By GREGORY KATZ
LONDON -- A hint of autumnal Beatlemania was in the air Sunday as Paul McCartney, for the second time in his improbable life, climbed the steps of venerable Old Marylebone Town Hall to take himself a bride.
True, thousands of heartbroken female fans crowded the columned building in 1969 when he married Linda Eastman, and only a few hundred showed up Sunday as he wed another American, Nancy Shevell, at the very same registry office.
But the feeling this time was not regret at the loss of a bachelor heartthrob. Instead there was joy that McCartney, regarded as a national treasure and revered the world over, seemed happy again.
The 69-year-old former Beatle appeared proud, content and eager to share his joy with the crowd, raising his bride's hand in triumph as he walked down the steps after they became man and wife in a simple civil ceremony attended by close family and friends, including drummer Ringo Starr and Barbara Walters, a second cousin of the bride.
"I feel absolutely wonderful," McCartney told fans as he arrived at his home after the ceremony. He was expected to sing a new song he had composed for his bride at the reception.
Gone was the memory of McCartney's terribly unhappy marriage to Heather Mills, which ended in 2008 in an ugly public divorce. Remembered was his marriage to Eastman, a serene union that lasted nearly three decades until her life was cut short by breast cancer, leaving McCartney alone and adrift despite his fame and wealth.
The ceremony Sunday afternoon was everything his wedding to Mills was not: simple, understated, almost matter of fact. By contrast, McCartney and Mills married in an over-the-top lavish spectacle at a remote Irish castle that was disrupted several times by news helicopters flying overhead, hoping for a glimpse of the A-list guests.
This time, the smiles seemed genuine.
The affection -- and confetti -- showered on McCartney and his bride captured his particular place in British life.
Long gone are the days when the Beatles divided Britain between young and old, or between hippies and straights. The band is revered as part of a glorious musical and cultural era when Britain seemed a more confident place. There was no controversy whatsoever when McCartney received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1997.
Today Sir Paul -- or Macca, as he's usually known -- is celebrated as a musical legend who is still composing and releasing CDs, even if they no longer routinely shoot to No. 1 on the charts. His forays into opera, ballet, painting and poetry have not been critical successes, but none of these have tarnished his reputation.
Shevell, 51, appeared radiant and composed in an elegant, ivory gown cut just above the knee. She wore a white flower in her long dark hair, and only light makeup and lipstick.
The dress was designed by McCartney's daughter, Stella, a star in the fashion world who also helped concoct the three-course vegetarian feast served to guests at the reception at McCartney's home in St. John's Wood, a property he bought in 1965, when the Beatles were topping the charts with metronomic regularity.
The couple married on what would have been band mate John Lennon's 71st birthday.
The wedding party included Beatrice, McCartney's young daughter with Mills, who had been expected to serve as flower girl.
Mills, a much younger model who had lost part of her leg when she was hit by a motorcycle, tried to battle McCartney in the court of public opinion during their divorce. She accused him of cruelty and sought a gargantuan $250 million settlement.
But her charges against McCartney didn't stick. Few if any fans turned against him, and the divorce court judge ruled against her, calling her demands exorbitant and unfair.
The very public spat opened McCartney's vast fortune to unprecedented public scrutiny. Long rumored to be pop's first billionaire, he was found to have assets worth about $800 million, including works by Picasso and Renoir and luxury real estate in the United States, Britain and elsewhere.
Shevell, who is independently wealthy and quite successful in her own right, is not seen by the British public as being interested in McCartney's fortune.
The couple met four years ago in the Hamptons, a seaside playground for the rich and famous on the eastern tip of Long Island in New York.
Some reports say that Walters played matchmaker, inviting McCartney to a dinner she knew her second cousin Shevell would attend.
Walters said she cried during the ceremony, which she called "beautiful and wonderful."
Shevell, who was married for more than 20 years to attorney Bruce Blakeman and serves on the board of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is also a vice president of a lucrative New Jersey-based trucking company owned by her father.
She has stayed out of the public eye since taking up with McCartney, refraining from commenting on her relationship with the man once known as "the cute one" in the world's most popular band.