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Just three days before they quietly picked up a marriage license in Scarsdale, N.Y., Beyoncé Knowles and her rapper-mogul boyfriend of six years, Jay-Z, attended the Philadelphia wedding of Jay-Z's assistant Robin Broughton. Although they betrayed no sign of their own impending nuptials, "they seemed very much a couple in love," says the wedding planner, Lisa McGraw. "They held hands and were all smiles." Jay-Z was all grins again on April 7 while watching the NCAA championship basketball game with an all-guy crew at his 40/40 lounge in Manhattan. Now three days after he and Beyoncé said "I do," he was still avoiding any hint of his newlywed status. When congratulated on his news, he responded with a laugh, "I don't know what you're talking about."

Nice try, Jay, but the jig is up: On April 4 Beyoncé, 26, and Jay-Z (real name: Shawn Carter), 38, exchanged top-secret vows and celebrated with a close circle of 40 friends and family members who gathered at the groom's extravagant penthouse. "It was a very emotional wedding—lots of crying—and really very spiritual," says a guest. So hush-hush that they have yet to even confirm the news—despite the huge rock Beyoncé flaunted on her ring finger at her new husband's Atlanta show on April 8. The couple, adds a source close to them, "planned it perfectly."

And perfectly in keeping with a duo who have steadfastly refused to open up about their romance, preferring instead to let their chemistry speak for itself in collaborations like 2003's monster smash "Crazy in Love." "They are soulmates," says a friend. What makes them click? Jay-Z—who turned his troubled Brooklyn youth into material for his music before branching out as a businessman and record exec—"is mature. He's quiet," says the source. Beyoncé, who is close to her Houston-bred family, "is the performer, but she's a very gentle person. He takes good care of her. He guides her. But he's not overbearing about it."

After six years of dating, "it's about time [they married]!" says music producer Dallas Austin, a pal. Clearly, the time was right: The date 4/4 has special significance for the couple (see box), and by mid-afternoon candelabras and flowers began showing up on the sidewalk outside Jay-Z's lavish Tribeca spread. That morning, Jay-Z's mom, grandmother, sister and niece turned up at the Devachan Salon and Departure Lounge for some pre-wedding primping. "I said, 'I know there's a wedding today,' and they were laughing," says hairstylist Marvin Bull. "[His mom] was saying they wanted it very small, so not many people got invited."

The vows were a streamlined affair, with no maid of honor and no best man. Beyoncé wore a voluminous white gown, while Jay-Z suited up in a black tux. "Beyoncé," says a source, "looked beautiful."

Then it was time to party. Inside Jay-Z's newly renovated 13,500-sq.-ft. penthouse, where a white tent was erected in the basketball-court-size living room, "it looked like a palace," says florist Amy Vongpitaka, who had 70,000 white dendrobium orchids flown in from Thailand. "It was a really pure, white wedding." Adds another source: "It was just beautiful. Gorgeous. Opulent."

During the reception, "neither of them performed, but everyone danced to a lot of hip-hop and oldies, including Jackson 5 and Whitney Houston," says a guest. Adds another source: "There was a first dance, and it was extremely emotional and beautifully orchestrated." As for the jubilant groom, "he smoked very expensive cigars all night," says the source, with the party carrying on until nearly 5 in the morning. The very next day, he resumed his "Heart of the City" tour with Mary J. Blige, who declared onstage, "Congratulations to my man Jay-Z and my girl B."

With a relationship that manages to be both glamorous and low-key, the pair seem to have a keen eye on going the distance. "We don't play with our relationship," Jay-Z told PEOPLE in 2004. The wedding news "is fantastic," says the couple's friend, producer-mogul Russell Simmons. "I remember when they first got together, and I watched the whole thing happen. It was very exciting to see. They're in love, and they're beautiful."

  • Contributors:
  • Reported by Tiffany McGee/New York City,
  • K.C. Baker/New York City,
  • Ryan Pienciak/New York City,
  • Alyssa Shelasky/New York City,
  • Melody Wells/New York City,
  • Jennifer Garcia/L.A.,
  • Isoul Harris/Atlanta.