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Image: Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt
Matt Sayles  /  AP
Since their relationship came to light on “The Hills,” Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag have been ever camera-ready, willing to pose or invite photographers to capture their “private” moments — including an intimate, champagne-and-roses Valentine’s Day celebration aboard a chartered boat earlier this year.
updated 11/26/2008 12:31:53 PM ET 2008-11-26T17:31:53

Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, the reality-TV couple whose on-again, off-again relationship has been chronicled by MTV’s “The Hills” and celebrity magazines, appear on the Wednesday cover of Us Weekly with the headline “Heidi & Spencer Elope!”

But were their nuptials a legal marriage, or just an elaborate photo shoot?

Images given to Us Weekly by the couple, show the pair at various stages of a wedding ceremony at a chapel near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on Nov. 20. The accompanying story features an interview with Montag and Pratt, as well as details about the rings, Montag’s dress, and the content of their handwritten vows.

The story does not address whether they obtained a marriage license or took part in a separate civil ceremony, which is required by Mexican law to make the union binding.

A couple can register their marriage up to 10 days after a ceremony, but California does not recognize marriage ceremonies outside the United States, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. A couple can petition a court later to have their marriage legally recognized.

“We had a beautiful ceremony here at One and Only Palmilla officiated by a minister and photographed by the hotel photographer. We’ve never been happier,” said the couple in a statement provided by Us Weekly. “And, like other elopements that happen outside the country, we’ll take care of the legal details when we get home.”

Their publicist, Rick Rhodes, said he knew nothing about the marriage. “I’m not privy to any of that information,” Rhodes wrote in an e-mail. “If there was a wedding I wasn’t invited ... Sorry!”

Us Weekly’s report, which was picked up by numerous celebrity magazines and blogs, said that none of the couple’s friends or relatives was in attendance. Some people close to the couple said they were caught off-guard.

Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings “Everybody’s pretty upset,” Montag’s sister, Holly Montag, told MTV on Monday. Montag’s father, Bill Montag, told People magazine that he’d be dismayed if his daughter got married and didn’t invite him.

If the story were true, he added, “Then we just have to have another wedding here!”

Us Weekly, which has recently featured the couple in numerous cover stories and photo spreads, reported that they decided to get married while drinking margaritas on the beach. An hour later, they were exchanging vows, the magazine said.

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Americans who wish to get married in Mexico must first go through a process that takes about five days, according to Mexico’s foreign relations department Web site. They must obtain a health certificate, including blood test results from a local doctor; and provide official translations of legal documents, such as birth certificates.

Only civil, nonreligious marriages conducted in Mexico are valid internationally. Peter Grossman of Us Weekly, who conducted the wedding-day interview with Pratt, 25, and Montag, 22, would only confirm Tuesday that the two exchanged rings and handwritten vows in front of a minister.

“Heidi and Spencer are two people in love who had a beautiful wedding ceremony to celebrate that,” Grossman said. “The pictures and words in our issue this week bear that out.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether MTV captured the wedding ceremony for its show, but an MTV spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement late Tuesday that the network “wishes Heidi and Spencer the best and can’t wait to share their special moment with ’The Hills’ fans later this season.”

Since their relationship came to light on the MTV reality show, Pratt and Montag have been ever camera-ready, willing to pose or invite photographers to capture their “private” moments — including an intimate, champagne-and-roses Valentine’s Day celebration aboard a chartered boat earlier this year.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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