March 23, 1998 12:00 PM

DESPITE THE CELEBRITY GUESTS and imported roses from Ecuador, pop singer Paula Abdul‘s 1996 wedding at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills was, in some ways, quite typical. Like all brides, Abdul, who had endured a 1994 divorce from actor Emilio Estevez and had overcome a 15-year battle with bulimia, was filled with new hope. “I’ve loved you from the day we met,” she said as she exchanged vows with L.A. clothing manufacturer Brad Beckerman that autumn. “You are my best of times.”

Those times are over. On March 9, Abdul, 35, sued Beckerman, 31, for divorce in Los Angeles Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences. Beckerman, who shared Abdul’s five-bedroom, Mediterranean-style mansion in Beverly Hills, has moved out. The couple, who met on a blind date in February 1996, became engaged five months later when Beckerman proposed over champagne and strawberries in Maui and presented her with a six-carat diamond ring. “It was so romantic,” Abdul told PEOPLE that summer. “Both of us are just so happy we found each other.”

But they lost the magic. According to a source close to the couple, “Paula really fell in love,” but Beckerman sometimes seemed to treat their relationship “like a business deal.” Abdul, meanwhile, is pouring herself into her work. The former L.A. Laker cheerleader, an accomplished choreographer before making a huge splash in pop music with 1990’s multiplatinum album Forever Your Girl, is pursuing an acting career. After starring in the ABC-TV movie Touched by Evil last year, she is weighing new offers while also working on her fourth album. Despite two strikes, she is not likely to give up on love. “I do want to meet a special person and get married again,” Abdul said after her first divorce. “I believe I’m well deserving of that.”

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