Behind the scenes of a celebrity wedding

It is still only the beginning of July but we have already seen a rash of celebrity summer weddings. With Penelope Cruz secretly tying the knot with long term Spanish love Javier Bardem, Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green eloping in Hawaii, Piers Morgan finally making an honest woman of Celia Waldren, American Idol star Carrie Underwood’s traditional Southern wedding and our own Emily Blunt walking down the aisle with US actor John Krasinski, you’d be forgiven for thinking that celebrity weddings can be low-key, simple affairs.

The beaming bride, the handsome groom, the white dress and enough flowers to open a florist’s shop – all pretty standard stuff really.  But when there are celebrities involved is it really that simple? We take a look at how the A-list gets hitched.

THE TRAINER

Celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson is very familiar with the celebrity wedding – has trained superstar client Jennifer Lopez for three of them: her marriage to back-up dancer Chris Judd, the wedding that was cancelled days before by then boyfriend Ben Affleck and her most recent wedding to current hubby Marc Anthony. Gunnar says, “When a celebrity is getting married, the wedding day serves as a fitness goal. It’s just like how we train someone when they have a big love scene in a film. If they know they are going to naked on screen on a given date we will work backwards from that date in our training. It’s the same for a wedding day, it gives you a time frame to try and hit your peak for.”

As for the big day Gunnar says, “A wedding dress is one of the most forgiving pieces of clothing a woman might ever wear, it definitely covers up a lot.  However celebrities want to train what’s going to be seen in photos and magazines and I will really focus on the arms, shoulders and back.” Gunnar will typically spend every day in the weeks leading up to the wedding with his celebrity client getting in her peak shape for the big day.  “If I can’t be with them, say they’re flying out of town for the wedding, then I will give them stuff they can do at home.” And he’s been a wedding guest at some of his grateful bride clients.  “I trained (model and face of Estee Lauder) Amber Valetta and she took me along to the wedding in the Caribbean – but no one’s invited me on their honeymoon, not yet anyway.”  And as for celebrity bride La Lopez Gunnar says, “You would be hard pressed to find anybody who works harder when they’re in the gym and who is in the gym as consistently as Jennifer.  She is by no means obsessed but she is dedicated. It helps her stay beautiful – she keeps earning it.”

THE FLORIST

There is one name in flowers that every celebrity knows: Preston Bailey. He is the florist Donald Trump called on when he married wife Melania Knass and he worked with Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones on their rehearsal dinner. He is also on the speed dial every time Michael Douglas wants to send wife and Catherine Zeta Jones a bouquet, (for the record, she favours peonies, roses, lilacs and hydrangeas). He says, “Celebrity weddings today are often used for promotion and PR in addition to everything else so the biggest trend right now is to have something very theatrical. You need to create something that is so uniquely different that it has truly never been seen before. Also we constantly bear in mind how things will photograph for a magazine, the approach is entirely different.” Preston adds that in his experience celebrities are easier to work with than the average person. “Actors know what sets are; they understand that it’s a totally different approach and a celebrity will give you more control as they understand that what we are going to bring is going to be special and they trust that. Just like in a film, they go to the set and the set is all ready for them. That being said I do not do just whatever I want; I show them what I’m thinking in advance for their approval they don’t give up control completely.”

So what kind of budget does the A-list have for flowers? “It’s never less than 100,000 dollars up to half a million, depending on who they are or what it is; money is not that big of a deal if they like the concept. In the case of Donald Trump and Melania, the entire theme was white flowers. So for that week I bought out every single flower market in NYC. I took every white flower in Manhattan: every hydrangea, rose, orchid and gardenia.”

In order to create the right setting, Preston says he works with the wedding dress. “Bouquets are created 100 percent depending on the dress and what it looks like. If it is an elaborate dress you want to downplay the bouquet so it doesn’t compete with the dress,  but you don’t want it to disappear completely either.”

[callout title=Celebrity florist Preston Bailey]“The lighting bill alone at one A-list wedding I worked on was half a million dollars!”[/callout]

And what does he recommend to his celebrity brides? “I really like a white bouquet; it looks great in photos, unlike something like a red bouquet, which can be jarring. The problem is, your eyes go automatically towards the flowers and this detracts from what the dress is supposed to be. And let’s be honest, dress trumps flowers every time.”

So what are celebrities worried about on the big day? Remembering their vows? Nope. It’s one word: lighting. Preston says, “Celebrities are much more aware and concerned about lighting. Lighting is their life as actors. I have been in this business for 28 years and years ago it was quite a challenge to explain to people what difference lighting can make; today’s celebrities certainly do understand it.  The lighting bill alone at one A-list wedding I worked on was half a million dollars!  Celebrities know the difference good lighting will make in photographs and they are willing to pay for it.”

