Shania Twain's Island 'I Do'
updated 01/17/2011 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 01/17/2011 AT 01:00 AM EST
During Shania Twain and Frédéric Thiébaud's New Year's Day beach wedding, the couple were, at times, literally floating on air. "After [the officiant] said, 'You can now kiss the bride,' Fred picked her up and kissed her," bridesmaid Stacy Smith, a longtime friend of Twain's, tells PEOPLE. "He was just jumping for joy." Recalls another source close to the couple: "It was tearful, beautiful."
Though the nuptials at the Rincon Ocean Villa may have come as a surprise to Twain's fans-she only announced she was engaged to the Swiss businessman, her boyfriend of two years, in a letter she posted on her website Dec. 21-there's little concern they rushed to the altar. "They are so much fun together," says Smith. "He always refers to her as his 'sunshine.' He adores her."
That love was evident throughout the night. In front of 40 friends and family members, Twain-wearing a dress she bought at a small boutique in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Calvin Klein shoes-was escorted down the aisle by her 9-year-old son Eja, who wore a three-piece white linen suit, just like the groom. (Also in the wedding party were four bridesmaids, a flower girl and Thiébaud's daughter Johanna, 9, who served as ringbearer.) After the couple exchanged self-penned vows and Cartier bands, the entire group sang "All You Need Is Love."
But perhaps the most romantic moment was when Thiébaud, 40 (who proposed with a 4.8-carat cushion-cut diamond ring from jeweler Lorraine Schwartz worth more than $200,000), presented Twain, 45, with a book he made just for her, filled with his words and photos. "If s about his love for her," says Smith.
Of course, theirs isn't a typical storybook romance: The couple met while Twain was married to music producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, and Thiébaud was married to Twain's close friend and employee Marie-Anne. In 2008 Twain and Lange ended their 14-year marriage over his alleged affair with Marie-Anne, and in the months that followed, Twain and Thiébaud bonded over their shared heartbreak. The singer thought she was "never going to live and love and laugh ever again," she has said-but Thiébaud helped change her outlook. That Christmas, he took her on an aerial tour of the Swiss Alps followed by a picnic at a spot where he painted a red heart in the snow.
The couple soon built a blissful life together in La Tour de Peilz, Switzerland, with Eja and Johanna, who "are the best of friends; they've grown up together since birth," says Smith. When she announced her engagement, Twain wrote, "2010 is leaving me with a renewed faith in love and commitment. I believe in the right to be loved and the blessing of being able to love in return."
And she believes in sharing her happiness with family and friends. "Shania picked Puerto Rico because she wanted a place big enough to have everyone there the whole time, celebrating with her," says the source close to the couple. Guests enjoyed the sun and sand for a week leading up to the main event. "They went scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing," says the source. "On New Year's Eve they celebrated with fireworks and toasted the new year."
After the ceremony more fireworks exploded as the group headed back to the villa for a candlelit outdoor reception and a feast of vegetarian comfort food and coconut cream cake. "Everyone gave toasts," says the source. "Shania and Fred gave separate toasts that were really beautiful." Mr. and Mrs. Thiébaud shared their first dance to Michael Bublé's "I'm Your Man" before the bride changed into a shorter, white Vivienne Westwood dress and Jimmy Choo shoes-which made it much easier to get her groove on to the Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson and Madonna tunes spun by a deejay. Says the source: "Everyone danced into the wee hours."
Floating back to earth after their dream wedding, the couple can expect a busy first year of marriage. This spring Twain's documentary series Why Not? With Shania Twain premieres on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and her memoir will be published. Whatever comes their way, Twain is "happy and thrilled," says Smith. "She's in a great place now."
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