Lessons Learned from the Most Lavish Weddings of All Time

03 22, 2011

Part of a Will & Kate Ipad App

Take note brides-to-be: You don’t need sovereign power or an eight-figure trust fund to borrow elements from a royal wedding. With the guidance of Rich Bride, Poor Bride wedding planner, Laura Atendido, we find cost-effective ways to pull off the same glitz as Will and Kate—without mortgaging the palace.

Location, Location, Location
Google co-founder Larry Page wed wife, Lucy Southworth, in 2007 on billionaire-bud Richard Branson’s private Caribbean island. To accommodate all 600 attendees, Page also rented out the island next door.

For the masses: “Surprise guests by introducing them to a place they didn’t know existed,” suggests Atendido, who also co-owns Laura Kelly Wedding Design. While non-traditional venues (think art galleries or film-fest hot spots) can easily run $200 a head and up, that’s a fair price to pay for breaking free of the halls of ubiquity.

Have a Calling Card
When steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal’s daughter, Vanisha, tied the knot with her hubby, Amit Bhatia, her family sent a 20-page cattle call enclosed in a silver box.

For the masses: Invitations set the tone of an event. A regal affair should have a correspondingly posh card. “Whatever you do in the invitation, you want to mimic on the wedding day,” explains Atendido. In the case of Vanisha’s wedding, a wordy novella ensconced in semi-precious metal conveyed the lavish logistics of a five-star, 1,000-guest reception at a Versailles gallery and another soirée at the Parc de Saint-Cloud. Boxed invites class things up, but paper ones can also provide a wow effect for $8 to $10 per guest.

Star-Studded Guest List & Entertainment
The hallmark of gossip-page weddings is an A-list guest list. When Andy Roddick and Brooklyn Decker tied the knot, for example, Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi were there to fist pump them well. And to complement Roddick’s rocket-fueled forehand, the “Rocketman” himself, Elton John, tickled the ivories at the reception. At Donald Trump’s third wedding, Tony Bennett, Billy Joel and Paul Anka serenaded guests, including Simon Cowell, Barbara Walters and Regis Philbin.

For the masses: If you don’t count any stars as pals, the next best thing is to hire an impersonator or a tribute band. “If you take your DJ and replace him with any kind of live entertainment, automatically you raise the class level of your wedding astronomically,” says Atendido. An Elvis doppleganger will run up your tab to the tune of $200 to $1,000 per hour, but tribute bands may actually save you money. A variety of variables determine the final price—from travel time to how well known they are. But on average, tribute acts charge about 30 to 40 percent less than your typical wedding band, according to talent-booking agency

Do the Right Bling
At Chelsea Clinton’s $3.5-million wedding, she strode down the aisle sporting $250,000 worth of glittering diamonds. That’s still 50K shy of what Catherine Zeta-Jones’s wedding tiara was worth.

For the masses: “Costume jewelry is a miracle invention,” says Atendido. “People aren’t going to stand there with a microscope looking at how big the carats are, or whether they’re cubic zirconia or real.” She suggests that if you bring in a picture of a necklace or earrings, a local custom jeweler will be able to recreate it at a fraction of the cost with lesser-quality materials.

The same logic applies to wedding gowns. Pricy Vera Wang and Christian Dior frocks are frequently fawned over white-carpet wear, but thankfully knock-off styles abound. “But if you’re married to the name, be thrifty and look online,” says Atendido.

Go Out with a Bang
When Paul McCartney and Heather Mills joined forces in 2002, they blew $150,000 on fireworks alone!

For the masses: Unless you plan on blazing pyrotechnics off in your backyard, the amount of permits, paperwork and licensing required to legally light so much as a single Roman candle is as onerous as defense department procurement. Still, the request for a big-bang send-off is very common, and there is a headache-free alternative. “We handed out sparklers at one wedding and had guests come outside at midnight to line the entire route, from doorway to parking lot.” The price tag of the sparkling adieu? A mere 50 bucks. Now that’s a send-off worthy of any princess on a budget!

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