As June approaches, it's not just wedding bells that are ringing — but cash registers, too.
Weddings are big business. According to Bride's magazine and the Condé Nast Bridal Group Wedding Survey, weddings (which also include the cost of a dress and the honeymoon) are a $120 billion industry in the United States — a figure comparable to the revenue of Coca-Cola , Microsoft, American Express, McDonald'sand Motorola combined — and the average cost of a wedding is $22,360.
Typically, after purchasing a home and paying for college, it is the biggest payout made by most American families. So when people get ready to splash out, they want it to be special. And in our celebrity-obsessed culture, many brides want their special day to emulate those of their favorite celebrities.
"I always keep an eye out for where the celebrities are going for when I talk to my clients," says Valerie Wilson, a travel consultant and author of Valerie Wilson's World: The Top Hotels and Resorts. "People think, 'Well, if it's good enough for Cindy Crawford or Madonna, it's good enough for me.' "
Taking Vows at Paradise Island
Travel consultants, like clothing designers, are keenly aware of the power of celebrity attachment. Like designers who scramble to dress stars for the Oscars because of the exposure it will garner, travel consultants often name-drop when selling a resort.
"People are still talking about Cindy Crawford's wedding," says Russell Miller, general manager of the Ocean Club Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas where Crawford and her husband, nightclub owner Rande Gerber, were married in 1998. "It definitely helped raise our visibility."
"Any time you have a highly public, high-profile wedding take place somewhere, it cements it as a place where travelers want to go," says Elizabeth Borsting, author of Celebrity Weddings & Honeymoon Getaways.
The place where the rich and famous decide to get hitched is guaranteed a flood of publicity and thousands of press mentions. That's the kind of publicity that advertising dollars — and brochures — can never buy.
Little Known Locations Become Hot
The power of celebrity also extends to churches and synagogues.
New York-based wedding consultant Marcy Blum says very few people had ever heard of the Angel Orensanz Foundation until actress Sarah Jessica Parker married Matthew Broderick in an historic former synagogue on the Lower East Side. "Now it's used for events and weddings all the time," she says.
Resorts such as Manele Bay Hotel in Lanai, Hawaii, where both Bill Gates and Michelle Pfeiffer were married, insist they do not seek a celebrity clientele. "We do a lot of celebrity weddings because we're known for being exclusive and private," says the resort's director of sales, Todd Winston.
He says guests constantly bring up the Gates wedding. "It really surprises me, but then again, he is the richest man in the world," says Winston. "People always want to know where he got married on the property and where he held his reception."
Tie to Destination Wedding Trend
Mille Martini Bratten, the editor-in-chief of Bride's magazine, says a celebrity wedding often brings visibility to a resort that people may otherwise have never heard of.
It also fits in with the trend of destination weddings. "A lot more resorts are hiring wedding coordinators and relaxing their residency requirements to make it more appealing as a wedding destination."
But after, say, the Madonna and Ritchie clan have all packed up and left Skibo, how long does the after-wedding buzz last? "You're only good until the next big celebrity wedding comes along," says Borsting.
In the case of Skibo, they're still riding high on buzz because Ashley Judd was married there last year, and supermodel Claudia Schiffer is rumored to be eyeing it for her upcoming nuptials.
Blum says only a handful of her clients cite a celebrity wedding as an inspiration. "My clients will only mention it if the photos of the place happen to look very good," she says. "But that's always the work of the wedding planner." Of course.
Here are profiles of some celebrity weddings:
Jennifer Aniston & Brad PittThey may be one of the most attractive couples in Hollywood, but together they're known as the Pitts. Aniston and Pitt were married in July 2000, at the (rented) Malibu estate of Marcy Carsey, producer of Roseanne and The Cosby Show. The wedding was estimated to have cost about $1 million — which is what Aniston earns per episode of Friends. The price isn't a problem for Pitt either, who earned $23.8 million last year for starring in such movies as Ocean's 11 and Spy Game. It seems that a good portion of the $1 million went to flowers (over 50,000) and security. The couple worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to have an on-site inspector in case the airspace above the estate became crowded with helicopters. Friends Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer attended, as well as Salma Hayek, Edward Norton and Cameron Diaz.
