NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Weddings in the movies are especially beautiful when the moviegoer isn't paying the bill, but wedding planners across the country get a box office boost every time Father of the Bride plays on TBS (Stock Quote: TWX).
If movies didn't affect the wedding industry there wouldn't be YouTube video of would-be Princess Buttercups dressed for their Princess Bride-themed weddings to their Wesleys in waiting. There wouldn't be clips of officiants trying to replicate Peter Cook's "mawage is wot bwings us togevah" line from Buttercup's aborted marriage to Prince Humperdinck. Part of the reason weddings are a $74 billion industry in the U.S. and couples lay out more than $24,000 for the average wedding, according to market research firm The Wedding Report, is because they want a little part of that big-screen romance.
For Sharon Naylor, author of more than 35 wedding books, including 1001 Ways to Save Money and Still Have a Dazzling Wedding, it all boils down to one simple truth she's learned from years in the wedding industry: "Brides fall in love with wedding images in the movies."
"I think we all caught our breath a little bit when we saw the wedding ballroom in the Steve Martin remake of Father of the Bride ... but we also fell in love with how gorgeous the Banks family house was!" Naylor says. "Disney (Stock Quote: DIS) showed us how it's done, and countless brides wanted that wedding so badly they brought images to their coordinators, and many went to Disney to have their fairy tale wedding created with all of those magical touches."
That attention to detail can turn a small production into a big-budget affair in a hurry. As it is, 42% of engaged couples who responded to wedding site TheKnot.com's (Stock Quote: KNOT) Real Weddings survey said they went over budget on their weddings last year. Another 16% did away with budgets altogether to ensure their big day finished happily ever after. Couples should realize, however, that most movie weddings require studios with deep pockets and sponsors willing to chip in for product placement. Your wedding may be lovely, but it's just not going to get a can of Coke Zero in front of enough eyeballs to justify an investment from Coca-Cola (Stock Quote: KO).
"It's not a mistake to be inspired by movie weddings, but keep in mind that movie-creation budgets are a lot higher than what a wedding couple or their parents can afford. Falling in love with movie magic very often grips the bride's and groom's emotions, as well as their film-loving parents' emotions, boosting those impulse add-ons and elevating the wedding's cost," Naylor says. "Just pull out one or two elements from the movie you love, and adjust your budget to make room for it."
To give brides and grooms some idea of what goes into movie weddings, TheStreet called in three wedding planners and event designers to look at some of the most iconic movie weddings of the last few decades. They looked at four of the heavyweights and put together detailed breakdowns of what those weddings would cost today. From Julia Roberts' splendid Southern ceremony to Jake Ryan waiting outside with his Porsche 944, our wedding professionals put a price tag on each of these priceless movie wedding moments:
Steel Magnolias (1989)
As appraised by: Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta-based event designer Christopher Confero
Anyone from the South can quote just about the entire movie Steel Magnolias, and the ever-famous "Blush & Bashful" wedding scene is no exception to our Southern lexicon. When I watched the movie and really paid attention to the details of the wedding, oh how many details there were!
In the ceremony scene Shelby (Julia Roberts) had eight bridesmaids and eight groomsmen in wedding party, although she says nine in the beauty shop while she's getting her hair done. I imagine for the balance on camera they switched to four on each side. Inside the church there was more draping and flowers than you would know what to do with! There was special pink carpet laid just for the wedding, and even the organ is wrapped in pink fabric! We also see floral garlands running both sides the entire length of the church and hanging arrangements dotted down the parameter as well. Pew markers hang on every pew, with fabric down the length of the aisle.
The reception took place at the home of the bride's family. A tent was erected in the backyard to cover the dance floor where a live band played music all night long. There was no sheering on the ceiling, but the side poles are covered in fabric and flowers and there is a garland that runs the perimeter of the tent. There were guest tables with centerpieces and then cocktail tables with umbrellas outside the tent as well. If you don't choose to do a seated meal, it isn't necessary to have a chair for every guest. Not everyone will be sitting down with a plate at the same time. Magnolia blossoms were floated in the pool, but a detail like this could easily be done by the family at no cost. There were several food and beverage stations, with attendants, a champagne fountain and an open bar. The two-tier wedding cake sits inside the house, and when we see the interior the day of the wedding there are flowers absolutely everywhere. The infamous red-velvet armadillo groom's cake is in fact hidden in the tool shed.
We don't see the front of the house until the bride and groom make their grand exit, but there were also garlands draping the doors and wreaths on each of the front shutters. It is said they used Shelby's car, so they didn't have an expense of fancy transportation. The hair salon gossip was that the couple was going to Las Vegas on their honeymoon.
