WORTH IT?

NO LONGER CON­TENT WITH THE FRUITCAKES AND MATCHY-MATCHY DRESSES OF YES­TER­YEAR, COU­PLES ARE NOW GO­ING TO EX­TRA­OR­DI­NARY LENGTHS TO MAKE THEIR BIG DAY SOME­THING TO TALK ABOUT – BUT IT COMES AT A PRICE

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - By DILVIN YASA

From 007-in­spired en­trances to walls of roses, wel­come to the world of six-fig­ure mega-wed­dings.

It wasn’t the $740,000 Syd­ney wed­ding he re­cently ar­ranged that tipped event stylist Philip Carr over the edge, nor the end­less re­quests to have six-fig­ure flo­ral walls fea­tur­ing rare flow­ers – it was one be­trothed cou­ple’s re­quest to have their up­com­ing nup­tials fully staffed by lit­tle peo­ple. “I’ve been in the in­dus­try for 35 years and dur­ing this time I’ve seen the evo­lu­tion of wed­dings from, ‘Well, we like pink and blue,’ to he­li­copter arrivals and $40,000 light in­stal­la­tions, but I draw the line at lit­tle-peo­ple them­ing,” he says.

Wed­ding plan­ner Fiona Dean­sDun­das drew hers at grooms tum­bling through the air. “Ev­ery­one as­sumes the brides are the ones with the crazy re­quests, but the men can be just as imag­i­na­tive,” she says of a groom who was in­sis­tent on stag­ing his own James Bond-es­que spec­ta­cle for his big day. Not con­tent with a run-of-the-mill he­li­copter trans­fer, 007 Mark II wanted to char­ter a plane and para­chute down onto the aisle just in time to say “I do”.

“In the end, I had to talk him into ar­riv­ing by speed­boat – still classy, but with far less chance of bro­ken bones,” laughs Deans-dun­das.

Parachut­ing grooms; $740,000 wed­dings… What­ever hap­pened to fruit­cake and a dodgy MC in cheap polyester? They be­long to a long-gone era, ac­cord­ing to Carr: “The new norm is ex­trav­a­gant with a cap­i­tal E.”

As stated in the an­nual Cost of Love sur­vey by Bride to Be mag­a­zine, the av­er­age price of a wed­ding for Aus­tralian cou­ples is $65,482 – up $17,000 from 2011, when the av­er­age was $48,296. But in­dus­try ex­perts such as Carr say cou­ples are in­creas­ingly spend­ing above the $100,000 mark to achieve their pic­ture-per­fect day. “I’d say 80 per cent of my clients now spend be­tween $150,000 and $350,000,” he says. “And it only gets big­ger and more ex­pen­sive with ev­ery pass­ing year.”

It’s a trend Bride mag­a­zine ed­i­tor Lisa O’brien sees at her desk ev­ery day.

“The rus­tic farms and re­cep­tion halls still have their place, but we’ve no­ticed within our sub­mis­sions there are a grow­ing num­ber of brides em­u­lat­ing su­per-luxe wed­dings they’ve seen on­line, which may have taken place on the Amalfi Coast, in the Mid­dle East or even in an English cas­tle,” she says. “It’s clear they want to cre­ate the same buzz with their wed­dings, so other peo­ple in turn will pick them up as in­spi­ra­tion.”

O’brien touches on an im­por­tant point: while com­mu­nity, so­cial stand­ing and her­itage can often play a role in how large – and costly – your wed­ding is (“Imag­ine a guest list of 500; at $150 to $700 a head, you’re look­ing at $75,000 to $350,000 for the re­cep­tion alone,” points out Carr), the big­gest fac­tor driv­ing more op­u­lent wed­dings is, of course, so­cial me­dia.

