Off Court

Grand Slam Wedding

The courtship of champions: After only a nine-month romance and 16-week engagement Pete Sampras and Bridgette Wilson wed in an intimate backyard ceremony.

He has earned a record 13 Grand Slam tennis titles playing singles, but when it came time to wed actress Bridgette Wilson, seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras proved that he may even be more of a natural at doubles. In an emotional ceremony that included friends' children as well as relatives, a sentimental dance between Bridgette and her dad, and a nod by Pete to his Greek heritage, the focus was on celebrating family: Pete's, Bridgette's and the one they were forming together. And as befits a tennis hero and his actress bride, there was a showstopping suprise as well.

It all began in September 1999. Pete 29, had been dominating the tennis world for 10 years, but romantically he hadn't met his match. Then he spotted Wilson, 27, at an L.A.cinema. " I said to my friend, half-kidding, 'I'd love to meet her,'" recalls Pete. His pal got her number from a mutual friend, and the match was on.

When told about her famous admirer, Wilson had no idea who Pete Sampras was. " I had never watched tennis, so I wasn't familiar with him," she says, laughing. "But when I saw his picture, I was like, 'Oh yeah, he's a cutie.'"

At her sister's urging, Wilson accepted an invitation to dinner with Sampras - which she now calls "the closest thing to a blind date I've ever been on." (This was only after she was assured that the 6-foot-1-inch Sampras stood taller than her own 5 feet 9 inches).

Nine months later, on June 7, Sampras proposed with a platinum ring with oval-shaped diamond from Cartier. " I can't remember the exact day I knew she was the one; I remember it was an accumulation of what she's about, where she came from, and her family," says Sampras, who proposed at his Los Angeles home.

In the days after they became engaged, Bridgette had some experience playing a busy bride-to-be--not only was she planning her own wedding, but she had also just wrapped The Wedding Planner (due out in theaters in February 2001). Then she was cast in the series The Street and had to head to New York to shoot. Throw in Sampras's hectic tour schedule, and it became a major challenge to find a date to wed - and the time to plan the event. To the rescue came wedding coordinator Rob Smith of Laurels Custom Flora in Los Angeles, as well as Bridgette's sister and maid of honor, Tracy, both of whom helped the jet-setting lovebirds plan an intimate but elegant event in just six weeks.

" Tracy chose the invitations and tasted the food for me. I was like, if you think it tastes good, I will," says Wilson. "Bless her heart, she did so much for me, and Rob just worked magic to get it all done in time."

On September 30, as the sun set on a glorious California day, about 80 guests (mostly family members and a few close friends including Wayne Gretzky) gathered in Sampras' backyard, which had been converted into a dream-like setting with white chairs facing an archway covered in white flowers, and white candles and flowers floating in the pool.

Bridgette was also a vision in white, wearing a sleek georgette Vera Wang dress that had arrived by Fedex just the day before. After she and her father walked down the aisle to "The Wedding March", Pastor Tim Brueckner, a family from the Oregon Sunday school where Bridgette once taught and ran the nursery, performed the 20 minute ceremony. "The moment I loved was when I was walking down the aisle and I got to look Pete in the eye. And when he was repeating a few of the vows to me, I started to cry," recalls Wilson.

After Sampras and Wilson became Mr. and Mrs., guests enjoyed hors d'oeuvres and cocktails by the pool before entering a tent that transformed his tennis court into a romantic reception hall with flowers, chandeliers and mirrors. The newlyweds entered, then danced their first dance to "I know how the river feels" by Diamond Rio. Guests dined on risotto and fillet of beef, prepared by Joachim Splichal, the chef at L.A.'s Patina restaurant.

After dinner Pete had a surprised for his guests: Sir Elton John arrived by limo, sat down at the piano and played 45 minutes' worth of his greatest hits, ending with "Can you feel the love tonight". Even the bride was floored. "That's one of my most vivid memories of the wedding," she says.

Another emotional highlight for Bridgette was dancing with her father to " I love you enough to let you go" by Alabama. " I was crying my eyes out," she recalls. "It was that moment of acknowledging that he's trusting Pete to take care of me and the family we raise together."

After a dance-music group, the One o'clock band, began playing, the newly-weds took to the floor again, staying there until guests left at about midnight. At one point Sampras took a break to honor his own family's heritage: Following a Greek celebratory custom, " I cracked a plate into a number of pieces for good luck," he says. Guests left with a favor of Jordan almonds, another Greek tradition, as well as an Elton John CD.

Sampras may be used to being the centre of attention on centre court, but being the focus of friends and family on his wedding day was a different experience. "When you win matches, it's a short-lived high," he says. "This was something I was committing to for life. Tennis will one day stop, but I'll always have Bridgette. That's the biggest reward of all."

More Pictures

Pete Sampras, Brigette Wilson Marry

LOS ANGELES, Calif. Sept 30, 2000 (AP) - Tennis champion Pete Sampras, a longtime singles specialist, is now playing the doubles game.

Sampras married actress Brigette Wilson at his Beverly Hills home Saturday.

The couple got engaged May 29 after Sampras was beaten in the first round of the French Open.

The 26-year-old bride walked down the aisle in a Vera Wang gown and over $400,000 worth of diamond jewelry, according to a statement from the Diamond Information Center, publicists for Fred Leighton, the jeweler who provided the jewelry.

