Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"For Richer, For Richer"

Would you would spend 1.25 million bucks on a single event that will take a year to plan and offer a mere six hours of enjoyment?

Would you shell out:
  • $12,500 for a cake?
  • $100,000 for a dinner for 150 people?
  • $60,000 for music?
  • $45,000 for posies flown in from Thailand, Ecuador, Israel and Holland?
  • How about $47,000 for the venue,
  • $15,000 for lighting and another
  • 15K for table linens?
  • $135,000 for jewelry.........
  • or $18,000 for a dress -- no, wait -- that's $18,000 for the first dress and $5,000 for a dress to be worn later.
It's conspicuous consumption raised to an absurd level -- it's WEtv's "Platinum Weddings." Their website boasts: "No wish is too extravagant for these blushing brides. Platinum Weddings brings you the breathtaking design and irresistible romance of these over the top weddings."

These aren't the weddings of Hollywood superstars or uber-rich ball players. These are, for the most part, perky little Barbies with very wealthy families who either can't tell Barbie NO or don't mind that they're spending more in one day than most of us will have for our retirements. The brides' occupations range from former NFL cheerleader to student to national sales manager, and the majority of the weddings are bankrolled by the bride's mommy and daddy, as tradition dictates.

In the website's current episode profiles, the wedding budgets range from a paltry $150,000 (the cheapskates) to well over $1,250,000, with most of the events costing around $500,000. A four-day Indian celebration understandably topped the list, but still their single actual wedding day's budget was $300,000.

The show is filmed as a glamorous documentary, with snippets of commentary by the wedding planner, bride, groom and check writer. The most often heard phrase (besides "I want") is "fairy tale wedding," with "I feel just like a princess" running second, "the wow factor" coming in third, and "something different that our guests will always remember" trailing the pack as Miss Congeniality.

The all-American super-rich girl's wedding is apparently a pocket of our culture not yet conquered by the feministas -- "princess for six hours" can't be the 21st century archetype for the women's movement, can it? When planning their dream day, it certainly looks like Walt Disney's Princesses have made more of an impact on young womanhood than Steinem's gang.

My first wedding (no guests) cost about $35 and was memorable for the groom's unzipped fly and the fact that his best man was a woman. Both my sons had fairly large but tightly-budgeted weddings, and my financial responsibilities as mother of the grooms were minimal, thank God. I know what small, medium and large weddings usually cost (the current average in the US ranges between $19,000-50,000) -- but these Platinum Weddings have overshot that mark by a factor of ten.

Each hubba hubba Platinum Wedding's design is conceived and coordinated by at least one wedding planner -- sometimes two or three working in concert to cover various aspects of the day. According to online research, wedding planners charge either an hourly rate, a flat fee or a percentage (10-20%) of the total cost of the event. I'd bet my cake top mouldering in my freezer that these planners are working on the percentage. Even as math challenged as I am, it looks like they're banking 150-200K from this one precious couple alone.

The actual marriage ceremony seems almost like an afterthought, except, of course, for the dramatic entry by horse and carriage, helicopter or golf cart. By far, the bulk of the day's expense is for the reception -- which will include a cocktail hour (often 100K) and an "after party" for the younger crowd to get down and boogie. Signature cocktails, martini luges and gourmet food are all expected, of course, with the demise of hundreds of lobsters, shrimp and various ages of cow.

The events truly are lavishly, stunningly beautiful -- but the sheer excess of each and every choice (and there are thousands of "choices" to be made) seems inordinately extravagant when you consider it's all over in incredibly short time. Wait -- that's what they pay the photographer and videographer $60,000 for, isn't it... to record every minute of the brief afternoon or evening.

To be honest, I love this ultra-girlie show. It's fun to see the exotic flower arrangements, the designer gowns, the sugar-sculptured cakes, the transformation of a ho-hum venue into fairyland, and it's easy to believe in "happily ever after" when your send-off is a million-dollar party. These weddings dump a whole buncha money into the local economy, and that's always a good thing. Even though the old saying "if you've got it, flaunt it" seems to be each bride's family's mantra, they all look as though they're having one helluva good time. At least I HOPE they're having a good time, at that price.

One thing I did notice, though... each Platinum bride just happens to be well-educated, thin and beautiful -- as well as rich. These must be the primary requirements for becoming a million-dollar princess for a day. Their chubbier, less attractive, far less affluent Springeresque sisters (and their tobacco-chewin', pickup-truck drivin', morbidly obese grooms) are featured on another WEtv show -- Bridezillas! You're on your own to research and review this one... it's way too much for me!


Anonymous said...

I am snorting....the unzipped fly says it all. A close kin to mine where he skiied all day, got blasted in the back seat of the car on the trip down the mountain,
got married by a little kid who we called Jimmy Joe Jeter (from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman)and wish I could have used the youth of the "minister" to get me out from under him, and the marriage, when he fell asleep on top of me.

Thanks for telling me about this. I shall avoid at all costs.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, someone seriously put down $45,000 for
wedding flowers?!

That's insane, it's almost like buying a pricey new car, but I guess the lifestyle of the rich and famous is utterly lopsided than what the real world can afford.

Just For Fun (with a guaranteed smile)