What a year!
While the nation moved through an economically challenging election year, Hollywood kept things interesting by focusing on everything from engagements and divorces to babies and bikinis.
Here, in descending order of popularity, were the biggest PEOPLE.com news stories of 2012.
10. Blake Lively & Ryan Reynolds Get Married in Surprise Ceremony
Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds‘s surprise wedding ceremony was one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets! After less than a year together – and buying a home in Bedford, N.Y. – the couple exchanged vows at Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., just outside of Charleston, in September. Just a month later, Lively showed off a stunning engagement ring on a red carpet in New York.
9. Angelina Jolie’s Engagement Ring Up Close!
Just days after Brad Pitt popped the question to Angelina Jolie, the Oscar-winning actress debuted her engagement ring at a private event at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Created by jeweler Robert Procop and designed by Pitt, the stunning sparkler took over a year to produce. Jolie, 37, and Pitt, 48 – together since 2005 – have yet to announce any formal wedding plans.
8. Beyonce ‘Enormously Pregnant in Sky-High Heels,’ Says Source
With rumors swirling that Beyoncé gave birth over New Year’s Eve weekend, a source confirmed to PEOPLE the singer was in fact still pregnant. On New Year’s Eve, the source spotted the mom-to-be dining at Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn, where she and husband Jay-Z feasted on fried chicken and oysters. “She looked amazing. She wore sky-high heels. It was really impressive for an enormously pregnant woman,” the source said. A week later, the happy couple welcomed daughter Blue Ivy into the world on Jan. 7, 2012.
7. Jessica Simpson, Daughter Maxwell Do First Photo Shoot
Introducing baby Maxwell! Weeks after welcoming her first child on May 1, Jessica Simpson proudly posed with daughter Maxwell Drew on the cover of PEOPLE. “We stare at her all the time,” Simpson said at the time. “We can’t get enough!”
6. Elizabeth Smart Is Engaged
After being kidnapped from her home in 2002 at age 14, Elizabeth Smart finally got her happy ending. Her father Ed Smart confirmed his daughter’s engagement in January, saying, “We’re looking forward to her moving on to this next stage and leading a very happy life.” Then, after planning a destination wedding in just days, Smart and fiancé Matthew Gilmour exchanged vows in Hawaii in February.
5. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Are Divorcing
After five years of marriage, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes announced their divorce in June. “Kate has filed for divorce and Tom is deeply saddened and is concentrating on his three children. Please allow them their privacy,” Cruise’s rep told PEOPLE at the time. Despite the split and their distance (Holmes and Suri remained in New York, while Cruise kept busy filming in London), the parents to 6-year-old Suri remained focused on their daughter.
4. Robert Pattinson Leaves Home He Shares With Kristen Stewart
After Kristen Stewart publicly apologized for a tryst with married Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders, her Twilight costar and boyfriend Robert Pattinson left the Los Angeles home the couple shared in late July. “I’m not sure they’ll be able to recover from this,” a source said of the couple at the time. But come October, the Breaking Dawn costars would be spotted reuniting in Los Angeles.
3. Rosie O’Donnell’s Fiancée Diagnosed with Rare Disease
Although she’s best known for cracking jokes, 2012 was no laughing matter for Rosie O’Donnell. Her fiancée Michelle Rounds was diagnosed with desmoid tumors, a rare disease that affects three out of every million people. In June, the funny woman revealed she suffered a heart attack – crediting her survival to quick Internet research and a Bayer aspirin she had seen recommended in advertisements. After a difficult year of health problems, O’Donnell and Rounds decided to tie the knot in secret before Rounds underwent surgery for her desmoid tumors on June 9. “They got married but they haven’t had the wedding celebration,” O’Donnell’s rep Cindi Berger told PEOPLE exclusively.
2. Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel’s Wedding Photo Revealed
They’re bringing weddings back! After five years together, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel said “I do” in a romantic Italian ceremony on Oct. 19. “It was a really special evening,” Timberlake told PEOPLE of the nuptials. But nothing was more special than the couple’s wedding photo, which featured an overjoyed Timberlake jumping in the air as his bride – who wore a custom, petal pink Giambattista Valli Haute Couture gown – smiled for the camera. “It was a total fantasy experience,” Biel said.
1. She’s Pregnant! Kate & Prince William Expecting First Child
Prepare for a new royal! In early December, the Palace released a statement confirming the pregnancy. “Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Cambridge is expecting a baby. The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry and members of both families are delighted with the news,” it said. According to the Palace, Kate – who was admitted to the hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum – was in the “very early stages” of her pregnancy at the time of the announcement.