RHINEBECK, N.Y.— Chelsea Clinton was poised to marry her longtime boyfriend at an exclusive estate along New York's Hudson River after weeks of intrigue, secrecy and buzz that caused hundreds to crowd into this small village hoping to catch of a glimpse of a former president, a secretary of state or their publicity-shy daughter.
The 30-year-old daughter of Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to wed her boyfriend, investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, at a ceremony Saturday evening with 400 to 500 guests. Details of the wedding were kept fanatically close to the vest, with shopkeepers, innkeepers, vendors and restaurateurs sworn to secrecy. Roads were closed, the skies were closed over the estate and inconvenienced neighbors were soothed with a complimentary bottle of wine.
As police, private security and Secret Service prowled the town of 8,000, curious residents and tourists alike craned their necks to try to spot an A-list guest, a notable politician or, best of all, a Clinton.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the hotel where many of the guests are staying were rewarded Friday night when the Clintons exited a van arm-in-arm outside the Beekman Arms Hotel.
Shortly before 11 p.m., the former first lady, wearing a long, green dress, waved to the cheering crowd waiting behind metal barricades and quickly went into the hotel. The couple left about a half-hour later.
Earlier in the day, the former president made an appearance around lunchtime, popping out of a car and walking a few blocks, greeting people on his way to a restaurant. Looking fit and relaxed in blue jeans and a black knit shirt, he gave easy answers to questions shouted by well-wishers and reporters.
How are you?
"We're all fine."
"We love it here," he said. "Chelsea loves the area as well."
And what do you think of Mr. Mezvinsky, Mr. President?
"I like him very much," Clinton said. "I really do. I admire him. Hillary feels the same way."
The sight of an ex-president captivated many in the crowd.
"We thought it was great that he walked down here," said Carol Chestney, of Rhinebeck. "He could have parked right outside. He looks great."
After lunch, Clinton slowly wound his way out of the restaurant, taking time to shake hands with the kitchen staff and customers, who took pictures of him with their cell phones. The restaurant's owner said it would be impolite to reveal what he had for lunch.
He emerged to an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds of people who shouted, "We love you!" and "Congratulations!"
True to Chelsea Clinton's reluctance to be in the spotlight, the mysteries of the wedding continued right into Saturday — much of it centered on a VIP guest said to include such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.
"Maybe I'll see someone, maybe I won't," said Rhinebeck resident Linda Gray, as she sat on a sidewalk bench and watched the hubbub.
Madeleine Albright, who was secretary of state during Clinton's second term as president; Vernon Jordan, former adviser to the president; and movie producer Steve Bing were seen Friday night at the Beekman Arms Hotel.
Meanwhile, a longtime Clinton family friend denied that the wedding would cost more than $1 million. The friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with the family's desire for privacy, said the cost will not exceed six figures. Wedding experts told The Associated Press the wedding could cost $2 million to $3 million, while other outlets said it could hit $5 million.
Andrea Alvin, who lives on the same road as the Astor Courts estate, told The Associated Press that state police notified her three or four days ago that the road would be closed from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and gave her a sticker so she could get in and out. She came home Thursday to find a bottle of wine from the nearby Clinton Vineyards, courtesy of the wedding planner. It came with a note apologizing for any inconvenience and included a phone number to call if there were any problems.
"I think it's great. It's a happy occasion," she said. "It's good publicity for the town. It's just a weekend. What's losing a weekend in the summer?"
Chelsea and Mezvinsky were friends as teenagers in Washington, and both attended Stanford University. They now live in New York, where Mezvinsky works at G3 Capital, a Manhattan hedge fund. Mezvinsky worked previously at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker.
Clinton completed her master's degree in public health earlier this year at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
Mezvinsky is a son of former U.S. Reps. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky of Pennsylvania and Ed Mezvinsky of Iowa, longtime friends of the Clintons. His parents are divorced.