25 Years Ago: David Bowie Marries Iman in Private Ceremony
It wasn’t a glamorous affair or a star-studded event. When rock legend David Bowie married supermodel Iman on April 24, 1992, there were only three people in attendance: two witnesses and an interpreter. The latter was necessary because the couple wed in a civil ceremony in Lausanne, Switzerland, near to where Bowie had kept a home since the ’70s.
The famous musician (born David Jones) met the famous model (born Iman Abdulmajid) in 1990 at the arrangement of mutual friend Teddy Antolin. The hairdresser invited both of them to attend his birthday party in Los Angeles. It turned out that Bowie, dressed all in white, and Iman, dressed all in black, hit it off.
“She had a big smile and her and David looked at each other and it was love at first sight, you could feel the electricity, something went off,” Antolin recalled to the Daily Mirror in 2016. “They spent the night talking to each other like they had known each other forever. They were looking at each other like, ‘Now what, shall we skip dessert and go home?’”
Bowie would later claim that the moment he saw his future bride, he began thinking of what they would name their children. The recently retired model would prove a little more cautious, rejecting the singer’s first marriage proposal – or at least postponing it until she had met his mother and he had met her family.
“For him [it was overwhelming],” Iman remembered. “I was not ready for a relationship. Definitely, I didn't want to get into a relationship with somebody like him. But as I always said: I fell in love with David Jones. I did not fall in love with David Bowie. Bowie is just a persona. He’s a singer, an entertainer. David Jones is a man I met.”
The whirlwind romance kept whirling. After a bit more time, and a convergence of families, Bowie proposed again – on his yacht during an excursion on the Adriatic Sea – and Iman agreed.
Bowie, then 45, and Iman, 36, arranged for a quiet civil ceremony near Bowie’s Swiss chateau. It was so quiet, in fact, that it went unreported in the press for 10 days. They decided to have a bigger to-do on June 6, when the couple took part in a second ceremony in Florence, Italy. The two had shared special memories in the city the year prior during a trip down the Italian coast.
This time, the couple did it up: fancy clothes (designed by Herve Leger for her, Thierry Mugler for him), fancy guests (Yoko Ono, Bono, Brian Eno) and fancy music (much of it written and recorded by Bowie himself). A few of the tunes David created for the ceremony – “The Wedding,” “The Wedding Song” and “Pallas Athena” – would end up on his 1993 album, Black Tie, White Noise.
“Writing [the music for the wedding] brought my mind around to, obviously, what commitment means,” Bowie told the Boston Globe in 1993, “and why I was getting married at this age and what my intentions were and were they honorable? [Laughs] And what I really wanted from my life from now on.”
Listen to "Pallas Athena"
The Florence ceremony was held at St. James Church, attended by mostly family and close friends (although hundreds of fans were kept at bay outside the church. The newlyweds’ reception, which only included 68 guests, took place at the Villa la Massa hotel, a former Medici estate. It is rumored that Bowie and Eno agreed to work on a future project – the Outside album – during the festivities.
“It was stunning. David was very happy, he never looked better, he was so sharp. He did make a speech and after dinner we went to dance,” Antolin said. “David had put together a really great tape, disco and dance music and a few of his own but not too much. It was a fun party.”
Bowie and Iman embarked on a honeymoon and what was, by all accounts, an incredibly happy partnership. Their marriage, which produced daughter Alexandria Zahara Jones in 2000, lasted until Bowie’s death from liver cancer in 2016.
When Bowie was asked by a music writer about his greatest achievement, he replied: “Marrying my wife. That’s the most successful thing I ever did in my life. … Nothing else counts.”
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