By Julie K.L. Dam
Updated October 15, 2001 12:00 PM

Playing the detail-obsessed Mary Fiore in last winter’s hit movie The Wedding Planner may well have rubbed off on Jennifer Lopez. From the moment the singer-actress walked down a tree-shaded, petal-strewn path to wed her beau, Cris Judd, on Sept. 29, everything was just so. The secret location—a private mountaintop estate in Calabasas, Calif.—kept prying eyes at bay; 10,000 white and pastel rosebuds brought in for the occasion scented the air; a deejay and salsa band had the couple’s 170 guests forming conga lines into the wee hours. Even the exchange of vows was precisely timed. “When the ceremony was finished, the sun was setting and the moon was out,” says a guest. “The kiss, the embrace—it was all perfect. They couldn’t have ordered it better.”

Quite a feat, considering the happy couple didn’t take a lot of time to prepare. It was only four months ago that Lopez, 32, accepted an emerald-cut diamond engagement ring from Judd, 32, whom she first met last November when he danced in the video of her hit “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” In the months that followed Lopez did her best to keep mum about their relationship, playing coy about the engagement even as she flashed her ring. But there was no hiding her affection when Lopez—wearing a Valentino Couture off-white silk and Chantilly-lace gown—stepped onto the white carpeted aisle on the arm of her father, David, 59, to the strains of “The Wedding March,” played by a string quartet. “It was not about her being J.Lo or Jennifer Lopez,” says Wedding Planner director Adam Shankman, a guest. “It was about her becoming Mrs. Cris Judd.”

Family and close friends dominated the guest list and the bridal party. Lopez’s seven bridesmaids, outfitted by Valentino in beige chiffon, included her sisters Leslie, 33, a music teacher, and Lynda, 30, a TV entertainment reporter. Her best friend, Arlene Rodriguez, 32, who grew up with her in The Bronx, served as maid of honor. Despite his relatively recent entry into Lopez’s orbit, Judd saw fit to have Lopez’s manager Benny Medina stand as his best man; his remaining six groomsmen were friends, including Eddie Garcia, a fellow dancer and choreographer. Judd’s parents, Larry, 57, and Violeta, 54, the owners of an egg roll restaurant, flew in from their home in Niceville, Fla. Lopez’s mother, Lupe, 55, who is divorced from David, a computer specialist, was part of the procession. “It was not a Hollywood wedding,” says Shankman. “It was intimate and very casual. Even when Jennifer was walking down the aisle, she was saying hi to people.”

It was that kind of natural ease that friends say attracted Lopez and Judd to each other in the first place. When they met, Lopez was still dating rap music impresario Sean “Puffy” Combs, her boyfriend of two years. Nonetheless, as manager Medina would later reveal in a wedding toast, Lopez told her close friend that she liked Judd when they first met; he, smitten, swore to see her again. Reports that the two were a couple hit the New York City tabloids in early February, and on Valentine’s Day, Combs, on trial for weapons and bribery charges of which he was later acquitted, announced that he and Lopez had split. Still, many were surprised when Lopez—whose first marriage, to Miami waiter Ojani Noa, 27, ended in divorce in 1998—stepped out at March’s Oscars with Judd, a onetime dancer at Pleasure Island, a Disney nightspot. “Cris always dated straitlaced girls in high school,” says Melissa Dowd Roberts, who shared a locker with Judd at Niceville High, where he was known as a quiet but popular guy. “It’s a surprise that he ended up with Jennifer Lopez with her see-through dresses and all.”

Not to her friends. While life with Combs seemed a whirlwind, Lopez was neglecting her inner couch potato, says her pal and hairdresser Oribe. “Jennifer loves to sit at home and watch TV,” he told PEOPLE in August. “Cris is very much like her father. He is very calm. She enjoys the attention and normalcy of the relationship.” As for Lopez’s fame, “Cris handles it well,” says a source close to the couple. In Puerto Rico, where she performed two concerts last month, “he was in full control,” says this source. “He was the boss. He was the choreographer. She listened to him, and he was running the show.” On the Seattle set of her upcoming thriller Enough in June, “Cris would come by the monitors and watch her work,” says producer Rob Cowan. “He knows the world she is in.” If their affections were supposed to stay secret, however, they did a lousy job. Between scenes “they nuzzled and snuggled and were all kissy-kissy,” says an observer on the set. “Some of the techies indicated they were a little grossed out by all the public displays of affection.”

