GLASLOUGH, Ireland – Paul McCartney kissed his fiancee, Heather Mills, and handed her a red rose Monday to the cheers of hundreds of fans gathered outside the remote 17th century castle where they are set to wed.
The couple, who plan to marry Tuesday at Castle Leslie in County Monaghan, stood at the heavily guarded estate gates as cameras flashed and journalists from around the world jostled for position.
"As you know there is going to be a wedding tomorrow, but it is a secret," joked McCartney, who was dressed casually in gray trousers and a blue long-sleeved T-shirt.
"Ten people at the wedding you have heard of and the rest will be family and friends," the former Beatle said, but did not confirm press reports that former President Clinton, Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton were on the guest list.
"If it had to leak, it leaked in the best way," he added as he clutched his fiancee's hand and kissed her several times for the cameras.
Mills, dressed in jeans and a light brown sweater, looked relaxed and casual. She bent down to pick up two pink roses thrown to her from the crowd of some 300 people, which had formed outside the castle gates in a semicircle.
McCartney said a single photo of the wedding would be released to media organizations, in return for a small contribution to Mills' anti-land mines charity.
As organizers put the finishing touches on decorations, some villagers in Glaslough near the Northern Ireland border complained that the celebrity bride and groom weren't supporting the local economy, and criticized them for importing items for the ceremony.
Florist Aileen Scott complained that flowers, including lilies and roses, had been specially shipped from Holland.
"They are sourcing nothing at all at local level," she said. "Even the castle staff have been sent away so that they can bring in outsiders."
However, three enterprising youngsters said they've already profited from the nuptials by sneaking into the estate with disposable cameras that journalists had given them and photographing the preparations for 25 euros, or $23, each.
"We did not know who they were," 14-year-old David Bellow said of the reporters with whom he and his two friends struck a deal.
"But it was easy money so we did it. The journalists wanted a picture inside the marquee but none of us had the guts to go on the other side of the lake and get that," said Bellows, who added that he'd heard of the Beatles, but preferred rave music.
Castle Leslie, which is now a luxury hotel, has been the center of frenzied media activity since reports of the wedding emerged last week.
McCartney spokesman Geoff Baker said the 59-year-old singer and Mills, 34, will be married by a local priest at St. Salvator's church within the estate before throwing a lavish party for 300 guests at the castle.
A giant tent and dance floor have been constructed next to a lake, and a pontoon has been built with a luxury boat moored alongside.
The estate boasts about 1,000 acres of grounds and a helicopter landing pad, but the castle has no phones, clocks or televisions in its 14 rooms.
McCartney and Mills — a model who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident nine years ago — met at a charity function where she was raising money to oppose the use of land mines. The couple announced their engagement last July.
Before her accident, Mills helped set up a refugee crisis center in the former Yugoslavia. Later, she established the Heather Mills Trust to raise money for young disabled victims of war and provide artificial limbs for land mine victims.
Mills was married briefly in 1989. In 1999, she'd planned to marry documentary cameraman Chris Terrill, but the wedding was called off two weeks before the ceremony.
McCartney, who was knighted in 1997, has three grown children and a stepdaughter from his marriage to Linda McCartney, an acclaimed photographer and crusader for vegetarianism and animal rights who died of breast cancer in 1998.