“I’m get­ting brides show­ing me In­sta­gram feeds of Ara­bian princesses and the part­ners of Rus­sian oli­garchs, so we’re talk­ing very ex­trav­a­gant gowns and lim­it­less bud­gets,” says wed­ding-dress de­signer Steven Khalil, whose celebrity clien­tele in­cudes mod­els Ni­cole Trun­fio and Rachael Finch. “They’re say­ing, ‘I want this level; you need to get me to this level.’ As they come in for fit­tings, they’re al­ready think­ing about their own feeds – how many likes are they go­ing to get for their shots? What will they have to do to get the shots to go vi­ral? It’s a whole new pres­sure they’re work­ing un­der.”

Not only is she look­ing at oth­ers’ feeds and think­ing about her own, but today’s so­cial-me­dia-savvy bride may also choose her sup­pli­ers based on their num­ber of fol­low­ers. “If a dress de­signer or stylist has half a mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, then some brides will choose that be­cause they fig­ure if they go with them, the chances of their wed­ding pho­tos go­ing vi­ral are that much higher,” says Deans-dun­das.

PER­HAPS THE MOST fa­mous vi­ral wed­ding photo of all time was from Kim Kar­dashian’s 2014 wed­ding to Kanye West (2.4 mil­lion likes on In­sta­gram). Their wall of white flow­ers kicked off the big­gest trend in wed­dings today. “I used to have to work hard to con­vince cou­ples to spend $10,000 on flow­ers, but now they’ll eas­ily spend $20,000 to $50,000 on flow­ers alone,” says Deans-dun­das, adding that re­quests she’s had lately in­clude a $7000 aisle made en­tirely of mir­rors, a light cathedral made from one kilo­me­tre of fairy lights, and gold charger plates that had to be im­ported be­cause the bride wasn’t happy with lo­cal op­tions.

“Bud­gets are al­ways big­ger if par­ents are help­ing out with the bill,” she adds. “But even those peo­ple who don’t have a six-fig­ure bud­get will stretch them­selves beyond their means to have the one thing they think will add that ‘In­sta-wow’ fac­tor to their wed­ding, such as gold cut­lery or a light dis­play­ing their ini­tials on the dance floor.”

Flo­ral walls aside, light in­stal­la­tions are also big news, as is fine din­ing (“Crepes Suzettes have long been re­placed by snow eggs,” con­firms Carr) and be­spoke ex­pe­ri­ences such as masseuses, cus­tom-made $3000 Jimmy Choo heels with ini­tials en­graved into the soles, and $75 thank-you can­dles for the guests. And the dresses? Think fuller and more de­tailed, says Khalil, who adds that, 15 years ago, his most pop­u­lar dresses were slim­line, slinky and in the $3500 price range, whereas today they’re priced be­tween $15,000 and $30,000, and are showier than ever be­fore. “If you think about it, wed­dings are a great way to show peo­ple your wealth and so­cial stand­ing, and your dress is the per­fect rep­re­sen­ta­tion of your brand, or what you want your brand to be,” he says.

With so­cial pres­sures show­ing no signs of abat­ing, where does the wed­ding in­dus­try go from here? Ex­perts say that while styles tend to be cycli­cal, those who can af­ford to push the boat out on the bud­get will only go big­ger. “What we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing within the in­dus­try is in line with ev­ery­thing else that’s hap­pen­ing in the world,” says Carr. “Ev­ery­one wants a big­ger house, a bet­ter car, a high-end life­style – the only thing that throws some peo­ple is when you ap­ply what has be­come our nor­mal at­ti­tude to a one-day event. But if you’ve got the money to spend, why not?”

O’brien agrees. “The great­est thing about what’s hap­pen­ing in the bri­dal in­dus­try today is the only rule left is that there are no rules,” she says. “Whether you want to throw a pic­nic wed­ding for $5000 or a for­mal sit-down for $200,000, ev­ery­one has the free­dom to do what’s right for them and their bud­get – and that’s the way it should be.”

Lawyer JES­SICA ELIA, 29, and JOSEPH HATEM, 32, owner of on­line re­tailer My Hair Care, spent $150,000 on their wed­ding. They held a re­cep­tion for 250 peo­ple at the Pal­la­dium, Crown Mel­bourne. Jes­sica: “I don’t know if there was an ex­pec­ta­tion that we’d have the wed­ding we had, but Joey and I come from large fam­i­lies, so 250 was ac­tu­ally quite small com­pared to a lot of other wed­dings we’ve been to. Also, our par­ents

helped with a larger bud­get, which ob­vi­ously gave us more free­dom to do what we wanted to do.

