VENICE, Italy — George Clooney vowed he would never marry again, giving hope to millions of women that they one day might get their chance at romance with Hollywood's most eligible bachelor.
And for more than two decades, Clooney's love life has been tabloid fodder as he carried on romances with a series of models and actresses, a cocktail waitress, an Italian starlet and a former professional wrestler — before meeting his match in human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin.
Less than five months after their engagement was announced, the couple is marrying this weekend in a celebrity-studded wedding extravaganza in Venice, one of the world's most romantic settings.
It has not been reported if Michelle Pfeiffer has called him on his $100,000 bet that he would, indeed, never marry again following his four-year marriage to Talia Balsam, which ended in 1993. And it is unknown how many hearts have been broken by Clooney's renunciation of his sworn bachelorhood, but there are plenty.
"I am going to tell all the women who are sad because George is getting married: Yah, you lost this one because he is an honorable, sensitive, intelligent, sweet guy," said Howard Bragman, vice chairman of reputation.com and a long-time Hollywood publicist who has observed Clooney in action on sets and at events.
Bragman said Clooney "holds a very unique place in Hollywood."
"George is a contemporary throwback star," he said. "He is contemporary in his thinking. He has taken stands on politics, in presidential elections, on Darfur and other causes. But in terms of his respect and his place in the Hollywood system, he is very traditional. He is a throwback to at timeless movie star, almost Cary Grant."
Venice is perhaps a natural setting for Clooney's wedding. The star owns a villa on Lake Como north of Milan, feels at home in Italy and is a frequent visitor to Venice, often to promote his films at the Venice Film Festival.
While the Venetian waterways offer stunning views of the city's Byzantine and Renaissance architecture, where East truly meets West, its system of islands also permits privacy and easily restricted access.
Clooney and Alamuddin arrived in Venice by bus on Friday accompanied by a small group of guests who included the groom's parents, as well as Cindy Crawford and her husband. A clutch of photographers greeted them, and the couple obliged with smiles and poses.
They were met by Clooney's regular water-taxi driver, who piloted the group down the scenic route along the picturesque Grand Canal lined by stunning palazzi, including the one where the couple is to be married in a civil ceremony on Monday.
Clooney and his bride stood outside during the water-taxi ride, his arm comfortably around her as they were conveyed along the most famous of Venice's canals on a boat fittingly named "Amore." He waved to well-wishers as they passed under the famed Rialto Bridge.
The water journey ended at the luxury Cipriani Hotel, Clooney's usual residence when in Venice, on an island opposite St. Mark's Square.
Clooney, 53, and Alamuddin, 36, have not publicly divulged details of the celebrations — leaving plenty open to speculation.
A reporter saw a distinct hexagonal box that Alamuddin was photographed carrying through a Milan airport on Thursday arrive by water taxi at the Aman Hotel overlooking the Grand Canal, rumored to be the venue of one of the weekend festivities. The wedding veil, perhaps? And the million dollar question: Who designed the dress she will wear?
Giorgio Armani said during Milan Fashion Week that the groom would be wearing Armani. Clooney is a long-time friend of the designer and has in the past been a front-row guest at his menswear shows. And an Armani suit bag arrived with Clooney, among two vans of luggage, in Venice.
Venice city officials have announced the closure of a 50-meter (yard) length of pedestrian way along the Grand Canal where the 16th-century Cavalli Palace is located for two hours on Monday for the Clooney nuptials. Media have speculated that the couple will have two ceremonies — one on Saturday followed by a civil ceremony Monday.
The arrival of other celebrities in Venice on Friday indicated star-studded festivities were in the making. Those spotted included Clooney's cousin Miguel Ferrer, Matt Damon, Ellen Barkin, Anna Wintour and Richard Kind.
Clooney has expressed bemusement at the level of interest in his love life over the years. And it's unlikely to stop with marriage.
"I think it is going to help his image," Bragman said. "He married someone who is super intelligent, super beautiful and super comfortable in her own skin. And I think that shows that here is a guy who has enough security in his own skin to marry someone who is truly his equal."
Patricia Thomas contributed to this report from Venice. Barry reported from Milan.