Wilson was Miss Teen USA in 1990. Her film credits include ``Last Action Hero,'' in which she played Arnold Schwarzenegger's daughter, the teen scream flick ``I Know What You Did Last Summer'' and ``Billy Madison.'' She also appeared on the soap opera ``Santa Barbara.''

AP-NY-10-02-00 0318EDT


Sampras signs up Elton for Wedding

TENNIS ace Pete Sampras married actress Bridgette Wilson in his back garden -and hired Elton John to entertain them.

Pistol Pete told the 85 astonished guests: "Here's Elton John. He doesn't normally do weddings, but he's making an exception for us."

The superstar sat down at the piano and serenaded the couple with a 45-minute set packed with some of his biggest hits.

Sports-mad Elton is a big tennis fan and has been a close friend of 29-year-old Sampras for years.

Friends said last night that the idea that he should perform at the wedding was initially put to Elton as a joke.

But he immediately replied: "I'll do it."

Sampras, the most successful player in history, and his 26-year-old bride tied the knot on Saturday in an open-air ceremony in the grounds of his pounds 4million Beverly Hills home.

After they were pronounced man and wife, the couple led the guests, who included former U.S. champ Jim Courier, to a marquee on Sampras's tennis court.

Pete's big rival Andre Agassi and former Centre Court bad boy John McEnroe were also invited - but both sent their apologies.

After Elton's spot Sampras, whose family has Greek roots, followed tradition by joining his bride to smash a huge plate on the floor.

Sampras first asked Bridgette for a date over a year ago after seeing her half naked in a film called Love Stinks.

He said later: "Not only is Bridgette beautiful but she is also so sweet, nice and smart.

"And she's funny and fun to be with."

Bridgette, a former Miss Teen USA, once said: "I know I want to have a family and be a housewife.

"That's really the most important thing with me."

Article supplied by Nadine Ymga Tembiwe



Match of His Life:  Tennis Champ Pete Sampras takes actress Bridgette Wilson as his bride

It's tough to come up with the perfect wedding present for a multimillionaire tennis star like Pete Sampras, whose titles have already left him with an embarrassment of silver trophies, cups and platters. But trust a pal to rise to the challenge. As the 81 guests in the backyard of Sampras's Benedict Canyon home for his twilight wedding to actress Bridgette Wilson on Sept. 30 were savoring the last morsels of their dessert, the groom had an announcement. "I have a friend who is nice enough to come by and play a few songs for us," said Sampras, 29. Then he introduced Elton John.

With that, John, a fervent tennis fan, took his seat at the piano on a small stage and treated the guests, including hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky and his wife, Janet Jones, to a 45-minute greatest-hits medley. John ended his set with "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," which he introduced by observing, "This is kind of a schmaltzy song-but this is a wedding." Then he slipped away into a waiting limo. "That was pretty incredible," said guest Mike Ovitz, whose management company represents Sampras. "It was a lovely, intimate evening of celebration." That's just the way the couple wanted it, according to Wilson's sister Tracy, 29, the maid of honor. "The whole point," she had said earlier, was "to be as private and special as possible."

The wedding succeeded on both counts. The stucco walls and lush foliage surrounding Sampras's home provided a natural screen for the nuptials. And the tone of the evening was as elegant yet understated as the groom's Armani tux and the 27-year-old bride's ivory silk georgette bias gown by Vera Wang, which Wilson accented with $400,000 in diamonds lent by jeweler Fred Leighton.

As a sliver of moon shone over Sampras's yard, the couple's family and close friends took their seats for the service in a narrow garden bordered by rose bushes. "Bridgette was as radiant as the white roses," says Sampras's longtime friend David Higdon, an executive on the men's pro-tennis tour. "During the ceremony she was dabbing at tears pretty much the whole time."

For the reception, the couple and their guests retired to a tented ballroom erected over Sampras's tennis court, where they enjoyed a supper that included filet of beef with artichokes and au gratin potatoes. After Elton John's set and the serving of the three-tiered white buttercream-iced cake, Sampras, in a nod to his Greek heritage, smashed a plate for luck. Then, as an R&B band kicked in, the newlyweds danced and danced-and danced some more. In fact, though the pair were about to depart for a weeklong Mexican honeymoon before the bride begins filming her new FOX-TV series, The $treet, in New York, "Pete was one of the last ones to leave the dance floor," says Hingdon. "I don't believe I've ever seen the guy as content and as happy."

Article supplied by Betty



Love Match: Pete Sampras weds Bridgette Wilson

Tennis great Pete Sampras sealed his love match to TV actress Bridgette Wilson last night.

The pair played doubles in a romantic Los Angeles wedding ceremony attended by six other couples.

After the service, the bridal couple hosted a dinner for 60 guests right on the tennis court in the backyard of Sampras' home in Beverly Hills.

Wilson, the stunning star of the new Fox-TV series "The Street," has been jetting back and forth between L.A. and New York, where the show is being filmed at Chelsea Piers.

Her curly-headed hubby has been taking it easy since getting bounced in the finals of the U.S. Open last month.

The couple has been an item for only about a year.

The former Miss Teen USA started seeing Sampras in 1999, when he was on the rebound following a two-year romance with "Father of the Bride" co-star Kimberly Williams.

The 13-time Grand Slam champion's only other love sets over the years were a brief flirtation with actress Lauren Holly and a six-year relationship with Delaina Mulcahy, a South African-born law student who he met when she was seeing his then-agent, Gavin Forbes,

Wilson plays a devious money manager on the new Fox show about Wall Street brokers, which debuts Nov. 1.

Article supplied by Elle


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