By Karen S. Schneider
August 20, 2001 12:00 PM

Agent 007 didn’t need the belt of Midleton Very Rare Irish whiskey his best man offered him on the way to Ballintubber Abbey in Ireland’s County Mayo on Aug. 4. But he was thankful for the Infant of Prague doll, a Catholic religious icon that, following tradition, he put under a bush the night before his wedding to TV reporter-turned-environmental activist Keely Shaye Smith to ward off bad weather. “With such riches as I have in life, you’re always nervous,” says Pierce Brosnan, 49, of the jitters that hit him before marrying Keely, 37, his partner of seven years and the mother of their sons Dylan, 4, and 6-month-old Paris. “Being Irish, you’re waiting for something to knock it sideways.”

And it being Ireland, it rained in the morning (although later the sun shone). The flower girl—Pierce’s 3-year-old granddaughter Isabella—got a cold. And while Dylan finally agreed to don a tux (with his motorcycle boots) instead of the Hawaiian shirt he favored, he lodged a last-minute protest against carrying the rings. But it wasn’t frustration that led Pierce to shed tears when, at 4:15 p.m., he momentarily sat in the 785-year-old church—one of Ireland’s most ancient—and scanned the wooden pews. Filling them were about 120 close friends and family who had flown in from London and Los Angeles to witness the exchange of vows. Says best man Bron Roylance, a makeup artist who met Pierce while both worked on Remington Steele 20 years ago, of the groom’s emotional state: “He’s floating on a cloud of happiness.”

Or was it that more than 20 minutes after the wedding was supposed to start, his bride was nowhere to be seen? “She’s coming,” Pierce reassured guests. “She is coming.”

She did, but only after taking care of the needs of another man: Paris, who decided after Keely had gotten into her pearl-encrusted Richard Tyler gown that he was hungry. As Pierce later said of the nursing-comes-first ethic: “We are a working family.” Not that he needed to explain. Guests were well aware of what Pierce had endured to get to this moment. Fourteen years of marriage came to a tragic end in 1991 when his wife, Cassandra—mother of their now 17-year-old son Sean as well as son Christopher, now 28, and daughter Charlotte, 29, two children from an earlier marriage that Brosnan had adopted—died of ovarian cancer at age 39. On April 22, 2000, Pierce and Keely faced another near tragedy when Sean narrowly escaped death in a car accident in Malibu, delaying their May 2000 wedding plans. “We didn’t give postponing the wedding a second thought,” says Pierce, who with Keely had to put the nuptials off yet again when she became pregnant with Paris. Adds Keely, who has taken Pierce’s name: “We wanted to unite all of our children into one family. It was important for Sean to be ready and well.”

And at 5 p.m. he was, as his dad finally took his place near the altar and the crowd erupted in cheers. “It wasn’t movie-star applause,” says photographer friend Nancy Ellison, “but the applause of a collective somebody who knew that Pierce had loved his first wife and suffered through her death and found joy again.” Joy that nearly got the best of Pierce: Following a momentary disruption at the back of the church—Dylan unexpectedly shouted out, ‘Where’s Daddy?”—a velvet curtain opened and the long-waiting groom saw his bride. Says Pierce’s mother, May Carmichael: “He almost crumpled a little bit.”

Fortunately he recovered in time to get through the traditional vows. After a full Catholic mass and a first married kiss so passionate that “it had people giggling,” says Keely’s best friend, jewelry designer Cynthia Wolff, the couple hosted a reception that had exactly the magic feel the bride says she wanted: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream meets The Secret Garden.” While the small children went off to a slumber party at Ashford Castle, the posh 13th-century estate at which Pierce put up all the guests, the grown-ups gathered in a glass-fronted structure on the castle grounds made just for the occasion. Bagpipers added background music, and thousands of delphinium and roses shipped in from Holland lent a sweet perfume while diners nibbled on buckwheat blinis with Beluga caviar, Cleggan lobster and a six-tier carrot cake. Neither the ice sculpture of Rodin’s The Kiss (Keely’s surprise for her husband) nor even the explosion of fireworks that lit the sky (Pierce’s surprise for his bride) could match for romance the look in the newlyweds’ eyes. “Just seeing the ultimate love that these two people have for each other was unbelievable,” says Charlotte, flower girl Isabella’s mom. “My dad has found it again, and that makes me happy.”

Karen S. Schneider

Pete Norman, Eileen Finan and Esther Leach in West Ireland