TALK ABOUT YOUR KODAK MOMENTS. OUTSIDE RIO DE JANEIRO’S COUNTRY Club in Ipanema, rain pitter-patters romantically on the rooftop. Inside, the reception room is abloom with white orchids and lilies. As the Baptist minister closes his Bible, the groom lifts the bride’s tulle veil, and they kiss.
“Hey, John, this way!” calls a voice loudly. Guests squirm in their places, straining for a glimpse of the scene that 20 photographers from news agencies around the world are madly clicking their cameras to capture. “Over here!” yells another photographer. Obligingly, the groom restrikes the pose. Lift—flash! Gaze—flash! Kiss—flash! “This looks more like a fashion show than a wedding,” grumbles one guest. “But I guess that’s what they wanted.”
Good guess. The marriage of John Casablancas, 50, owner of the Elite modeling agency (whose roster includes Cindy Crawford and Paulina Porizkova) was a media event start to finish. For Casablancas, a self-described playboy, the Feb. 26 ceremony was wedding No. 3. (He has a daughter, Cecile, 22, by first wife Marie Christine and a son, Julian, 14, by Jeanette Christjansen.) But for 17-year-old Aline Wermelinger, who tugged all evening at her often too revealing Thierry Mugler couture dress, it was practically her first date. “I never dreamed something like this would happen,” she says. “It happened so fast.”
Just last August, Aline was an innocent (meaning, she says, deeply religious and virginal) Brazilian high school junior participating in Elite’s Look of the Year contest in Rio. Casablancas, one of the judges, voted her the winner—but without great enthusiasm. “She curves in all the right places but has a small defect on her nose,” he noted. In September, Wermelinger flew to New York City for the international contest. God, she told the judges, was her idol, the Bible her favorite book. She lost the contest, but Casablancas’ interest was piqued. “It was like being back in high school,” he says of the ensuing courtship, which took place mostly in New York City and Rio. “I would get her back early, and we stayed in separate rooms.” Three months later, Casablancas traveled to the quiet mountain town of Cordeiro (pop. 30,000), 105 miles northeast of Rio, where the bride grew up with her two older sisters and a younger brother, to meet Aline’s father, José Augusto, 49, an accountant, and her mother, Edna, 47, a seamstress. “I couldn’t lose time,” says Casablancas. “The chemistry was electric.”
The family’s blessings were happily bestowed. “He is a gentleman,” said Edna, staring in awe at the spectacle of giggling models picking at the wedding dinner of stuffed trout, chicken with grapes and medallions of beef. Said José: “I’m from the country. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
As Mrs. Casablancas, Aline will preside over homes in Manhattan and Rio and on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza. She has abandoned both school and her plans to model. “John wanted a woman who could devote herself to him,” she says. In return, says John, he offers undying love and fidelity—he hopes. “There is still in me some hot blood,” he concedes. “I’m not saying the relationship will last forever. But who knows?”