In 1983 Elton John released the song “Kiss the Bride,” featuring lyrics such as “I want to kiss the bride, yeah.” A year later John was doing just that, kissing his new bride on the steps of St. Mark’s Anglican church in Darlinghurst, an inner-city suburb of Sydney, Australia.

The bride’s name was Renate Blauel and she wore a white silk and lace wedding gown and a gold, heart-shaped pendant featuring 63 diamonds. The groom also wore white. His shiny frock-coat reportedly cost £1,000 at the time and was worn over a striped silk shirt and lavender bow-tie. John topped off the outfit with a boater hat sporting a matching lavender band.

It was a Valentine’s Day wedding that captured the attention of the world. The flamboyant and openly bisexual 36-year-old pop star marrying his love, the German-born 28-year-old sound engineer, following a whirlwind courtship.

Four years later they would divorce and go their separate ways. John went on to tour and continued making chart-topping music. Blauel virtually disappeared and has never spoken publicly of the marriage since.

Elton John and Renate Blauel
Elton John and Renate Blauel
Photo: Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

John and Blauel wed three days after getting engaged

The couple met in early 1983 in London. Munich-born Blauel, often described in tabloid reports of the time as a tape operator or sound technician, was introduced to John as he was finishing his Too Low for Zero album. Quiet and studious in comparison to showman John, Blauel had dreams of becoming a record producer. The duo reportedly bonded over their obsession with music.

Less than a year later John arrived in Australia for the Too Low for Zero tour. Blauel was part of the entourage and had become, in the interim, a trusted confidante. On February 10, over dinner in an Indian restaurant, John proposed. Blauel accepted and the engagement was announced to the press the following day, with the wedding scheduled three days later.

Even in hindsight, the wedding continues to shock. John had publicly declared he was bisexual in 1976 and many of his inner circle were already convinced he was gay. His best friend and lyricist Bernie Taupin saw the wedding as John wanting to have a family. John’s mother Sheila announced she would give the newlyweds a baby stroller for a wedding gift, according to John’s former in-house publicist, Caroline Boucher.

Perhaps the surprise over the nuptials is best summed up in the congratulatory message sent by Rod Stewart as recorded in The Australian newspaper. Paraphrasing a recent John hit, Stewart wrote: “You may still be standing, but we’re all on the f***ing floor.”

The pair divorced after four years of marriage

The newlyweds became a regular source of speculation to the London tabloid newspapers which claimed the union was never consummated and simply a cover for John’s homosexuality, that they slept in separate bedrooms and Blauel was spending most of her time concentrating on her recording career. She was noticeably absent from John’s 40 birthday celebration in 1987 though they were seen publicly together in March 1988 for Blauel’s birthday. Come November, they were divorced.

When the split was announced Blauel claimed that she and John were parting amicably “and genuinely intend to remain best of friends,” according to People magazine. John had been struggling with drug and alcohol dependency since before the wedding and compared his initial decision to wed in those terms in a 2008 interview with The Australian. “A drug addict thinks like this: ‘I’ve had enough boyfriends, and that’s not made me happy, so I’ll have a wife — that will change everything.’ And I loved Renate. She’s a great girl. I really, really loved her. But, you know… it is one of the things I regret most in my life, hurting her.”

Soon after their divorce, John admitted to Rolling Stone that he was, in fact, gay, not bisexual. In 2014 he married his longtime partner David Furnish and the couple has two sons together, Zachary (born 2010) and Elijah (born 2013).

John admitted he 'denied' who he really was

Like Blauel, John avoided discussing the marriage publicly. But in 2017 while on tour in Australia, John released a statement in support of gay marriage in that country that directly addressed his former wife. In an Instagram post accompanied by an image of John and Furnish at their wedding, the singer wrote: “Many years ago, I chose Australia for my wedding to a wonderful woman for whom I have so much love and admiration. I wanted more than anything to be a good husband, but I denied who I really was, which caused my wife sadness, and caused me huge guilt and regret.” Continuing, John praised Furnish and encouraged Australia to see gay marriage as an expression “not of desire but of love.”

With a reported divorce settlement of £5 million, Blauel slipped quietly away from public life to a country house in Surrey purchased for her by John. She continued to live a secluded life in England until the early 2000s when she reportedly returned to Germany to help care for her aging parents. Little is known of her whereabouts today. On the subject of her marriage to John, Blauel has steadfastly remained silent.

Elton John and David Furnish at John's 50th birthday party in London, April 1997