September 10, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Looks like Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck’s lavish wedding, reportedly scheduled for this Sunday in Santa Barbara, Calif., will turn out to be as big a non-event as ”Gigli.” ”Due to the excessive media attention surrounding our wedding, we have decided to postpone the date,” the couple said late Wednesday in a joint statement. ”When we found ourselves seriously contemplating hiring three separate ‘decoy brides’ at three different locations, we realized that something was awry.”

”We began to feel that the spirit of what should have been the happiest day of our lives could be compromised,” the pair said. ”We felt what should have been a joyful and sacred day could be spoiled for us, our families and our friends.” In fact, a source close to the couple told TV’s ”Extra” that the pair would now prefer to have an intimate ceremony for immediate family only at a later date.

The news did not come in time for one guest, Britney Spears. ”Access Hollywood” reports that she’d already checked into the Santa Barbara Four Seasons Biltmore hotel under a false name. Others said to be among the 400 invitees were Matt Damon, Bruce Willis, Jack Nicholson, Christian Slater, Matthew Perry, Alec Baldwin, and Colin Farrell.

Word began leaking out last week that the wedding was scheduled for Sept. 14 in Santa Monica, though reports differed as to which of the area’s posh resorts and hotels would house the various nuptial events. Not even the guests were supposed to know the wedding location; they were supposed to gather in Los Angeles to be shuttled to the Santa Barbara events. Instead of receiving last-minute phone calls telling them where to go, guests received calls Wednesday telling them to stay home, ”Entertainment Tonight” reports.

Reporters, photographers and TV crews had been filling up area hotels in the hopes of spotting at least some of the celebrity spectacle. In fact, tabloid empress Bonnie Fuller told the Associated Press she thinks reports of a postponement may be disinformation meant to discourage the media and throw them off the scent. ”I think it’s a good possibility,” said Fuller, who oversees the National Enquirer, the Star, and the Globe. ”I think it’s at least 50-50 that the wedding will still take place this weekend but perhaps in a different location.”

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