“I didn’t buy any bri­dal mag­a­zines; I got all of my in­spi­ra­tion from so­cial me­dia – pre­dom­i­nantly In­sta­gram. There are thou­sands of wed­ding pages with count­less amaz­ing ideas for your big day. I would ac­tu­ally end up con­fused by all the dif­fer­ent ideas! That said, I soon learnt to choose ven­dors based on their level of ser­vice, and not their so­cial-me­dia fol­low­ing.

“In the end, my big spend was on hav­ing two wed­ding dresses, one for the cer­e­mony and the other I could dance eas­ily in for the re­cep­tion, and also for my florist to cre­ate an ‘en­chanted for­est’ with the ar­range­ments. They re­ally brought to­gether my vi­sion and were well worth the money.

“I know it sounds clichéd, but at the end of it, I re­alised that a wed­ding is not only about the bride and groom, but also cel­e­brat­ing our fam­i­lies who have sac­ri­ficed so much to ac­tu­ally get us to that spe­cific point in our lives. It was a gor­geous day.” NATASHA LAU, 24, a doc­tor, and AN­DREAS WONG, 27, a PHD stu­dent, spent more than $150,000 on their wed­ding. They mar­ried at St An­drew’s Cathedral in Syd­ney, fol­lowed by a high tea for 300 guests in the cathedral’s Chap­ter House. A re­cep­tion for 150 peo­ple was later held at Quay Res­tau­rant. Natasha: “I didn’t think much about wed­dings as a child, but for sev­eral months be­fore the big day, I be­came ob­sessed with Pin­ter­est and col­lected hun­dreds of images as in­spi­ra­tion. Ini­tially, I’d dreamed of a rus­tic wed­ding, but it evolved or­gan­i­cally into quite a dif­fer­ent, beau­ti­ful event.

“An­dreas’s par­ents have a high stand­ing within their own fam­i­lies and ethnic com­mu­nity, so there was a cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tion for our wed­ding, but per­haps peo­ple didn’t ex­pect it would be as grand as it was. Our par­ents set our bud­get, as they mainly fi­nanced it, and after we had a good idea of what we wanted, we cut any­thing we didn’t need. After par­ing things down to our ir­re­mov­able ‘needs’, we were left with a fig­ure that we for­tu­nately could af­ford.

“The more op­u­lent el­e­ments of our wed­ding were the four Rolls-royce lim­ou­sines, St An­drew’s Cathedral, and the eight-me­tre, cas­cade-shaped red rose flower wall. We wanted them be­cause we felt they would pro­vide a sense of grandeur wor­thy of the oc­ca­sion. I also had two wed­ding gowns, and our seven-tier cake was cut on the bal­cony over­look­ing Syd­ney Opera House while our pri­vate fire­work dis­play lit up the sky be­hind us.

“The day went down per­fectly. It’s true so­cial me­dia has be­come a plat­form for com­pet­i­tive­ness and this risks an ex­ag­ger­ated grandeur that sub­tracts from the true beauty of a wed­ding. It was im­por­tant for us to re­mem­ber, in the midst of stylist ap­point­ments and flo­ral mood boards, that a wed­ding is a cel­e­bra­tion of love, not a pageant – and that’s what it was for us.”

“OUR SEVEN-TIER WED­DING CAKE WAS CUT AS FIRE­WORKS LIT UP THE SKY BE­HIND US”

FIT FOR A PRINCESS One of two wed­ding dresses Jes­sica Elia bought for her big day; (be­low) with groom Joseph Hatem.

TAKE THE CAKE (from top) Natasha Lau and An­dreas Wong cut into their tow­er­ing cake; the bride ar­rives in style; that

THE PRICE OF PER­FEC­TION (from top) New­ly­weds Elia and Hatem are saluted un­der a tra­di­tional sabre arch; their

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