Openly bisexual at the time, 36-year-old Elton John married German-born 28-year-old Sound Engineer Renate Blauel back in 1984.
Just a year after releasing the song 'Kiss the Bride', featuring lyrics such as "I want to kiss the bride, yeah", Elton did just that on the steps of St. Mark’s Anglican church in Darlinghurst, an inner-city suburb of Sydney, Australia.
The Valentine's Day wedding captured the attention of the world, as the pair had only been engaged for three days prior. They met in early 1983 in London, when Blauel was introduced to Elton as he was finishing his 'Too Low for Zero' album. She had dreams of becoming a record producer, and they quickly bonded over their shared obsession with music.
Elton arrived in Australia less than a year later for the 'Too Low for Zero' tour, with Blauel as part of the entourage as a trusted confidante. On February 10th Elton proposed over dinner in an Indian restaurant, and Blauel accepted. 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.
A congratulatory message sent by Rod Stewart paraphrasing a recent Elton hit sums up the shock over the wedding pretty succinctly: "You may still be standing, but we’re all on the f***ing floor".
The pair became a regular source of speculation to the London tabloid newspapers, claiming the marriage was simply a cover for Elton's homosexuality, that they slept in separate bedrooms and Blauel was spending most of her time concentrating on her recording career.
Come November 1988, the pair were divorced. When the split was announced Blauel claimed that she and John were parting amicably “and genuinely intend to remain best of friends". Elton 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: "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".
John admitted to the Rolling Stone soon after the divorce that he was, in fact, gay, not bisexual. He went on to marry his longtime partner David Furnish in 2014. The couple has two sons together, Zachary (born 2010) and Elijah (born 2013).
Blauel and John both avoided talking about the marriage publicly. While on tour in Australia in 2017 though, John released a statement in support of gay marriage 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".
Blauel, with a divorce settlement reportedly totalling £5 million, shied away 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. Not much is known of her whereabouts these days, and she has always remained silent regarding her marriage to John.