DORNOCH, Scotland – Four-month-old Rocco Ritchie upstaged his mother Madonna on the eve of her wedding, as the pop diva and her husband-to-be brought the baby to church for his baptism Thursday evening.
"Rocco is Our Ray of Light to Dornoch," said a sign carried by one local resident, alluding to Madonna's Grammy-winning dance number.
Looking demure in a long, double-breasted cream-colored coat, Madonna smiled and waved to scores of cheering fans as she arrived at Dornoch Cathedral with her fiance, Guy Ritchie, and their son, Rocco.
But the crowd gave an even bigger cheer for Sting, who came to the church earlier along with Gwyneth Paltrow, rumored to be the bridesmaid, and Stella McCartney, who is presumed to be the designer of Madonna's wedding dress.
Heavy fog gave the scene a gauzy, pastel quality, softening the purposeful menace of Madonna's private security men who shepherded guests into the church. No one entered without an invitation.
When they emerged a half-hour later, the couple paused briefly on the step as Ritchie held their baby swathed in blankets. Then they climbed into their car and headed back into the mist.
The Rev. Susan Brown, the Church of Scotland minister who agreed to marry the couple, also conducted the baptismal service.
Seeking better views outside the cathedral, a dozen kids had clambered up trees which swayed beneath their weight.
Actor Rupert Everett, one of the guests, waved at the crowd before pulling away in a car.
"I was hanging on to a fence on my tiptoes for two hours. My feet are killing me, but it worth it," said 47-year-old Margaret Wilson. "Rocco was just a small wee bundle, and Madonna, such a lovely wee lady."
"My mission since I was small has been to see Madonna," said a delighted Elizabeth Gwinne. "Now I'm off to celebrate with an extra large portion of fish and chips — with extra salt and vinegar!"
It was a rare public moment in two days of events surrounded by much secrecy and security.
Friday's wedding is expected to be strictly private and safely inside Skibo Castle, developed a century ago as steel baron Andrew Carnegie's palatial vacation hideaway overlooking Dornoch Firth.
Police reported that Madonna's private security force ejected three photographers who had intruded into the sprawling castle grounds during the night.
The photographers "were apparently trying to divert the security while others took pictures but the place is swarming with security and they dealt with the problem quickly," said Elayne Grimes, spokeswoman for the Northern Constabulary. Police were not called.
Perhaps 300 local people outside the church were easily outnumbered by the media regiment.
Two local girls were selling refrigerator magnets with pictures of the happy couple and Dornoch Cathedral to raise money for their youth club.
Calum Fraser, the bagpipe artiste known as Spud the Piper who has been frequently interviewed between performances, said the publicity has paid off for him with a booking in Bulgaria in February.
He serenaded Madonna and Ritchie on their arrival at Inverness with "Like a Virgin," and said he was practicing Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?"
Earlier in the day, officials waived the usual rule that a marrying couple has to collect the official paperwork.
The registrar in Dornoch, Lesley Conner, delivered the registration Thursday morning to the couple, who are keeping to themselves in the luxury of Skibo Castle. Usually, a couple has to collect the papers, or banns.
The registration formalities, which require the names of all marrying couples to be publicly posted, gave the world the first confirmation that Madonna Louise Ciccone, 42, would marry Guy Stuart Ritchie, 32, on Dec. 22.
Dornoch's 2,500 people appear to be enjoying the hoopla, though it has caused some inconvenience.
Davie Hewison, 67-year-old organic gardener, cycled in and out of traffic cones and police barriers blocking off the entrance to Dornoch's main road.
"I've not seen such activity since I was at the great cattle market shows in my native Orkney Islands," he said, surveying the massed photographers.
"I suppose it's great for the town, but I just wish I owned a hardware store selling ladders, chains and padlocks to these photographers. I'd be set up for life."
Cynthia Swallow, who was walking her dog by the cathedral, said she hoped "the frenzy doesn't overshadow the fact that tonight's baptism is a very meaningful religious ceremony."
Celebrities left her unmoved. "I'm going home. I've seen babies before," she said.