THE WEDDING PLANNER

Michael Gapinski is the Executive Vice president at Along Came Mary, an event production company known for throwing the best film premiere parties – so celebrities began hiring them to plan their personal events – including their weddings. Tom Cruise has hired them several times and called them before walking up the aisle with Katie Holmes. They also co-ordinated Christina Aguilera’s wedding to music producer Jordan Bratman and planned the wedding of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

“Celebrities have incredibly busy schedules so they really have to trust and rely on their wedding planner. And when it comes to celebrity weddings we have to make sure it’s something that has never been done.” Gapinski says. He personally organised the gospel choir which sang for Brad and Jen at their wedding. “Often times we will work with a couple who has a favourite song or piece of music and figure out a way to do it in a fantastic way. Sometimes this involves tracking down a little known band and other times we might be flying an entire orchestra into town and putting them up at hotels in the city.” In terms of budget, A-listers actually spend less than B-listers, “The reason being that true A-listers don’t want ‘over the top’ as they are around over the top every day of their lives. They want a touch of reality with family friends and loved ones who feel comfortable, and the only way to do that is to not make a huge spectacle of it. It’s challenging because you are planning an event for a mix of people. At an A-list wedding you will have big Hollywood stars mingling with hometown friends and even the minister. At this event they are all equals.”

So what’s the hardest part of planning a celebrity wedding?  The paparazzi of course! “Sometimes they’ll invite a magazine in to photograph it which believe it or not makes our job easier. It takes a little bit of that paparazzi frenzy away from the event. Dealing with all the paparazzi is the most challenging part of it. With the Pitt-Aniston wedding we had guys that were a mile away coming up with camera images through high powered lenses.”

So how do they keep it private? “Quite often at a celebrity wedding the guests will never know the address of the actual ceremony.  Guests (even A-listers) go through security screening and then get into a shuttle which then take them to the location of the event.”

He adds, “But when it comes down to it – no matter how famous the couple, it’s still a girl and a guy and they’re getting married and it’s an expression of their private feelings.  A celebrity bride, at the heart of it all, is just a girl marrying the guy she loves.”

THE MAKE-UP ARTIST

Make up artist Caroline Frazer has worked with celebrities like Melanie Sykes, and Darcey Bussell. She says, “When working on a celebrity bride there is a bit more pressure. Celebrity brides are no different than other brides but they will have had more photo shoots and be more familiar perhaps with what they want.” However she adds, “I do give my brides complete control – it’s their big day and they know how they want to look. If they want big lip liner they will have it. I want them to feel comfortable.”

[callout title=Celebrity wedding planner Michael Gapinski]“A celebrity bride, at the heart of it all, is just a girl marrying the guy she loves[/callout]

And for a celebrity wedding ‘less’ is not best. “There is the make-up a person would wear every day and then there is the make-up a person would wear going out. Then there’s the make-up you’d wear if you were being photographed on the day of your wedding. It’s going to be quite a bit more than normal. You need to stand out in a group shot and no matter what kind of lighting is going on you want her looking good. A good face for when guests greet her but also when the camera looks at her, which can be a lot more critical.”

Caroline also says that the make-up must match the dress.  “There is no chance that I would do make-up without seeing the dress or a photo of the dress – everything has to compliment each other, the make-up and the hair work together.

And what makes a celebrity bride different? “A normal person might be more nervous than a celebrity. Celebrities are used to the attention and they might even thrive on it; at the least it’s very normal for them to be the centre of attention. A normal person might be uncomfortable with that or unsure how to handle it.”

THE HAIRDRESSER

LA based celebrity hair stylist Demetrius Pombo  worked with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes at their wedding bash. He says, “when you work with a celebrity like Cate Blanchett or Helen Mirren, they know that you know what you are doing and they actually trust you more than average people do. When you are working on up and coming celebrities it’s much worse. They can be very picky and are often times insecure and afraid of not looking their best.”