Madonna & Guy Ritchie Madonna's first wedding, to actor Sean Penn, was nearly drowned out by the sound of airplanes and helicopters buzzing overhead. Her second marriage, to Snatch director Guy Ritchie, was a more sedate affair. The couple chose to get married at Scotland's Skibo Castle, which was once owned by Andrew Carnegie. As with everything Madonna does, the event was carefully orchestrated to cultivate her image; this time, the image was of a proper wife. The 42-year-old pop singer wore a dress by Stella McCartney (daughter of Paul), and Gwyneth Paltrow was a bridesmaid. Madonna wore a 37-carat diamond cross necklace and an Edwardian tiara. Madonna and Ritchie spent an estimated $2.1 million — $293,000 on champagne, $58,000 on flights and $219,000 to rent out the castle's 47 rooms for guests. Security was very tight, and not one wedding photo of the couple was released to the public. Skibo, located in the town of Dornach, received an avalanche of publicity from the Material Mom's marriage. Dornach's provost, the newly media savvy Duncan Allan, told the Aberdeen Press and Journal, "Local government is just beginning to appreciate that there is more to tourism than writing brochures." The Rev. Susan Brown, who performed the wedding ceremony, presented the couple with her usual gift to newlyweds: a twin pack of toilet paper, because they are "strong and long" as a marriage should be.
Cindy Crawford & Rande GerberFor supermodel Cindy Crawford's first wedding to actor Richard Gere, the couple chose to get hitched in Las Vegas, with impromptu wedding bands made out of tin foil. Crawford upgraded significantly for her June 1998 wedding to nightclub owner Rande Gerber, which was held at the Ocean Club Resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas. To ensure privacy, the couple bought out the entire 70-room resort. Crawford even paid for 20 people who were already staying at the resort to move to another hotel for two nights. Rates start at $720 a night, and the couple is estimated to have spent $160,000 for the weekend wedding. They can afford it. Crawford earned $6.3 million last year from her deals with Omega and Dannon.
Catherine Zeta-Jones & Michael Douglas When Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones was planning her wedding to Michael Douglas, she told reporters she wanted "a simple, down-home affair." The result? A $1.5 million wedding at The Plaza in New York on Nov. 18, 2000. In a move that Gordon Gekko would have approved of, the couple sold the exclusive photo rights to the British magazine OK! for $1.4 million. Zeta-Jones brought in a 40-member Welsh choir, 20,000 cream-colored roses and imported her family and friends from her hometown of Mumbles, Wales. Guests included Martha Stewart, Kofi Anan, Anthony Hopkins and, of course, Spartacus himself, Kirk Douglas. Melissa Rivers, Eddie Murphy and Donald Trump (for marriage number two, to Marla Maples) were all married at the Plaza as well. Of that group, only Murphy's marriage is still intact.
Carolyn Bessette & John F. Kennedy Jr. Very few people had heard of Cumberland Island, or designer Narciso Rodriguez, before the 1996 wedding of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette. Kennedy chose the small island off the coast of Georgia because he had been vacationing there for years — and it was difficult to reach. To ensure privacy, Kennedy hired a 50-member security team for about $250,000 that coordinated with state troopers, the police and the National Park Service five days prior to the wedding. Beaches and marinas within a 15-mile radius of Cumberland Island were also patrolled, and all boats headed for the island were turned away. The couple was married at the First African Baptist Church, an eight-pew structure with peeling paint, a sagging ceiling and no electricity. The church can only be reached via a 14-mile trek from the Sea Camp Campground at the south end of the island. Plum Orchard, a 101-year-old mansion built by the Carnegie family, is nearby as well as the Greyfield Inn, where the Kennedys held their reception.
Andrea Mitchell & Alan GreenspanOne merger that didn't require stockholder's approval was the April 1997 marriage of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan to NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell. The D.C. power couple had dated for 12 years before Greenspan popped the question on Christmas Day. They met in 1983 when Mitchell interviewed him about the future of Social Security, and Greenspan asked her out two days later. Who knew Social Security could be so sexy? The couple was married at the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va., a Relais & Chateaux property in the Blue Ridge Mountains. (Rooms start around $350.) Guests included Barbara Walters, Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va. and Henry Kissinger. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiated at the ceremony.
