They almost got away with it.
Ready to make their romance official six years in, Beyoncé and Jay-Z had set a date (April 4, a nod to their shared love of the number four and their Sept. 4 and Dec. 4 birthdays) and an ultra-exclusive, VIPs-only location: His seventh-floor 13,500-square-foot penthouse in New York City's moneyed Tribeca neighborhood.
She had a dress; he chose a tux and, with a whole team at their disposal—the 52-time Grammy winners of course being the very definition of a power couple—it was easy enough to pull together the flowers, the DJ, the tent and all sundry wedding requisites.
There was just one small—but very crucial—detail that needed tending to.
Trying to quietly procure the necessary marriage license just ahead of the 24-hours-before deadline, they traveled to Scarsdale, N.Y., some 25 miles north of his city digs, on April 1, 2008, in hopes of flying under the radar.
Somehow, though, they forgot that they were Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
Naturally, the Destiny's Child frontwoman-turned-pop and R&B superstar and her billionaire hip-hop and everything-under-the-sun mogul fiancé were spotted entering the Scarsdale Village Hall shortly after its 9 a.m. opening. From there, news outlets did some quick detective work and the race was on to uncover any and all information about the marriage of two of music's biggest players.
Turns out we could have just waited for their joint 2014 On the Run tour, the couple treating fans to images and even video(!) from the day only 40 guests had enjoyed.
But with the world assuming the couple would keep their big moment as ultra-private as they'd kept their relationship, refusing to even confirm they were together until after they'd released the fairly telling "03 Bonnie & Clyde" and "Crazy In Love," on that day no detail was too tiny to breathlessly report.
A massive tent had been erected on the 3,000-square-foot patio of Jay's penthouse. A collection of flowers—70,000 of Beyoncé's favorite white dendrobium orchids, shipped in from Thailand—were delivered, followed by a collection of candelabras and an SUV bursting with AV equipment. Finally, the sedans containing their equally famous guests arrived.
Ultimately, the day was not unlike what Beyoncé had described to Cosmopolitan a year and a half earlier, when she mused, "I don't know when I'll want to get married. I never pictured myself as a bride, but after my sister's wedding, I did start thinking about what kind of wedding I'd want. I don't think I want a big one."
Destiny's Child bandmates Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland (as guests, not bridesmaids as she'd once predicted) joined Gwyneth Paltrow and then-husband Chris Martin and roughly three dozen others at Jay's penthouse, transformed into an all-white palace-like setting with trees and floating candles lining the aisle.
Bey stunned, naturally, in a strapless ivory gown with a sweetheart neckline, designed with the help of mom Tina Lawson, who told Today her daughter "was so sweet to let me" spearhead the wardrobe efforts. (On her fingers: Blue nail polish, a nod to the something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue wedding tradition and perhaps a hint about the name of her eldest child?)
And judging by the snippets the couple have shared in the 14 years since—in her 2011 "I Was Here" music video, in 2016's "All Night" and during their joint tours—that was far from the only jaw-dropper. "It was just beautiful," a source told People at the time. "Gorgeous. Opulent."
Guests tossed white petals into the air as Mr. and Mrs. Carter recessed back down the aisle of the tent, filled with all manners of flora and strands of crystals.
"It was a very emotional wedding—lots of crying—and really very spiritual," a guest told People. And post-vows really, very, so much fun. Though neither of the hit-makers performed, they brought in a stellar line-up. "Everyone danced to a lot of hip-hop and oldies," said an attendee, the Jackson 5- and Whitney Houston-heavy playlist keeping the party going until 5 a.m.
And though there was a strict "no social media" policy at the time, guests asked to surrender their Blackberries because it was 2008 and all, the two have since pulled back the tent curtain on their all-white-everything, dripping-in-crystals special day.
"It seemed like yesterday these guys walked down the Aisle," Lawson shared in a 2020 Instagram tribute, posting a photo of the newlyweds joyfully being presented as husband and wife. Noting she was just out of frame, fluffing her daughter's train, she continued, "Such beautiful memories of that day now it's twelve years later! Three gorgeous babies later and love still prevails."
Which, as Beyonce once said, is the point of it all, noting to Essence in 2008 how much emphasis people put on the material aspects of a wedding, stressing, "What Jay and I have is real. We've been together a long time. We always knew it would happen."
Five million dollars worth of white orchids is great if you can swing it, but the fact that the parents to 10-year-old Blue Ivy and 4-year-old twins Rumi and Sir still feel crazy in love more than a decade later after everything they've gone through? That's priceless.
A version of this story was originally published on Sunday, April 4, 2021 at 12 a.m. PT.