Cardi B lives her life in public. She greeted one Rolling Stone journalist in the nude. She rants about Donald Trump and her haters on Instagram. She proudly twerked at Coachella with her baby bump on display. She later told Ellen Degeneres that she was just demonstrating for her baby how babies were made. (Through twerking!) Amid this ruckus, Cardi squirrelled away a very important detail: her wedding. This week, TMZ reported that Cardi married her fiance Offset almost a full year ago. They in turn confirmed it. The breakout music star – a pop cultural phenomenon, really — since last summer, Cardi kept it secret through a New York Times interview, profiles in New York Mag and GQ, the release of her appropriately named album Invasion of Privacy, and even the announcement of her pregnancy this past spring. In this era of publicity excess, she hid her marriage in plain sight.
She’s not alone. Also this week, TMZ reported that the comedian Daniel Tosh married writer Carly Hallam, who wrote for his Comedy Central show Tosh.0, in 2016. In February, Amy Schumer revealed that she married chef Chris Fischer in a private ceremony. The comedian John Early officiated, and Jennifer Lawrence attended. In January, Ellen Page confirmed that she’d married her longtime girlfriend. The same month, Ricky Martin confirmed he’d gotten married to his partner Jwan Yosef. Reports from last fall suggested Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander also wed secretly in 2017. (Ever-elusive, they have yet to confirm.) Then, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, who privately wed in 2012, revealed a host of new details from their 2012 nuptials for Martha Stewart Weddings. They’d kept us out of the affair before, but now, in 2018, they decided to let us in. Of course, there’s what is arguably the most famous secret wedding of all time: Brangelina, who wed in a small, 20-guest ceremony in 2014. Celebrities are increasingly taking weddings in their own hands, even as pressure (and social media culture) mounts for them to give all-access passes to their fans.
Secret weddings aren’t all that anomalous, even historically. The word “elope” exists almost expressly for couples who don’t want to marry in front of a crowd. Historically, this crowd has been disapproving parents and other family members. For celebrities, this crowd is their fans and nosy journalists (hi!). It’s also perhaps the growing expectations of the wedding industry. The financial power of celebrity plus the wedding industry is a massive, massive expense waiting to happen. Per E! Online, Kim Kardashian’s European wedding to Kanye West cost $2.8 million. (West’s proposal, held at AT&T Park in San Francisco, reportedly cost even more.)
“You see people plan weddings. It sucks,” Schumer told Kelly Ripa on Live! With Kelly and Ryan in April. On Nikki Glaser’s podcast You Up, she added, “Part of the thing that’s good about us getting married so quickly is that we’re so in love…Every girl I know, if they get proposed to they’re like, 'Oh now? Now that I can’t have kids?’”
Comedian Chelsea Peretti eloped with Jordan Peele back in 2016, joking on Instagram that her dog was their only witness. Later, on Conan, she clarified that they married in Big Sur with the woman who married them as their only witness. She expressed mild regret about forgoing a bigger to-do to the New York Times in a profile of comedians Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher. (Kasher and Leggero had a big wedding, and proceeded to talk about their marriage in a special called The Honeymoon Special.)
“It was bittersweet, going to a fun wedding,” Peretti told the Times. “You go, ‘Ugh, are we missing out on family and friends?’ And then ultimately, we decided, ‘Nah.’” She and Peele had a child last year.
For Cardi, the impulse was pure privacy. “There are so many moments that I share with the world and then there are moments that I want to keep for myself!” she tweeted. “Getting married was one of those moments! Our relationship was so new breaking up and making up and we had a lot of growing up to do but we was so in love we didn’t want to lose each other, was one morning in September we woke up and decided to get married.”
She did, however, grant access to her Bronx-themed baby shower, which took place in Atlanta this week. Despite her unfiltered persona, the former stripper-turned-reality star-turned-superstar is cherry-picking what we get to see and what we don’t, a luxury that doesn’t seem affordable in an era of endless internet surveillance. Privacy’s also a complicated issue for Cardi, who dedicated her debut album title to the invasion of it.
“I feel like I give people a lot and people still want more. When it comes to my pregnancy, I had people harassing me, stalking me. If it’s not something about me, it’s something about my man,” she told Sirius XM this April, right after her album premiered. She kept her pregnancy secret for many months until she performed with an undeniable bump on Saturday Night Live, after her album debut. She’s also not alone in the realm of secret pregnancies: Three of the Kardashians kept baby news from the press this year, all of them determined to keep the news to themselves.
"I understand you're used to me bringing you along on all my journeys," Kylie Jenner wrote on Instagram after finally revealing her pregnancy. "My pregnancy was one I chose not to do in front of the world."
Kylie Jenner, a woman so powerful and ubiquitous that one tweet crushed Snapchat’s stock, suddenly wanted privacy. As celebrities increasingly exhibit control over their own images — social media helps — they can choose when they want to dig in their heels If they have to release a statement on just about everything that goes down, they should also be able to keep some things under a veil. They can be the arbiters of their own identities now.
Privacy is a vague but buzzy word, often reduced to the idea that we deserve to be able to “fuck off.” In an article for the Harvard Law Review, Georgetown University law professor Julie E. Cohen wrote, “Privacy is shorthand for breathing room to engage in the process of ... self-development.” Privacy is literally a room of one’s own, or, maybe for Jenner, space for “realizing things.”
And then, the private wedding has romantic benefits. A 2014 study from Emory University suggested that smaller (and cheaper) weddings lead to longer marriages. A small wedding is by default often cheaper, which makes secret celebrity weddings even stranger. Why have a small cheap wedding when you can rent out a stadium with all your cash? Maybe, for Cardi B, for romance, for Tosh, and for pop culture, cash is no longer king. Privacy is.