As the barely audible houseman poured the Ott at the home of my friend Charles-in-Charge Card, the tech lothario, I saw something that resembled an 18th-century vellum-bound book resting on the thick slab of his white marble kitchen island.
“Are you catching up on your Shakespeare or is that an invitation from Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen?” I raised an eyebrow.
“It’s so and so’s son’s wedding invitation,” he stated, mentioning a filthy rich Greenwich financier who is central casting for the show Billions.
“Word has it they rented a famous castle in Scotland [not real location], and it’s a weeklong extravaganza—a hunt, fly fishing and then the main event, the wedding.”
“Why Scotland?” I probed.
“The mother of the bride said she wanted a Balmoral theme.” He shrugged.
“How appropriate for a recently minted Queen…from Queens.” I chortled. “Is that a newly invented family crest I see?” I walked over and fingered the wax seal emblazoned below the return address.
“It looks pretty realistic.” He shrugged and downed a glass of 1942 as one of his model girlfriends walked into the kitchen in a thong and a wife beater, not caring who was observing her backside.
“A crest for Sir Henry of Hedge, by way of the Belt Parkway.” I laughed. “Who is the son marrying?”
“Not exactly Pippa Middleton but the mother of the groom had her PR person fabricate a family tree for her soon to be daughter-in-law. She hails from South Orange New Jersey and now finds herself a descendant of William of Orange, hence the Scottish theme.” He laughed out loud.
“Are you going to attend?”
“Honestly, I have no idea why I was invited. I barely know him and have never met the son but my motto is ‘if they’re paying, I’m going.’ ” He casually mentioned the fleet of rented aircraft and Range Rovers transporting guests to this fully paid Scottish vacation/destination wedding.
“There’s only one problem…”
He had the server open another skyscraper of tequila.
“I’m not sure I feel comfortable wearing a kilt. Do you wear boxers, briefs or go commando?”
“I think commando,” I suggested. “But how would I know? No one really wore kilts in the Five Towns.”
Every girl dreams of being a princess on her wedding day, and now that it’s May, matrimonial fever is clogging the air like pollen in a Hoover hose.
Word has it that even Prince Harry had to negotiate his girlfriend Meghan Markel’s attendance at the Middleton/Matthew nuptials with the “no ring, no bring” policy. Some have suggested Pippa didn’t want to be upstaged at her wedding, although no one can argue she didn’t do a bad job of it at her own sisters wedding wearing the now-iconic form-fitting dress that showed off the semi-royal Hein—ass.
And while there’s looking like a princess, it’s quite another thing to act like one or actually think you can act like one. Flush with cash, a new class of 1-percenters are now making a statement and a splash with notorious nuptials that are meant to fulfill fantasies and cement one’s status. It’s not enough to have a hotel or country club wedding anymore. And the attending behavior is worthy of the kind of intrigue and extravagance that has led to revolutions. Let them eat cake…a 10-tiered Sylvia Weinstock, bien sur.
It was a Saturday night country club event when Dana and I bumped into Patty the Party Planner and her mother, the Mama Rose of Weddings (did anyone say Melissa and Harriette Rose Katz of Gourmet Advisory?) at the sushi station. We air-kissed and hugged. Patty Planner had recently done a big party for us to perfection, and we all caught up.
“I’m doing a piece on weddings,” I mentioned. “Can I ask you both a few questions?” I seized the moment as well as the sushi. They nodded yes as I bathed the tuna roll in soy and wasabi.
“How much is a standard over the top wedding today?” I asked.
“I would say in the city half a million for a hotel wedding and $750,000 to $1 million or more for a museum or special destination wedding,” Patty reflected.
“Why so much?”
“Well, take a museum venue…unions require a certain amount of money and then some of the rooms are so vast they need extra lighting, sound design and interior design to make it personal.”
“Do you think it’s money well spent?”
“I think every woman deserves to feel like a Princess on her wedding day,” Mama Rose declared twirling a gum-ball sized diamond.
“Any over the top royal moments?” I had to ask.
“It’s not that I personally like horses, carriages or unicorns but if someone has that fantasy it’s their day. Although I have seen a resurgence in long trains and tiaras.”
“Who gets the most carried away?”
“People are getting married a bit older today and they tend to want more of a say in arrangements. They are on social media, doing a lot of research,” Patty offered.
“The 19-year-olds became the 25-year-old brides,” Mama Rose observed. “And young people today are so much more into good food and wine. There’s a new interest in beautiful and delicious food—farm-to-table etc.”
“Do you see over the top behavior?”
“When the parents plan the wedding you see more of the Princess behavior.”
“Weddings are a celebration of the joys of life, love, family, friendship. A good one should make you feel like you know the couple, their wishes and creativity, their hopes and dreams for the future.”
“What has changed over the years?” I asked.
“One thing that has not changed is that people go all out for weddings. Only today there’s more money and more competition to do something unique. There are so many parties and the bar is much higher,” Mama Rose said.
“Any good over the top anecdotes?” I asked.
“I have to be discreet,” Patty paused “ but I can say there was this one bride who had a destination wedding and she only started getting dressed when everyone was seated for the ceremony.” She grimaced.
“You mean she wanted to make a grand entrance?”
“Or keep people waiting for an hour.”
“What was the reaction?”
