By Rudy Ruitenberg
Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy married Italian model-turned-singer Carla Bruni in a ceremony at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris today.
The couple ``married this morning in the presence of their families in the strictest of intimacy,'' the president's office said in an e-mailed statement.
The wedding lasted about 20 minutes and was attended by close family and friends, said Francois Lebel, the mayor of Paris's 8th arrondissement, who oversaw the formalities this morning. He spoke in an interview on Europe 1 radio.
``The bride was in white, she was thrilling as usual, but the groom wasn't bad either,'' Lebel said. ``It's the first time in the history of the republic that a president has married in office.''
Sarkozy's marriage comes amid a drop in popularity, in part as the French say their president publicizes his private life too much. His approval rating fell 8 points to 41 percent in a Jan. 31 TNS-Sofres poll, below his ``disapproval'' rating for the first time since he took office in May.
Nicolas Bazire, the head of French billionaire Bernard Arnault's private investment company, was the witness for Sarkozy, while Mathilde Agostinelli, head of communications for Prada France, was the witness for Bruni, RTL radio reported on its Web site.
``There were about 20 people, the close family and some friends,'' Lebel said. ``I wished them a lot of happiness.''
Media coverage of the divorced president's Christmas trip to Egypt with Bruni aboard the private jet of French financier Vincent Bollore, along with concern over accelerating inflation, contributed to Sarkozy's declining approval rating.
In a January poll by LH2, 63 percent of the French said Sarkozy was publicizing his private life too much. In the same poll, the president's overall popularity dropped two percentage points from a month earlier to 54 percent.
Bruni, 40 and Sarkozy, 53, were first photographed together Dec. 17, taking her son to Disneyland Paris. Since then, they traveled together to Jordan after the Egypt trip. Bruni didn't accompany him in December to her native Italy, where Sarkozy met Pope Benedict XVI.
In the TNS-Sofres poll, conducted on Jan. 23 and 24 and published last week, those who don't have confidence in Sarkozy rose to 55 percent from 48 percent.
Bruni, who was born in Turin, Italy, has lived most of her life in France. After a successful career as a model in the 1990s, she turned to music and has released two albums. She said in a newspaper interview last year that she planned to vote for Segolene Royal, the Socialist candidate that Sarkozy defeated in last May's presidential election.
Sarkozy divorced his second wife Cecilia in October. He has one son with her and two from his first marriage. Bruni has a son from a relationship with philosopher Raphael Enthoven. She's also been linked to Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, guitarist Eric Clapton and real estate developer Donald Trump, according to whosdatedwho.com, a Web site about celebrity relationships.
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