Supermodel prepares for Suffolk wedding

SIGNS that a picturesque Suffolk church IS the place that supermodel Claudia Schiffer will marry are today peeking through the heavy veil of secrecy that has hung over the plans all week.

By James Fraser

SIGNS that a picturesque Suffolk church IS the place that supermodel Claudia Schiffer will marry are today peeking through the heavy veil of secrecy that has hung over the plans all week.

As the couple yesterday went through a secret dry-run of the service at the hot favourite venue in Shimpling, preparations for the traditional English wedding continued to be marred by controversy .

Other sorts of signs – those marking bothersome footpaths running right next to the potential wedding venue and their new luxury home – have triggered a rumpus with locals after they were mysteriously removed.

A sign next to the avenue of lime trees leading up to the Shimpling's village church had been taken down yesterday as security went into overdrive.

Suffolk County Council called the disappearance on Thursday of another footpath sign next to £5m mansion Coldham Hall in nearby Stanningfield an act of "vandalism".

Most Read

The couple, on the advice of police, have won a successful bid to close the path running next to the Elizabethan mansion for 12 hours through to the early hours tomorrow, provoking an angry response from walkers and residents.

A spokesman for the Ramblers Association called the move "frustrating" but acknowledged that the move was entirely acceptable under current legislation.

Police have said the path was closed off to protect the public from the scrum of paparazzi expected to descend on the celebrations today.

The media was kept at a safe distance yesterday as the wedding rehearsal was conducted by the vicar of St George's Church, Shimpling, near Bury St Edmunds, yesterdayin which celebrity guests, the happy couple and their family walked through their paces in preparation for the big day today.

Police, security guards and ever-present PRs maintained the cloak of secrecy as they kept the small army of journalists a safe 200 yards away from the church.

Speculation has been rife over where exactly the German beauty will tie the knot with her millionaire film producer boyfriend Matthew Vaughn, who produced hit move Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Yesterday the woman who has earned a reputed £50m in front of the camera pointedly avoided the lenses of waiting paparazzi.

Curious villagers watching a back entrance to the postcard-pretty church claimed they spotted the blonde bride-to-be slip into the back of a waiting blacked-out Range Rover who quickly ducked under the cover of a pair of designer dark glasses before making a speedy exit.

The £50m-rated model's family are staying at the nearby £200-a-night luxury Swan Hotel in Lavenham – and it is said the bride will spend her final moments as a single woman there while she is dressed by fashion guru Giovanni Valentino, the designer of her bridal gown.

Her mother, dressed in a skirt and a black-and-white checked jacket and three other members of the Schiffer family arrived for the rehearsal in a VW Golf for the rehearsal, which started at 5pm and lasted for around an hour and a half.

Lock, Stock actor Jason Statham and London nightclub owner Piers Adam arrived half way through proceedings, looking a little lost in a black BMW.

After a convoy of expensive cars with tinted windows left at 6.30pm, the vicar Rev Ian Friars, 52, emerged at the church gate but refused to comment.

He coyly responded to questioning journalists hungry for details about the "secret" wedding, saying: "What secret?"

The tiny postcard-pretty of Shimpling is just five miles away from the couple's luxurious Elizabethan pile, Coldham Hall, which they bought recently for a reported £5m.

The question of whether these apparent signs of activity are confirmation that it is the chosen venue or an elaborate ploy to divert attention from other venues will only be resolved once the service goes ahead today. It is thought to be due to start at around 5pm.

The diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich has granted the Schiffer-Vaughn nuptials a special licence for the service in a move that would have avoided alerting parishioners to the forthcoming celebrity marriage by doing away with the publishing of the banns.

The chapel at Coldham Hall itself, once a widely-tipped venue, would also have required a special marriage licence.

Preparations for a lavish after-wedding all-weekend bash there have meanwhile continued throughout the week.

A 1980s disco has been set up for guests – who are thought to include soccer star-turned-actor Vinnie Jones, Madonna and director hubbie Guy Ritchie, Sting and Elton John – as well as a special football pitch for a Sunday morning match to work off the undoubtedly thumping hang-overs.