Although every detail I am going to list out isn't shown in the movie, I am basing my projections off of the type of family that we see -- a community-involved, very affluent family. I don't foresee they would skimp on the details.
My cost breakdown in today's market would be as follows for 150 guests:
- Venue: Nothing (Since it was at the family home, they saved a ton of money. Venue rental fees can range from $3,000 to $20,000-plus.)
- Catering and bar: $15,000 (With an open bar and our guest count, this would be one of our highest expenses.)
- Photography: $7,500
- Band: $4,000
- Cake: $2,000
- Stationery: $3,500
- Linen: $3,000
- Gifts: $1,000 (I didn't see a favor in the movie, but most couples do a guest favor.)
- Lighting: $3,000
- Rentals: $10,000 (When you do a wedding at home, you must bring in everything -- tables, chairs, linen, serving pieces, flatware and more.)
- Flowers, decor and draping: $25,000 (With the volume of flowers and draping shown in the movie, this would be our biggest cost.)
- Wedding designer/planner: $7,500 (This is my fee, and I imagine a family like this would hire someone to oversee all details.)
- Make-up and hair: $3,000
- Church: $2,000 (Years ago most churches didn't charge a fee, but now it's common.)
- Attire: $12,000 (This one could be absolutely anything. Just for guessing I'm going to say the dress would be nice, but not over the top. Brides dress at around $6,000 and bridesmaids dresses cost around $500 each. Grooms, groomsmen, ushers' and fathers' tuxes price out at $200 each.)
- Transportation: Nothing (Zero if a family car were used, but this could be another $2,000-plus.)
So I project in today's market this wedding would be right under $100,000 and going over if the reception had not have been at the family home. And I did not include the honeymoon, since that cost is absorbed by the groom. A vacation to Las Vegas could easily be another $5,000 to $10,000.
Sixteen Candles (1984)
As appraised by: Tina LaMorte, wedding planner with New Jersey-based wedding design firm Oh So Fabulous.
I think every girl can relate to the storyline of this John Hughes classic, and as an adult I loved watching it through professional eyes: the eyes of a wedding planner. A wedding serves as the subplot and reason why everyone seems to forget the milestone 16th birthday of Sam Baker (Molly Ringwald), which has the epic bad timing of falling on the day before her sister's wedding day.
We never really see the reception and the only real glimpse of the wedding the viewer gets is the ceremony, one of the funniest scenes in the movie. Sam's sister Ginny (Blanche Baker) decides to indulge in five muscle relaxers after getting her "monthly gift" and, well, let's just say she is really "relaxed."
The first thing that struck me about the wedding was they didn't have any transportation to the church, no hoopla at the house. Usually for my clients, the morning of the wedding serves as an event in and of itself. Teams of hair and makeup artists, rows and rows of gowns rigged up behind doors, hanging from ceilings, photographers, videographers ... flowers everywhere.
Everyone (including the bride) climbed into their own vehicles and drove themselves to church. Today, an average couple spends $2,500 to upward of $7,000 for transportation to and from the ceremony and reception venue.
Ginny's dress was a simple silk/satin blend. It resembled something that might cost between $2,500 and $4,000 today, depending on the fabric and the designer. Her fingertip veil was also simple: I would put that at about $250.
The bridesmaids' dresses were your typical 1980s horrendous pink fluffy dresses, complete with Holly Hobby baby's breath head wreaths. I would say today your typical gown like that would run a bridesmaid $125, they weren't anything special, nothing too trendy -- they were "safe" in 1984, so translate that in 2011 to something satin, floor length with spaghetti straps and an empire waist and voila! You have your typical under-$150 David's Bridal bridesmaid gown that you'll never ever under any circumstances wear again.
The church decor consisted of basic plastic containers filled with funereal sprays, lots of filler and tons of baby's breath. Just like Sam loathes the bus, I loathe baby's breath. I don't mean like masses of it Martha Stewart style, but sprigs of it. Don't get me started.
The paper-thin runner that Ginny tripped over three times is an easy craft store purchase of $40. I have brides that pay $1,000 for hand-painted custom canvas runners they'll walk on once. They did have a decent amount of flowers in the church -- I would say the equivalent today of roughly $1,500 to $2,000. There were several altar pieces and pew arrangements. These days clients opt for large pieces at the altar in custom vases, and not many brides leave the flowers in the church anymore.
Ginny did have a black stretch limo for her and Rudy when they left the church. Typically couples these days opt for Bentleys or vintage Rolls-Royces, which can rent from $700 to $1,500. We have a company we rent from that has a custom Phantom with 20 carats of real diamonds in the wheels -- I mean, every bride needs that right?
