What could possibly go wrong with a million-dollar wedding?
Check out the million-dollar lawsuit
The Washington Post
Washington A-listers Joan and Bernard Carl wanted a beautiful wedding for their oldest child. And for the most part, they got it.
The lavish June 2015 celebration for 250 guests in the garden of their Southampton estate was gorgeous. The bride wore Oscar de la Renta. There were 3,500 white roses individually studded into the lawn, a fivecourse dinner beneath massive chandeliers of greenery and a seven-tier wedding cake.
The mother of the bride commissioned monogrammed napkins for each place setting and a custom fabric for the tables and the flower girl’s dress. There was a beachfront rehearsal dinner. The reception included a specialty cocktail served in an ostrich eggshell; the after parties offered a Calvados and cigar bar, plus hot chocolate and brownie stations.
A week later, the couple exchanged vows in a small candlelight ceremony in the 16thcentury chapel at the family chateau in the Loire Valley, followed by hot-air ballooning the next morning. Both ceremonies were featured in Brides magazine last year with the headline: “This Couple’s Multi-Day Wedding in the Hamptons and in France Will Blow You Away.”
But behind the scenes, there was drama. So much drama that the wedding nearly got called off.
Planning a wedding can make anyone crazy. Adults go their entire lives not caring about table linens, and suddenly they’re fighting about whether napkins should be white or ecru. Costs spiral out of control because you simply must have that food truck for midnight doughnuts. But when a wedding budget tops seven figures, expectations and emotions can run exceptionally high.
So maybe it’s not surprising that a legal battle is brewing between Los Angeles-based celebrity event planner Mindy Weiss and the Carls. Ms. Weiss, who designed the Southampton ceremony — which the Carls acknowledge cost upward of a million dollars — is suing the couple for more than $340,000 in unpaid fees and expenses, plus $1.4 million in damages. The Carls claim that Ms. Weiss went on an unauthorized spending spree on their dime and is holding the bridal video hostage unless they pay her inflated bill.
“I think there are people who prey on people’s love for their children. They prey on their vanity. They try to take advantage of it,” says Bernard Carl. “I think that’s a really sordid part of life that, if you have the good fortune of having some affluence, you have to live with. But it doesn’t make it pleasant.”
Ms. Weiss did not return calls seeking comment. But in the lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, she contends that she worked “feverishly” to plan the wedding and covered more than $267,000 in expenses out of her own pocket — with the Carls’ permission, via what she calls a “Vendor Advance Contract.”
The Carls contend that Ms. Weiss was hired to consult and recommend other vendors but was never authorized to enter into contracts on their behalf. Yet they say she did just that, hiring favored L.A. friends at outrageous prices instead of New York-based companies as they requested.
In retrospect, it was probably a bad fit from the start. Ms. Weiss, “Party Planner to the Stars,” is best known for extravagant, over-the-top weddings for celebrity clients such as Sofia Vergara, Ellen DeGeneres, Gwen Stefani, the Kardashians and ABC’s “The Bachelor.” The Carls, who have homes in Kalorama, the Hamptons, London and France, move in elite social circles but keep a relatively low profile. They are horrified that the private family celebration and subsequent lawsuit, first reported in London’s Daily Mail, have become tabloid fodder.
“It is clear to me that we didn’t do our homework on Mindy, that her very Hollywood aesthetic was just a really poor match with our objectives and image for this event,” says Mr. Carl during an interview in the library of his Kalorama home. “And we didn’t sense that early enough. That was our mistake.”
The Carls — he’s an investor and lawyer and co-owns D. Porthault, the French luxury linens company, with his wife — hired Ms. Weiss in May 2014 to plan the wedding of their older daughter, Alex. They had interviewed a number of elite planners and sought advice from their longtime friend and florist, Jeff Leatham, who says he suggested Ms. Weiss “without hesitation. She’s one of the best in the industry.” After she interviewed with the bride-to-be, the Carls tapped her and paid half of her $50,000 consulting fee.
Initially, everyone was excited — it was, after all, the first wedding of the Carls’ three children. The couple say they told Ms. Weiss they were willing to spend up to million dollars but didn’t want a “glitzy” event. They say they asked repeatedly for a detailed proposal, but Ms. Weiss kept putting them off. They became concerned but stayed quiet because they didn’t want to upset the bride-to-be.
That proved to be a huge miscalculation — by the spring of 2015, the relationship between Ms. Weiss and the Carls had devolved into finger-pointing, angry emails and demands for money.
Things came to a head when, after nearly 10 months of planning and just six weeks before the wedding, Ms. Weiss finally provided a budget that came in at $3 million. The father of the bride was stunned and refused to pay some charges that he considered to be wildly inflated.
In the lawsuit, Weiss contends that the Carls “expressed an interest in an extravagant affair, never mentioning the word ‘budget.’” That assertion is “absolutely, unequivocally, totally untrue,” says Mr. Carl.