While I have no trouble believing that Richard Branson would gladly offer a free ride to Kate Winslet aboard his soon-to-launch Virgin Galactic space airline, the rumors swirling that she already has a ticket in hand just aren't true. 

Late last week, after news broke that Winslet had married Branson's nephew Ned Rocknroll in a private ceremony, several sites started reporting that Branson had provided two free tickets to the couple aboard his Virgin Galactic as a wedding present. After doing a bit of research online, I started seeing conflicting reports that the out-of-this-world gift had originally been offered after Winslet helped rescue Branson's mother during a devastating fire in 2011 on Necker Island, his private island. Over on E! News, someone finally got ahold of a rep for the Academy Award-winning actress who shot down what could have been one of the greatest wedding gifts ever. 

"This story is false," the rep said, while adding that it "was invented a while ago" but has since "been adapted to fit this week's events."

Alas. What we do know is that Kate and Ned managed to pull off their nuptials in extreme secrecy — in fact, neither the groom's nor bride's parents were aware of the event. According to the UK Daily Mail, the wedding, attended by only a dozen people, had a rustic "hippyish country-chic vibe" and took place in a heated barn in the Catskills. 

"The ceremony is understood to have been brief and very simple, with the venue filled with wild flowers in jam jars and pretty coloured lanterns," the site reports. 

Should Winslet change her mind and decide to shell out a reported $200,000 for a ticket aboard Virgin Glactic, she will have some good company. Both Russell Brand and Ashton Kutcher — not to mention the 500 other deep-pocketed customers — have reserved seats for the first flights aboard the six-passenger suborbital spaceship. Commercial launches are expected to start next year. 

In an interview in March, Branson reiterated Virgin Galactic's commitment to safety. "We are guided by safety and so will ensure that everything is just as safe as it can possibly be before we start commercial services — particularly as I will be on the first commercial flight with my kids!"  

Related post on MNN: Virgin-Galactic signs deal to launch scientists into space

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

No, Kate Winslet is not headed for space
A representative for the actress shoots down rumor that Richard Branson gave her a ticket aboard Virgin Galactic as a wedding present.