He adds, “there is definitely more pressure when doing a celebrity wedding – you know there will be media scrutiny. The goal is to do something that makes them look good and stand out – not look like everyone else – but at the same time look their best.” So how does it work?  “I ask questions about the dress and also the kind of party they are throwing afterward. It’s similar to getting someone ready for the Oscars.” Do celebrity brides ever have bad hair days?  “I think sometimes brides commit mistakes when they let their stylist create this big, huge mass of hair on a her head to compensate for the fact that she wants to look taller next to her groom. A good stylist won’t let the hair overwhelm the bride; it needs to balance the face with the dress.  You want to see the beauty of the bride and not the hairstyle first. Remember Jennifer Lopez in that pink dress at the Oscars when she had that mess of teased hair on her head? Her stylist Oribe is a genius but that was a big mistake.”

THE DRESS DESIGNER

Wedding dress designer Melissa Sweet the hottest name in Hollywood wedding dresses at the moment and she is currently working on two top secret celebrity weddings. She says, “There’s a lot more pressure with celebrity weddings.  You have to please not just the bride, but the stylist, the publicist, the manager, etc. And there is a lot of pressure to make the dress stand out and be memorable. Celebrity brides pretty much always know what they want and what looks good on them – remember they are fitted for dresses all the time.  When they approach us they usually have a specific dress they have seen in a magazine or one that’s been suggested by their stylist.”

So how hard is it to work with celebrity brides? “The hardest thing is finding time for their fittings! You make it work but it’s timed around their hectic schedules. Therefore it’s not uncommon to do an 11pm fitting or one at 6 in the morning. Lately me or my design assistant Lia McNairy have been flying from New York to Los Angeles at 12 noon to fit the celebrity’s wedding dress for one hour and then turn around and fly back to New York!”

Also celebrities want something special. “Celebrities don’t want to wear a dress that is available for purchase anywhere,” she adds.  “They want a dress that is an exclusive, custom made creation. And often times it is not just one dress but two or three dresses that need to be made. One for the ceremony, one for the reception and one for the after hours (1am) dancing! Talk about pressure!”

“One of the celebrity dresses we are working on right now is made of silk organdie, it’s around 80 yards of fabric and required over 120 hours of hand sewing. This celebrity bride is having her wedding ceremony in a Mexican Hacienda.  Her reception dress is a form fitted sexy cut out back made of the finest French lace with custom beading and embroidery  – she specifically requested for it to sparkle at her candle lit back during the black tie dinner!”

How long does it take to make a celebrity wedding dress? “it can take years. One celebrity’s dress we have been working on for 2 years!  We are doing 3 dresses for her and all 8 of her bridesmaids dresses! If you can imagine all those bridesmaid fittings too (and they are mostly other celebrities in the wedding party) that is a lot of schedules to coordinate with countless trips around the country!” And budget? “Budget is not an issue. I would say anywhere from $12,000 to the sky’s the limit.”  And what’s popular right now amongst the A-list? “It’s Diamond White all the way.  It’s not white and it’s not ivory, the colour is amazing on almost every skin tone. The fabrics that are most in demand are silk tulles, silk organdie, silk organza, silk satin chiffon – anything that’s light and airy and frothy.”

So if YOU want to get married like a celebrity what do you do?  Project Catwalk judge and London based style expert Nick Ede has worked on several weddings and he advises: “Do something unusual: for instance have a gospel choir singing at the ceremony, create bespoke hand written invitations, and have a theme! Remember a celebrity wedding is always a huge affair.  Apart from the security which is always tight it’s the expense and ostentatious nature of these events that set them apart from the normal wedding. You want to step up the glam!”

By Ashley Pearson
[picture credits: Jenny Rollo; internets_dairy; Urban Mixer / Raj Taneja]
Ashley Pearson

Ashley Pearson began her career as a hard news journalist covering politics and international news at NBC in London. However she quickly realised that her passion was reporting on the lives and loves of the world’s most famous faces. Since then she has been spotted on the red carpet at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the Emmy Awards, and the Grammy Awards!

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2 Comments on Behind the scenes of a celebrity wedding

  1. who is carrie underwood marrying? he’s a pretty lucky guy!

  2. I really enjoyed this post. You describe this topic very well. Everyday across the world there are millions of flower arrangements gifted. For several occasion’s flowers are a splendid and thoughtful gift. Anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, graduations, congratulations, and to give thanks are only some of many reasons to give the gift of flowers. With all the flowers that are given everyday, few individuals actually know the symbolic meaning of each flower. Knowing the meaning behind a flower can magnify the significance of the gift tremendously. Whether needing to send a message to a loved one or a thank you gift, there are correct choices available in several fresh flowers. A florist is sure to know an proper flower to match any occasion. Flowers can speak volumes about the sender’s feelings. Those who make an effort to understand the meanings behind individual flowers and their colors will certainly be able to give a thoughtful bouquet to those they love.

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