Editor's note: Throw in $190 apiece for the groom and groomsmen's Men's Wearhouse-quality tuxedo rentals, $100 for the flower girl's dress, a $300 to $500 "donation" for the priest's services and a $300 to $2,000 rental fee for the church and the price of the Sixteen Candles wedding hovers between $6,200 and $10,900 without the reception.
Father of the Bride (1991)
As appraised by: Kara Thorson, co-owner of New Jersey-based My Bellissima Wedding Consulting and Special Events Design
Father of the Bride is one of my all-time favorite movies. I must have watched it more than 100 times when I was younger.
I was so impressed how they transformed a home into a magical wedding reception. I clearly remember saying, "When I get married, I want that!" Today I'm happy to say that I get to play the role of Franck (along with my business partner, Laura Bianco. Together we create gorgeous weddings that our clients have always dreamed of).
The wedding in the movie, although it took place at the family's residence, was extravagant. Couples have a misconception about hosting a wedding at home and think it will actually be less expensive. This is not the case, as you have to bring in all aspects that a catering hall would most likely already have. This includes the tent, tables, chairs, linen, lighting, bathrooms, heat or air conditioning, food, decor -- and the list goes on.
If a client came to us today and asked us to replicate the wedding from Father of the Bride, we absolutely could ... but it would definitely come with a price tag! Here is a breakdown of the affair from the cost of the food to the favors, the swans (of course, as decor) and every detail in between:
- Ceremony fee: $750
- Attire: $10,000
- Wedding coordinator: $18,000
- Lighting: $12,000
- Cake: $3,500
- Tent: $15,000 (Marquee, rain gutter, cook tent, lining, walls, heat and dance floor.)
- Catering and bar: $87,000
- Luxury portable bathrooms: $1,500
- Ceremony flowers, decor and draping: $10,000
- Reception flowers, decor and draping: $30,000
- Rentals: $20,000 (China, glass, silver, tables, linens, oven, range, cookware, prep tables, refrigerator and bars.)
- Entertainment: $20,000
- Ceremony music: $2,500
- Photography: $10,000
- Videography: $8,000
- Transportation: $5,000
- Stationery: $10,000 (Invitations, menus, programs, escort cards, favor tags, etc.)
- Favors: $1,250
Editor's note: All together, that's a $264,000 wedding. Don't blame us. Direct all concerns to director Charles Shyer and writing partner and What Women Want director Nancy Meyers.
The Godfather (1972)
As appraised by: LaMorte
This was one serious party. Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) spared no expense for the wedding of his only daughter (Talia Shire). The wedding even by today's standards was a top-notch affair and would probably have had a very hefty six-figure price tag attached to it.
The party was held at the Corleone's estate, which automatically carries a premium. Any tented event held at a private residence (when done the right way) always costs at least 25% to 30% more than your average wedding due to tenting, permits, rentals, outside catering, lighting, etc. The nature of an event at a private residence or at a venue or rental facility that is not all-inclusive carries additional hidden charges that many of our clients never understand or foresee.
This wedding had a tremendous stage for the 20-piece band. A band like this would cost upward of $18,000 to $25,000. Johnny Fontaine (Al Martino), the surprise celebrity performer, sang as a favor to the family, but if you'd like Justin Timberlake or Michael Buble to sing a song or two at your event and make your female guests swoon, be prepared to fork over at least $300,000 to sometimes $1 million for the fee alone, never mind the countless ridiculous demands on their riders and transporting all their entourage in on a chartered G6.
The party had well over 300 guests. Feeding this many hungry guests would cost, by today's standards, easily close to $300 a head for rentals/food/basic beverage and staff. Figure in alcohol and you can spend close to $100,000. The show-stopping six-tier cake, which stood over 8 feet tall, would set you back close to $6,000 -- and this cost is a conservative estimate. I have had clients spend that much for cakes half that size that tasted like pencil shavings.
They had the typical photographer, who would have needed at least two assistants to keep up with the family portraits. I would estimate at least $7,000 for a good photojournalist and his staff. Add on another $3,000 for additional parent albums, enlargements and wallet-sized pictures for all the relatives back in Italy.
The Corleones didn't opt for valet parking, but I would always recommend a valet for any event at home. This is a big expense, one that people don't consider, and it usually will set you back anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 depending on the number of vehicles parked.
I am sure that Connie Corleone's gown was hand-sewn and designed in Italy. As was the hand-dyed veil. I would estimate that today, a custom gown like that would cost at least $10,000 to $15,000, and the fabric would have been top of the line.
Editor's note: Even without the cost of the ceremony, transportation, bridal party attire and the numerous favors Don Corleone couldn't refuse handing out on the day of his only daughter's wedding, this affair clocks in at $450,000 on the high end. For that money, the groom should have made it to the end of the film.
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