MINOT, ND–Suppressing their feelings about the doomed couple, guests at Saturday's wedding of Jerome Sykes, 23, and Madeline Pirone, 26, pretended the marriage was a good thing.

Sykes and Pirone after their secretly disapproved-of wedding.

"Madeline looked so beautiful today," said mother of the groom Betsy Sykes, who once threatened to disown her son if he married "that manipulative bitch." "She looked positively radiant. They're going to give me such beautiful grandchildren one day."

Willfully ignoring the eight months of screaming, pleading, and threats that marked the couple's courtship, both families were outwardly positive about what they secretly called a "horrible disaster waiting to happen."

"Jerome and Madeline said they were in love and wanted to spend the rest of their lives together," said Dorothy Pirone, the bride's mother, who reacted to the October 2000 announcement of the engagement by throwing a porcelain cookie jar at Sykes' head. "It's so wonderful to see a young couple so in love."

Despite near-constant fighting and two breakups during their eight months of dating, Sykes, a part-time worker at Federal Express, and Pirone, a hair stylist at Supercuts, say their relationship was meant to be.

"Nobody in my family liked me going out with Maddy," Sykes said. "Everyone said she wasn't good enough for me, that she treats me like shit. But I don't care what they say: She's the love of my life and nobody can keep us apart."

Pirone agreed, saying that their families' disapproval of the relationship brought her and Sykes closer together.

"Everyone in Jerry's family said I was just dating him on the rebound after I broke up with Mike [Harrison]," said Pirone, straightening the same wedding gown worn years earlier by her mother, who reluctantly agreed to let Madeline wear it. "So we felt like we had to see each other in secret, just like in that movie Romeo And Juliet, until Jerry was just like, 'Screw this, let's just get married and nobody will be able to tell us what to do.'"

Friends of the bride and groom masked their true feelings throughout the reception, peppering their conversation with comments like, "Yes, we're very happy for the both of them," and "No, really, we're very happy."

"When Jerome's high-school shop teacher, Mr. Kyzlowski, came through the receiving line, he said it looked like Jerome had really grown up in the last few years," said Patricia Sykes, the groom's mother. "And I guess I had to agree–he technically is a man now."

Pirone's maternal grandmother, Mary Ellen O'Rourke, who after every meeting with Sykes said she "[doesn't] like that boy," was especially impressed with the wedding.

"The flowers were so beautiful," O'Rourke said. "Very pretty flowers."

"I told Madeline I was totally jealous of her," said maid of honor Roxanne David, who in March repeatedly warned Pirone that Sykes was sleeping with one of their friends. "I told her she looked so beautiful, and that Jerry is going to make her the happiest woman on the planet. What else was I supposed to say?"

Not everyone paid lip service to the couple's prospects.

"If those two last more than a year, I'll sell my dentures," said Maria Van Kamp, 58, the harpist at the reception. "I've played a lot of weddings, and I can usually tell who's going to make it. Usually, if the groom is drunk and hitting on a bridesmaid, and the bride threatens to call off the wedding twice during the rehearsal dinner, it's a pretty good sign that they're not going the distance."

Added Van Kamp: "They make a cute couple, though."