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Shamrocks and Champagne

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It was, by all accounts, the Perfect Wedding: The bride was ravishing in white silk organza appliquéd with shamrocks, the groom was dashing in modish navy linen, and the ceremony—which began 20 minutes late—was simple and moving. There were giggles at the altar, teary toasts at the reception and sentimental encomiums throughout. “A marvelous occasion,” said family friend George Plimpton, who has known the bride since she was a stripling. “What struck me was how gracious it all was…it wasn’t glitzy. There was a wonderful glow of well-being.”

That, and a certain aura of dynastic import. Kennedy rites of passage have been of consuming public interest ever since Camelot, and the wedding of JFK’s daughter was a de facto state occasion, even if the determinedly private Jacqueline Onassis managed to keep most of the press at arm’s length. By Thursday, two days before the ceremony at Our Lady of Victory in Centerville, Mass., Hyannis Port was awash with paparazzi, network news crews and garden-variety gossipmongers, all snatching at minutiae like crows diving for glinting tin. The bride, they reported, had registered at Bloomingdale’s and Tiffany’s. Among her suggested gifts: Lunéville’s Old Strasbourg china, $50 for a five-piece setting. Despite the fact that groom Edwin Schlossberg, 42, an artist and president of a New York design firm, is Jewish, progeny would be raised in the Catholic Church. Caroline would not use the word “obey,” during the 30-minute ceremony, and she would be ferried to the church from the Kennedy compound in a rented limo used the previous week by George Burns. (A hole burned in the seat by his cigar ashes had been covered with a fresh white sheet.)

Apparently impervious to the hoopla, the 28-year-old Caroline, a second-year law student at Columbia, went about her appointed prenuptial rounds. At the New York salon of socialite-designer Carolina Herrera—an Onassis favorite who also created Jackie’s smashing pistachio crepe ensemble—she went through final fittings of her size-4 gown. “She had very definite ideas about what she wanted to wear,” says Herrera. Caroline, who asked for a dress with short sleeves, a lightweight fabric and a long train, gasped and said, “I love it!” when Herrera revealed the finished frock. With its elegant train, white tulle petticoat and veil, it charmed her global audience. Unlike many aspects of the celebration, the gown was created without Jackie’s supervision. “I think Caroline wanted to surprise her with a dress she would like,” says Herrera. “You can see they adore each other.” (While the designer declined to discuss prices, a spokeswoman reports that her wedding designs start at $5,000.)

The mother of the bride, whose sure hand was evident in everything from the Cape Cod summer flowers to the multicolored flags flying from the white reception tent, had arrived on Thursday. She apparently immersed herself in preparations on Friday, while Ethel, Ted, Caroline, John, Maria Shriver and husband Arnold Schwarzenegger and a complement of cousins sailed a ketch on Nantucket Sound. At 6 p.m. the wedding party assembled at the church for the rehearsal. Afterward, during dinner at a nearby country club, John delivered a touching toast to Schlossberg: “The three of us have been alone for such a long time. We welcome a fourth person.”

In true Kennedy fashion, the males collected on wedding-day morn for a game of touch football. Many of the Kennedy women submitted to the ministrations of one Lenny Holtzman, owner of the beauty salon at the local Dunfey Hyannis Hotel. Said Holtzman: “They’re all particular. I must have used 20 pounds of mousse.”

Come 3 o’clock, the crowds were six-feet deep along the Centerville road, a large security staff was in place, and the 400 guests were waiting at Our Lady of Victory. Such JFK intimates as Ted Sorensen, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith and Dave Powers were there; so were members of Schlossberg’s art crowd, including Jasper Johns, Caroline’s classmates, Jackie’s haute circle and, of course, the Clan. Observers noted that Joan Kennedy looked tanned and rested, former husband Ted looked jubilant and cherubic, and groomsman John F. Kennedy Jr. looked more the hale heartthrob than ever.

During the ceremony, Caroline and matron-of-honor Maria giggled. “Of all the weddings I’ve attended, she was the happiest bride at the altar,” reported Ann Buchwald, who is married to the columnist. “She was really having fun up there.” The usually composed Onassis was moved to tears, and her arms were around Ted Kennedy as the two left the church. The sole flaw in the proceedings was when Mae Schlossberg, the groom’s mother, tripped on the steps and took a tumble. Down but not out, she iced her injured ankle and made it through the reception, held at the Kennedy compound.

The celebration featured a four-tier yellow wedding cake with white icing, topped with tiny Godzillas in bride-and-groom garb, rivers of Moët & Chandon and a live version of Chapel of Love, sung by Carly Simon. Guests dined on cold pea soup, shrimp, chicken with lemon-mustard sauce, sirloin and ice cream; danced to the beat of the Supreme Court, a local band; and applauded a fireworks show by Plimpton. Ted Kennedy welcomed the senior Schlossbergs with an enthusiastic toast: “We hear you have a house in the Berkshires. That’s good, because we like to ski—all 43 of us.” But he also brought tears, with a toast to his niece and the mother of the bride: “I know my brother Jack is here tonight. I’m sure he’d say, ‘Jackie, I love you, and Caroline, I’m very proud of you.’ ”

When the sniffling was over, the guests turned in rapturous reviews.

“Divine and fabulous event,” said Lee Radziwill, Jackie’s sister.

“A very laid-back wedding,” said Art Buchwald.

“Dinner was delicious,” said the bandaged Mae Schlossberg.

At 11 p.m., Caroline and her new husband slipped away in their limo, bound for a wedding night at Boston’s Ritz-Carlton. There, the two could bask in the unglitzy glow of well-being, contemplate a honeymoon in Hawaii and reflect on their very own coda to Camelot.