Hollywood West

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 September, 2007, 12:00am

Babies have been a pretty crucial Hollywood must-have for some time now, ever since the likes of Courteney Cox Arquette and Julia Roberts decided to marry, settle down and bear children.

But there's an emerging trend on the baby-making front, and it's all about the love child. Yes, what was once called 'out-of-wedlock' and immersed in shame and guilt has triumphed as the coolest, hippest way to start a family.

Celebrities, with their throw-caution-to-the-wind ways, are coupling and breeding like there's no tomorrow, and no wedding date in sight.

A triumphant Halle Berry gushed to the media this past week that she's three months pregnant with her first child, conceived with her super-hot French-Canadian boyfriend Gabriel Aubry. She's 41, he's 31. They've been together for a couple of years and she's been rhapsodising about how happy she's been, so perhaps having a baby together is just the cherry on top, as it were.

Now call me old-fashioned, but wasn't there something joyously wholesome about how these things used to be done, before Hollywood went liberal? That old ditty, 'First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a golden carriage', seems really old now, as more and more Hollywood couples do it backwards (or, in some cases, skip one stage altogether).

Berry and Aubry aren't talking wedding plans yet - not publicly, anyway. Nicole Richie and her rocker beau Joel Madden, also expecting their first child soon, aren't saying if they're engaged or just boyfriend and girlfriend.

Also in the news this week: Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger - who met filming Brokeback Mountain, fell in love, moved in together, and then had a baby - have decided things aren't working out for them and have just announced their split. Baby Mathilde is two, and will no doubt be shuttled back and forth between two households from now until she's eighteen, meeting her parents' respective new partners as time goes on.

That being said, there are certainly no guarantees that having a ring on the finger before ending up in the labour and delivery room is any indication that there will be a happy ending.

Reese Witherspoon and hubby Ryan Philippe were married before their two children appeared, but then he went and cheated on the US$29 million-a-movie girl and she showed him the door. Kate Hudson and rocker husband Chris Robinson (what is it about waif actresses and rocker boyfriends?) divorced well after their son was born. And let's not even get into the mess that is the life of Britney Spears, who is actually making her husband look good these days. She married young, had two baby boys in succession, and then just as quickly divorced. Not much chance of a stable, happy home there - an 'in-wedlock' situation notwithstanding.

Indeed, for many celebrities, how they choose to evolve from dating to children to whatever-happens-next is all a matter of putting their personal stamp on a centuries-old rite of passage. When Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck married in June a couple of years ago, she was well into her pregnancy. Everyone knew, nobody cared - and chances are they would have married anyway.

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise had their baby, Suri, all dolled up for their Italian extravaganza wedding last summer. They had talked about tying the knot before Suri arrived but, hey, Tommy's been busy.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have four between them - one biologically and three adopted, and are hoping for more - and there's no talk of marriage at all, nor is there likely to be. After all, Jolie's been around the marriage block a couple of times, and Pitt's tried it once, and, well, been there, done that.

Even super-smart actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, who had a baby last year with her fiance Peter Sarsgaard, hasn't set a date yet, and nobody is pressuring her to do so.

So who's suffering? High-priced Hollywood wedding planners. Might be time for them to start looking for another vocation. At least until marriage becomes trendy again.