THREE decoy brides, a pink 6-carat diamond ring, 400 guests and the shock cancellation of their wedding just hours before.
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck calling off their much-hyped big day in 2003 was the celebrity story of the year.
But, almost 20 years later, the couple — nicknamed “Bennifer” — have finally tied the knot in an understated £77 ceremony in Las Vegas in the early hours of Sunday.
Superstar J-Lo, 52, told fans via her weekly newsletter: “Stick around long enough and maybe you’ll find the best moment of your life in Las Vegas at twelve thirty in the morning in the tunnel of love drive-through, with your kids and the one you’ll spend forever with.
“Love is a great thing, maybe the best of things, and worth waiting for.”
And if fans had been expecting the type of extravagant A-list wedding the pair had planned all those years ago, they will be sorely disappointed.
Just three months after Ben, 49, popped the question while Jennifer was relaxing in the bath, the couple managed to slip away without raising any eyebrows.
The Argo actor’s ex-wife Jennifer Garner, 50, appeared sombre while dropping their three children — Violet, 16, Seraphina, 13, and ten-year-old Samuel — at J-Lo’s home on Saturday.
But the next day Jennifer, who was married to Ben from 2005-2018, posted smiling pictures from her getaway to Lake Tahoe.
Meanwhile, after a day of dance rehearsals in Los Angeles, J-Lo and Ben travelled 270 miles to Las Vegas.
Instead of a glittering, five-star venue, the couple opted for Sin City’s Little White Chapel.
It is the location where Britney Spears famously wed childhood friend Jason Alexander in 2004, before annulling the marriage 55 hours later.
While Jennifer got ready with make-up artist and close friend Chris Appleton in the chapel’s break area, Ben — dressed in a white tux — filmed himself in the pink-tiled men’s toilet, revealing: “And this is my changing area.”
Chris later posted a clip of J-Lo in the first of two wedding gowns, a sleeveless white design, as she explained it was from the set of an “old movie”.
She said: “I’ve had this dress for so many years. I’ve just been saving, saving, saving it and now I’m wearing it.”
The Hustlers actress then changed into an off-the-shoulder lace gown by Zuhair Murad, which can cost upwards of £4,000.
Bennifer waited in line to say their vows with four other couples.
J-Lo said: “Behind us two men held hands and held each other.
“In front of us, a young couple who made the three-hour drive from Victorville on their daughter’s second birthday — all of us wanting the same thing — for the world to recognise us as partners and to declare our love to the world through the ancient and nearly universal symbol of marriage.”
As well as Ben’s children, Jennifer’s 14-year-old twins Emme and Max — from her seven-year marriage to singer and third husband Marc Anthony — were also in attendance.
At half past midnight, their blended family sat in a pink Cadillac as the couple took their vows, having decided to forgo an Elvis impersonator.
J-Lo explained: “If we wanted Elvis himself to show, that cost extra and he was in bed.”
She added: “We read our own vows in the little chapel and gave one another the rings we’ll wear for the rest of our lives.
“They even had Bluetooth for a (short) march down the aisle. But in the end it was the best possible wedding we could have imagined.
“One we dreamed of long ago and one made real (in the eyes of the state, Las Vegas, a pink convertible and one another) at very, very long last.”
Bennifer met on the set of box office flop Gigli in 2001 when J-Lo was still married to second husband Cris Judd, a dancer in her Love Don’t Cost A Thing video.
She had already been wed once before, to Cuban waiter Ojani Noa in 1997 — but the marriage fell apart within a year.
Ben starred in J-Lo’s Jenny From The Block music video in 2002 and proposed that November with a blush 6-carat ring.
They were set to wed in a ceremony, reported to cost £1.5million, at the luxury Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel, in Santa Barbara, California.
Designer Vera Wang is thought to have spent eight months designing three dresses for J-Lo, who settled on an 18-tier £16,000 gown.
Meanwhile, Ben had teed up his actor brother Casey to act as best man.
To keep the location secret from the media and fans, their 400 guests — including Ben’s longtime friend and co-star Matt Damon, 51 — were invited by phone and were only told the venue in the days before.
In a bid to throw the paparazzi off the scent, the couple hinted they would marry in Hawaii, Georgia and even South America.
But in the run up to the event the location was leaked.
It is believed one disgruntled mother-of-the-bride, whose wedding party had been planning to stay at the same venue, had complained about the fuss surrounding Bennifer’s big day.
The celebrity couple quickly found an alternative venue, but a day before the ceremony they told guests the were postponing the wedding.
‘IT WAS THE MOST ROMANTIC THING’
They issued a statement: “Due to the excessive media attention surrounding our wedding, we have decided to postpone the date.
“When we found ourselves seriously contemplating hiring three separate ‘decoy brides’ at three different locations, we realised that something was awry.”
But the following year Bennifer split.
In her Netflix documentary, J-Lo hinted that her “racist” treatment at the hands of the US media played a part in their break down of the relationship.
Ben said: “I said to her once ‘Doesn’t this bother you?’
“And she said, ‘I’m Latina, I’m a woman. I expected this. You just don’t expect it. You expect to be treated fairly’.”
While Bennifer’s decision to wed at the Little White Chapel may seem unlikely, J-Lo once said: “I’ve never been married in a church.”
On her previous nuptials, she added: “I’ve been married three times, and once was nine months and once was 11 months, so I don’t really count those.”
J-Lo married Latin star Marc in 2004 but split in 2011.
J-Lo and Ben are thought to have remained on good terms over the years and he told Instyle in April 2021: “She has great talent, but she has also worked very hard for her success, and I’m so happy for her that she seems, at long last, to be getting the credit she deserves.”
When she called off her two-year engagement to former American baseball player Alex Rodriguez, 46, the following month, amid cheating rumours, it paved the way for Bennifer to reunite.
They are thought to have reconnected while J-Lo was filming Shotgun Wedding in the Dominican Republic after Ben was reported to have sent his ex “loving and longing” emails.
The couple were spotted in Los Angeles and in Miami, where Jennifer was based, but waited until the Venice Film Festival in September to make their red carpet debut.
In April the couple got engaged — with a giant green-stoned ring — with Jennifer saying she cried tears of joy.
She added: “I was smiling so big, feeling so incredibly happy and whole.
“It was nothing fancy at all, but it was the most romantic thing I could’ve imagined . . . just a quiet Saturday night at home, two people promising to always be there for each other.
“Two very lucky people, who got a second chance at true love.”
In an interview this year, Jennifer declared their relationship had got stronger with age.
She said: “I think we are strong enough now to know what’s real and what’s not, whereas when we were younger maybe some of those outside voices were a little bit tougher for us to reconcile and survive.”
She then added: “We’re older now, we’re smarter, we have more experience, we’re at different places in our lives, we have kids now — and we have to be very conscious of those things.”
But after two decades, some things have remained a constant for the Hollywood stars.
As well as surprising fans with their wedding, there was another shock when the couple’s marriage license revealed J-Lo is dropping her famous moniker to become Jennifer Affleck.
It may have taken almost 20 years and four divorces to get here, but it seems Ben and Jennifer have finally found true love.