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There's no denying it now: After six years of dating (and days of speculation), hip-hop's most tight-lipped couple, rap mogul Jay-Z, 38, and singer-actress Beyoncé Knowles, 26, tied the knot Friday in a small ceremony followed by a lavish celebration.
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POP THE CORK!
The ultra-private couple (in 2006) first broke their silence about each other two years ago. "I like a man who really helps me grow, who is really confident," Beyoncé told Essence of Jay-Z's appeal. While the rapper expressed himself in rhyme on Beyoncé's single "Déjà Vu": "We used to bag girls like Birkin bags/Now I bag B."
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"I don't say if he's my boyfriend or not," Beyoncé said in 2003, during the early stages of their high-profile romance. But their actions always spoke louder than words. At that year's MTV Video Music Awards, they flaunted their chemistry during a duet of her hit "Crazy in Love"; at the 2004 VMAs they went public – sort of – giving each other shout-outs from the podium (she said, "What up, J?"; he said, "What up, B?").
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"She's a lovely girl," was all Jay-Z would say of the "Bootylicious" singer when they were first linked in 2002 (left, on TRL.). "We're just getting to know each other." But Beyoncé, who collaborated on his track "'03 Bonnie amp Clyde," made a statement – albeit subtly – with her self-designed Italian charm bracelet (inset) featuring a "B," a heart and a "J".
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Wedding talk is nothing new to Beyoncé and Jay-Z. When the pair (with her mom Tina Knowles and sister Solange) headed to the Bahamas in March 2004, rumors flew – but it was Solange, then 17, who tied the knot to football player Daniel Smith, 19. "(Beyoncé) made a joke about her baby sister beating her to the altar," says a waiter at the reception. "Her mother patted Jay-Z on the arm, like saying, 'Your time will come soon.' "
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Once named one of PEOPLE's best-dressed couples, Beyoncé and Jay-Z (in New York City) count their love affair with fashion as one of their mutual interests. She and mom Tina launched their House of Deréon line in '05 ("It's a little vintage and a little couture," she says); he has Rocawear, the label he debuted in 1999.
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The globe-trotting couple often take their love on the road. In June 2005, they enjoyed a romantic holiday touring the French and Italian Riviera (left, in Saint-Tropez; right, in Portofino) on a $17,000-a-day yacht. When they're in New York City, the pair hang out at his sports club, 40/40, or catch a New Jersey Nets home game (Jay-Z is part-owner of the NBA team).
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IN THE SAME BOAT
While the twosome (in Saint-Tropez in 2007) are known to kick back, their work ethic keeps them just as close. Between concert dates in India, Beyoncé admitted, "I'm supposed to be on vacation, but I've been in the studio because that's what I love to do." And she respects Jay-Z for the same commitment. When the rapper recently "unretired," she said: "I know when you love music that it's hard to get away ... I knew it would be difficult for him [to stay out of the studio] because it's a part of our makeup."
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WORKING IT OUT
Just because they're settling down doesn't mean they'll be staying in. Former Def Jam Records chief Jay-Z has landed a $150 million deal with concert promoter Live Nation, while Beyoncé – fresh off a 2007 tour – is portraying Etta James in the upcoming film Cadillac Records.
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"You can't rush a man into anything – whether it's a relationship, marriage or having children. When he's ready, he'll let you know," Beyoncé told InStyle in 2007. But while the marriage question may be settled soon, don't look for kids to follow promptly. The singer wants to give that another 10 years.
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"We don't play with our relationship," Jay-Z has said of his and Beyoncé's romance. As for Beyoncé (with him at a Nets game), she reveals this about their partnership: "It's very easy. He's so quick. And we respect each other ... It's just, I don't know, easy. And fun."