Juanita Vanoy & Michael Jordan Following in the tradition of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Mickey Rooney, NBA superstar Michael Jordan and then-girlfriend Juanita Vanoy picked Sin City for their nuptials. The couple decided to get hitched at 3:30 A.M. on Sept. 2, 1989 at the Little White Chapel. Vanoy had spent much of the previous year deciding whether to file a paternity suit against Jordan when he finally agreed to get married — she already had a 10-month-old son by him. A year and a half later the pair signed a post-nuptial agreement. After 12 years of marriage, Juanita Jordan filed for divorce, but later withdrew it, and the couple is currently attempting reconciliation.
Melinda French & Bill Gates When Bill Gates and his fiancée, Melinda French, got married in 1994, he was only the second-richest man in the United States — at the time, he was worth only $7 billion. Last year Forbes' list of the world's billionaires pegged his fortune at a much more impressive $52.8 billion. (In 1994, Warren Buffett was first, with a fortune of more than $8 billion.) Still, it's more than enough for the Gates to get married in secluded splendor. They chose the Manele Bay Hotel in Lanai, Hawaii, as the site of their nuptials. Gates bought all 250 rooms at the hotel — including his own $1,300-a-night suite — to insure total privacy, booked all helicopter services on Maui to prevent photographers from renting them and even hired his own security team. The Gates were married on New Year's Day on the resort's golf course, and Willie Nelson later entertained guests. Three other members of the Forbes billionaires list were in attendance: Buffett, Gates' Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Gates' best man, Steve Ballmer, who is now CEO of Microsoft.
Ellen Barkin & Ronald Perelman In June 2000, billionaire Revlon CEO Ronald Perelman married for the fourth time — to actress Ellen Barkin in a traditional Jewish ceremony. Perelman walked to the Fifth Avenue Synagogue from his townhouse a block away. Barkin, recently divorced from actor Gabriel Byrne, wore a floral suit. The 45 guests included director Penny Marshall and Trudie Styler, wife of rock musician Sting, as well as Byrne. Patricia Duff, Perelman's third wife, sent him a wedding day message via her divorce lawyer. "Ms. Duff hopes Ms. Barkin never experiences the pain and suffering she has suffered," said Duff's attorney. Considering how poorly Revlon stock has performed this year, Perelman better he doesn't have to pay more alimony in the future.
Wendi Deng & Rupert Murdoch News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch doesn't waste time. Just 17 days after his divorce from Anna, his second wife, the 68-year-old media titan married 32 year-old Wendi Deng, a former TV executive. The couple was married on Murdoch's 155-foot yacht, The Morning Glory, off of Manhattan's Chelsea Piers. Murdoch sported a dark blue suit and Deng wore an ivory-colored dress — and no shoes. New York State Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Silberman officiated while fireworks exploded in the harbor. In attendance were Michael Milken and Russian entrepreneur Boris Berezovksy. Welsh singing prodigy Charlotte Church performed. Deng, a Yale graduate, was a junior executive at News Corp.'s Star TV in Hong Kong when she met Murdoch. The couple had their first child last year.
Laura Steinberg & John Tisch Saul Steinberg, once a Master of the Universe in the 1980s when he was at the helm of Reliance Insurance, was known for his over-the-top entertaining style. But even by the standards of that indulgent period, the wedding of his daughter, Laura, was over the top. In April 1988, in a match made in corporate heaven, Laura Steinberg, a Warner Bros. story analyst, married Jonathan Tisch, son of Loews President Preston Tisch and nephew of then-CBS President Lawrence A. Tisch, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Temple of Dendur. Brass palm fronds from the Steinbergs' art collection were trucked into Manhattan's Central Synagogue to form a canopy for the couple. The Dendur reception featured a Brazilian band on stilts, snow blowers sending thousands of feathers into the air and gold-tipped magnolia leaves. Circus of Ambition author John Taylor called the wedding "a bellowing declaration of wealth from individuals unfettered by the guilt that so often inhibits the anxious wretches who have inherited their money." Arnold Scaasi designed the wedding dress, and guests such as Barbara Walters, Vernon Jordan and Donald Trump sipped Chateau Latour at dinner. Renting the Temple of Dendur back then cost $25,000. The entire wedding cost $3 million — the equivalent of $4.4 million today. The marriage, like Steinberg's fortune, didn't last. Reliance filed for bankruptcy in June 2001, a year after Steinberg was forced to sell his fabled art collection and sell his duplex apartment on Park Avenue in Manhattan.
For more, go to Forbes.com..