Hideaway Bride

07/11/2002 at 11:05 AM EDT

Roberts and Moder first met on the set of The Mexican in the early spring of 2000. At the time, he was four years into a marriage with makeup artist Vera Steimberg Moder, 29. Though those close to the family say the union was already strained, it was, they add, Moder's growing bond with Roberts -- he helped her through her breakup with actor Ben Bratt months later -- that finally led him to file for divorce last June. Eventually Danny and Julia began creating a life together. A regular at the shops and restaurants near her apartment in lower Manhattan while dating Bratt, she has rarely been seen there since hooking up with Moder. Instead they divide their time between his modest apartment in L.A. and the $5 million-plus Taos ranch -- complete with a tennis court and stable for her seven horses -- that Julia bought in 1995 as a retreat from big-city living. Whether it's spending time walking her 11 dogs, chatting with neighbor and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who owns several properties in Taos County, grabbing takeout at the nearby Taos Cow or spending an evening dancing (and, says a waitress, "making out") at the Alley Cantina, they have proven far more than a fling. "They are both solid, nonjudgmental, loving people," says a friend of hers. And if Bratt, 38, who married his Piñero costar Talisa Soto, 35, in May, was irked by the level of her fame -- "It's like a fly that won't leave you alone, it's that mosquito that buzzes in your ear when you're trying to sleep at night," he told Vanity Fair -- Moder is not. "It's a facet of who she is, and he accepts it," says Roberts's pal. "He's very supportive. He celebrates her for who she is."

Tattooed hindside and all: Three months before declaring till death do them part, says a mutual friend, the couple declared their commitment by having each other's initials inked on their lower backs. The finalization of Moder's divorce on May 16 paved the way for last week's more orthodox declaration of love. In June Roberts asked publicist and friend Marcy Engelman to call Roberts's favorite Manhattan hairdresser, Serge Normant, and makeup artist Genevieve Herr -- claiming that she needed them for a photo shoot. Local caterers from the Wooden Spoon and members of the Austin, Texas-based Toni Price Band penned in the date for what they thought was a July 4 barbecue. As the weeks ticked down to days, Roberts herself got down to business. Four days before the ceremony, the T-shirt-and-overall-clad star headed for the Arroyo Seco Mercantile and bought $200 worth of steel buckets -- just the things in which to plant the shrubs she picked up the following day at Blossoms nursery. Next stop: Raley's supermarket, where she loaded three carts of food into her light gold Land Cruiser. Finally, the day before guests arrived, Hollywood's $20 million-per-picture powerhouse was on her hands and knees, doing prewedding weeding around her property. "She could have (gotten married) anywhere, at a castle or the fanciest hotel," says a friend. "But that isn't her."

Not that she can't get glamorous when it suits her. She stopped into the local spa Face Place the day before the wedding, and by the next night was standing on the bare ground, her dress-made by friend Beylerian, an L.A.-based designer who works mostly with private clients -- set off by a delicate wire crown dotted with antique hand-carved buttons, pearls and cut glass by her pal Dennison. "She was so glorious looking," he says, "it was unbelievable."

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