since age 8. "Every single wedding fantasy I ever had was fulfilled, down to the most handsome groom in the history of the world," Star, lounging at home in a black sweatshirt with "Mrs. Reynolds" written in rhinestones, told PEOPLE the day after the wedding. "The best feeling was walking down that aisle and seeing him in front of me smiling from ear to ear."
To be sure, Star, 42, and Reynolds, 34, left no lobster tail unturned in planning the lavishly over-the-top white-tie affair for some 450 guests. "If I ever get married again, I want to marry Star, because she knows how to do this right!" declared pal Kim Cattrall, who shimmied to the 60-member Broadway Inspirational Voices Choir at the start of the ceremony, then cried when the bride strolled down the aisle. Added Al Roker: "It was an unbelievable event. There are awards shows that aren't that good."
Even Oscar hopefuls don't court as much attention as the newlyweds did in the months leading up to their union, during which the bride-to-be frequently plugged her wedding suppliers on The View and the pair set up a Web site featuring a chronicle of their relationship and their extensive gift registries. Before long, the betrothal became fodder for late-night talk show hosts and Saturday Night Live
skits. Also having a bit of fun at the couple's expense: Chris Rock, who stomped his foot in the hushed church when the pastor asked guests to "speak now or forever hold your peace." (The stunt invited a ripple of laughs and a stern look from Rock's wife, Malaak.)
"We have heard what the cynics have said about this marriage...now we have heard what you have to say," Pastor A.R. Bernard announced during the ceremony, prompting cheers. As for the sprawling guest list, "I could fill up 500 just from my side of the family," says the Virginia-bred Al, the youngest of six kids. "Believe me, when it comes to this stuff, down South this is a normal wedding."
Some folks might beg to differ, what with Patti LaBelle offering a soaring rendition of "My Love, Sweet Love" before the vow exchange. The song brought Rock to his feet in a spontaneous ovation, but the bride's mind was elsewhere. "We have one of the greatest singers in the world, and the only thing I could think of was 'I love this man. I love this man with every ounce of my being,' " she says. And when Marva Hicks performed "The Lord's Prayer," "the fact that we were joined together hit us both," says Star. "We both got very emotional. The moment was perfection."
After the newlyweds departed the church, guests made their way across the street to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, where a piano player announced the entrance of "Mr. and Mrs. Al Reynolds," who shared a first dance to "Fly Me to the Moon." Next up: an "opulent, palace, fantasy, fairy-tale" fete, says party planner David Tutera, who gave the room an all-white glow with Swarovski crystal-dusted tables.
Following a three-course dinner, the party moved to another ballroom, this one flooded with hot pink and red lights to simulate a "sexy lounge," says Tutera. There the bash got into full swing, with guests like Rock, Vivica A. Fox and Angela Bassett sharing the dance floor. At one point during the reception, Reynolds—a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—serenaded his bride with "You Are My Kappa Sweetheart" alongside a group of his fraternity brothers. Then came a final slow dance at 1:30 a.m., during which Star dramatically wiped her husband's brow. "She dotes on him," says Bracco.
It's been that way since the couple first hooked up at an Alicia Keys CD release party on Nov. 13, 2003. "I looked at his face and melted," says Star. "I literally heard a bell ring." Before long "I started to sway to the music. I felt his arms go to my hips and he started to dance with me. I leaned back into his chest, and I never left."
Following a first date—to the Broadway production of The Boy from Oz
—things moved quickly. "I am very much attracted to an intelligent woman," says Al, adding, "Because of the age difference, we are very nurturing to one another. She helps me navigate through some of the sticky issues when it comes to my career, and I kind of offer fresh perspective being that I am not in the entertainment world."
What's more, the attentive Mrs. Reynolds "makes sure my lunch is packed when I go to work," says Al, while he has influenced her to adopt a more active lifestyle. Says Star: "I am in the best shape I've ever been in my life."
With the big day finally behind them, the pair are headed for a 10-day honeymoon to Dubai ("We wanted something exotic, romantic and interesting culturally," says Star). Then what? "We are going day by day, just loving each other," she says. "Our plan is to start to take back a bit of our privacy." And perhaps to exchange the grand Cinderella style for something a little more practical. "The wedding was for the 8-year-old in me," says Star, "but the marriage is for the woman I have become."
Michelle Tauber. Rebecca Paley in New York City
- Rebecca Paley.