“People were livid. Then again earlier that day when she was having her manicure she insisted the monogram on the cocktail napkins weren’t perfectly centered and we had to bring over a ruler and measure it for her to show her it was equidistant and an optical illusion.”
“Was it a great party?”
“It was gorgeous…but they were divorced three months later.”
“Were you surprised?”
“Are you?” She raised an eyebrow.
While catching up with my own best man at Fig and Olive on 52nd street, I brought up the subject of this very article. It seems between the two of us we have been invited to five to 10 European weddings and events this summer. Best man and the woman I call Second Wife had one of the original destination weddings (where I was his Best Man), over 20 years ago in Venice, which was featured in The New York Times.
“What do you make of all these over the top weddings?” I asked.
“Well, it makes sense given there has been more money made in the last 20 years than in centuries and there are fewer outlets to express your wealth.”
“After all,” he smirked, “you can’t fit 1000 people on your G5.” He speared a marinated fig in his salad.
“So you think all these extravaganzas make sense?”
“The other way to look at it is that it’s for happy things. After all, you might as well spend on the wedding. By the time you go to the funeral it’s too late.”
“Planning a wedding is like a year-long, five-star vacation from reality,” Fat-herr of the Bride remarked downing a tumbler of scotch at a private club that discourages press mentions.
“First of all you want to make your Princess happy and if she’s marrying someone you like, then there’s a tendency to go all out. Especially since I had an only child. Honestly, there’s also the relief that someone is taking her off your hands financially after all the bills and drama.” He clinked glasses and winked.
“Why is it a vacation from reality?” I probed.
“It’s a great tonic and something fun to look forward to. It starts with the engagement—i.e., will he (or she) ask, how will he do it? Then the ring. How big, what shape, the setting discussions…Then it’s setting a date, picking the venue, the dress, the invitations, the tastings, the flowers, the bridesmaid dresses, presents…It’s one big decision after another and it becomes all-consuming in the home. And then it becomes about a party planner, a caterer. You can literally spend every conversation on it. And things start to take a back seat…work related stresses or health issues. It’s what every one is looking forward to.”
“And the budget?”
“It’s the one time in your life when you don’t mind going over. You splurge on the more expensive dress for her because it looks the best, you enlarge the guest list so it looks like a great party, all to make them happy.”
“So you think it was money well spent?”
“Giving your daughter a fairy tale wedding and her Princess turn is amazing. Plus your wife or ex-wife gets her moment; picking out her gown, her jewels. It literally becomes an obsession.”
“So why is that a good thing?”
“You’ll see when the time comes. For one thing, I didn’t have to make conversation for almost an entire year. All I had to do was listen and write out the checks. It was the perfect way to end the day.” He nodded.
“And then what happened when it was all over?”
“It was very depressing. Then you spend three months talking about how great it was looking at the video. But it’s a huge letdown.” He shrugged.
“So what are you doing now?”
“I’m letting my wife plan my next big birthday so she has something to do.”
“Where is that going to be?”
“I’m not sure…but the bigger and more complicated it is the better it will be. I just want to sit back and let them all talk about food tasting and flower arrangements. Life was so much easer then.” He sighed as he ordered another scotch. “I wish I had another daughter just so we could plan another wedding.” The alcohol was clearly talking.
It was a Thursday night and and I was showing the caterer where we kept the serving platters, when I came across our wedding album stashed on a lower shelf. I hadn’t seen it in a while and decided to take a gander. Could we ever have been that young and naïve? My 12-year-old daughter happened by and became intrigued. “You really looked like that, wore that?” she said in disbelief at my white tie and tails and Dana’s Audrey Hepburn-style gown, long white gloves, her hair upswept into a French knot.
“Where did you get married?” she asked.
“The St. Regis rooftop. I thought it was very fancy,” I replied.
“Who’s that?” She looked at the photo of an aged woman being helped down the aisle by a nurse.
“That’s your Great Grandmother, Rose. She was 107 at the time.”
“Wow, that’s super old.”
“Yes, she lived in three centuries and saw it all.”
“Did she like the wedding?”
“She was thrilled to see her granddaughter getting married in style. She came over to the United States from Europe before the War…World War ONE!”
“Did you have giveaways?”
“People didn’t do that then.. but we had soufflés for dessert which was a nice touch. I explicitly told the party planner I did not want an ice sculpture because I thought it would be tacky. And then during the cocktail hour I saw a huge ice sculpture of a D and R intertwined with a dove in the library. I almost fainted.” I laughed at the memory.
“Why did they do that?”
“Your mother surprised me,” she said. “How can we be from Long Island and get married and not have pigs in blankets and an ice sculpture?”
She said it would have been sacrilegious. People like her grandmother would have been disappointed if it wasn’t there—the way you always want a fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant and get upset when the restaurant thinks it’s too fancy to serve them”
“Were you mad?” she asked looking at the photo of the monumental ice sculpture.
“Your mother taught me a great lesson…you have to be true to yourself.”
“That’s what’s great about mom.”
“Why do you think I married her. And do you know what?”
“What?” she asked.
“You can have all this fancy stuff, but, the lesson is always be true to yourself, who you are and where you come from. Remember Princess…at the end of the day there’s nothing like a good old pig in a blanket!”