When not with Judd, Lopez spent the summer organizing her big day with wedding planner Sharon Sacks and fending off rumors that she was pregnant. “I’d never have a baby without being married,” she told The New York Post in June. “My parents would kill me.”

By Sept. 29 that was a moot point. Just before 11 a.m. Lopez arrived at the estate in a chauffeured Bentley, with family members, the bridal party, Oribe and makeup artist Scott Barnes in tow. Getting ready “took us three or four hours,” says Barnes. “But we laughed and talked and took it really slow. She was just like every other bride, not Jennifer the superstar, just a happy, excited girl.” The most crucial cosmetic? Waterproof mascara. “I told her she was going to cry, but she said she wouldn’t,” says Barnes. “Of course, she did. Everyone was teary all day.”

Meanwhile, the guests—who had received hand-delivered invitations and directions the day before—were gathering at Calabasas High School a half hour north of Los Angeles. At a checkpoint overseen by a team of six guards (the same security firm used by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston at their wedding last year), they passed through a metal detector and were passed over a second time with a security wand. Cameras, cell phones and pagers had to be turned over in order for guests to board the buses that shuttled them the five winding miles up the mountain to the estate.

Upon arrival the guests mingled and enjoyed the panoramic views before being seated in white chairs arranged beside the willowy trees. Lopez entered around 6:15 p.m. “She wasn’t nervous,” says a guest. “She was radiating love.” Lopez’s attorney Barry Hirsch presided over the nondenominational ceremony, in which the couple exchanged matching diamond-encrusted bands and traditional wedding vows. At 6:30 p.m. Hirsch pronounced the artist popularly known as J.Lo “Mrs. Cristian Judd.”

The party then moved into an adjacent white tent that “was the most genius place, like the [Miami Beach] Delano hotel meets Morocco,” says makeup artist Barnes. “There were couches everywhere so you could lounge and lay down.” Lopez and Judd shared a quiet few minutes together alone before joining their guests inside, where the party feasted on butternut squash soup, smothered pork chops and onion gravy, spicy fried chicken and Szechuan beef prepared by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and washed down with Cristal champagne. First to dance were Lopez and Judd, who took the floor to the Stevie Wonder tune “Ribbon in the Sky.” Says one observer: “Their eyes never left each other”—not even to see the tent fill up with bubbles blown from wedding-cake-shaped bottles handed out by waiters.

Later Medina finished off his toast by breaking into a stirring rendition of Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” that “brought a smile to everyone’s face,” says Shankman. Lopez giggled as the couple cut the seven-tier chocolate and vanilla wedding cake and fed slices to each other amid cheers and applause. Toward the end of the night Judd recited a T.S. Eliot poem to his bride that made her tear up all over again. Appropriately, perhaps, the rest of the party was given over to dancing, with New York City deejay Cassidy Podell spinning everything from hip hop to rock, alternating with the salsa music by Son Mayor, the house band at the Conga Room nightclub in L.A. At one point Lopez and some of her dancers performed their own choreographed routine, encircled by the other guests. By 2:30 a.m. the newlyweds were the last dancers out on the floor. “It was just the two of them,” says an observer. “It was perfect.”

When the happy couple said good night around 3 a.m., their path was illuminated by 100 candles, a last-minute touch by the hired decorator who bought them at a local grocery store during the party. After spending the night in L.A. (the couple have been living in a rental home while Lopez’s L.A. home undergoes renovation), they left for Milan. There they shared the start of their honeymoon with friends—as guests of honor at a fashion show and dinner thrown by designer Donatella Versace, who also provided her Lake Como villa for their weeklong stay—and a few lucky strangers. On the couple’s first night in town, Lopez spontaneously serenaded her husband at a local restaurant to the delight of fellow diners. “She looked him in the eyes and sang her heart out,” says a witness. “They were like two doves, as we say in Italian—lovebirds.”

Julie K.L. Dam

Elizabeth Leonard, Rachel Biermann, Marisa Laudadio, Lorenzo Benet, Michael Fleeman, Julie Jordan and Frank Swertlow in Los Angeles, Rebecca Paley in New York City, Alec Marr in Milan and Steve Helling in Niceville