They called it a "magical merger".

That's the way People magazine described the blissful union of Melania Knauss, Slovenian model, to Donald Trump. It was January 22, 2005 and Trump's private Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, where the reception took place, was the only place to be.

Some 450 of the biggest names in high society – Shaquille O'Neal, Elton John, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill and Hillary Clinton – descended upon the location to celebrate the wedding of Trump, the businessman behind The Apprentice, and his beautiful bride.

It was his third wedding; it was her first.

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"I know this is the last time I'll ever have to stand up here," joked Donald Jr, best man to his father, at the swanky, chandelier-lit reception.

It was Donald's wedding, but it was Melania who was running the show.

He wanted the ceremony and its reception broadcast live on NBC television networks across the country, but Melania demurred.

Cell phones were banned and privacy requests were relayed to the journalists and paparazzi camped outside Mar-a-Lago's gates, though they fell on deaf ears.

Many of the paparazzi tried to bribe their way into the wedding, blagging that they were part of the orchestra and band.

Melania oversaw every detail of the wedding, and absolutely no expense was spared. "A lot of it Melania took care of herself," New York event designer Preston Bailey – he would later collaborate with the family again on Ivanka Trump's 2013 wedding to Jared Kushner – told People. "She really was very clear with her vision."

Melania had her vision, and even on the day of her nuptials she was enacting it. On the morning of January 22, she checked on centrepieces and table settings and inspected candles. And while Melania was doing all this, her groom-to-be was indulging in one of his favourite activities. He was on the golf course.

Melania did not want the wedding to be televised or paparazzi present. Photo / Getty Images
Melania did not want the wedding to be televised or paparazzi present. Photo / Getty Images

"I arranged everything," Melania told People. "I made sure everything was exactly where it should be."

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Melania had an idea that it would be "very classic, very white" when it came to decoration, Bailey recalled.

He was most proud of the 1.5m tall centrepiece that adorned every table, each of which was absolutely dripping in hydrangeas, roses, orchids and gardenias.

Overall, the wedding featured some 10,000 flowers, ferried in dozens of trucks from New York to Florida.

Melania picked the band, or should we say orchestra, with a full complement of string instruments, as well as a saxophone, piano, bass and drums.

At the reception, a who's who of pop stars, from Billy Joel to Elton John and Tony Bennett performed for the happy couple.

They danced to Nessun Dorma, as sung by soprano Camellia Johnson. (Melania chose her.) The guests dined on lobster salad with a champagne vinaigrette.

Melania wanted a blue and gold cake, but ended up with a seven-tiered white and gold wonder, 177cm in diameter and covered in 2000 handspun sugar flowers, as well as a tiny chocolate cake for guests to take home.

Donald Trump had previously been married twice before, including marrying Marla Maples in 1993. Photo / Getty Images
Donald Trump had previously been married twice before, including marrying Marla Maples in 1993. Photo / Getty Images

The wedding cake itself, soaked in Grand Marnier and held aloft by an elaborate wire rigging, was actually never fed to the guests.

The $50,000 confection was eaten by staff after the wedding was over.

Of course, Melania picked her dress, though she had a little help from Andre Leon Talley, the one-time contributing editor at Vogue.

It was he who, alongside Vogue's Sally Singer, accompanied the blushing bride to the Paris haute couture fashion shows in search of a trousseau.

She ended up with a US$100,000 ($148,000) gown from Christian Dior, fashioned from 91m of duchesse satin and covered in some 1500 rhinestones and pearls, hand-stitched over the course of 550 hours in Dior's atelier by 28 seamstresses.

The fitted bodice flared out into a billowing train, but the bustle was so bustly that Melania could barely walk in it, and she never did a trial run in the gown to see if she could walk in the 27kg satin confection.

For the after-party, which kicked off in the early hours of the following morning, Melania swapped out of the Dior and into a slinky ruched number from Vera Wang.

Anyone who knew anything about the wedding knew that Melania was in charge. She "micromanaged her fete with a zeal worthy of The Apprentice", People enthused.

Nothing escaped her attention, even on the morning of the wedding itself. While her husband-to-be golfed, Melania checked on a special candle, carried to Florida from her native Slovenia by her mother, to light as part of the happy day.

Looking back, it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that Melania was doing all this while Trump golfed. The sport is his favourite hobby. He has played with everyone from Tiger Woods to Samuel L Jackson. He owns 17 golf courses around the world. Since taking office as the president in 2017, Trump has putted around the greens some 268 times.

Trump might have spent the morning of the wedding on the course, but there was no doubt of his affection for his new bride.

In his reception toast, he gushed that the six years he had spent with Melania were "the best six years of my life in every way".

The couple have since been married for 15 years, celebrating their crystal wedding anniversary in January 2020.

And just over a year after they were first married, they welcomed the birth of their son Baron, on March 20, 2006.

As wedding guest Pat O'Brien, the groom's friend and a television host, put it to People: "Donald has always said he used to make a bad husband and a great father … He says this time around he wants to make a great father and a great husband."