‘She wanted to enter on a trapeze’: Inside the secretive, dramatic world of celebrity wedding planning
The roses weren’t white enough. The guest list looked like a murder scene. Meghan and Harry hadn’t been invited quickly enough. These are the complaints typed by actor and billionaire’s daughter Nicola Peltz when organising her wedding to fellow nepo baby Brooklyn Beckham. It took place at the £76m Peltz family home in Palm Beach, Florida, last April, with the pair married in front of an audience of VIP guests: Mel B, Serena Williams and Gordon Ramsay, to name a few. Snoop Dogg performed a DJ set. Bill Clinton’s personal chef Thierry Isambert catered. The whole thing reportedly cost $3.5m (£2.85m).
It’s not all flowers and confetti, though. Peltz hired and fired two different sets of wedding planners in the process. To add to the chaos, it came to light this week that Peltz’s father Nelson is suing the former wedding planners, Nicole Braghin and Arianna Grijalba, for allegedly refusing to return a $159,000 deposit at the beginning of the month. Their company, Plan Design Events, attempted to salvage the wedding six weeks prior to the nuptials after the initial planners left the project. They have now counter-sued Peltz and the rest of his family for $49,000 for breach of contract and “interference”, through a 188-page lawsuit. Braghin and Grijalba claim that Nelson Peltz wanted to cancel the entire wedding because it was “a s*** show,” but Claudia (Nicola’s mother) had allegedly “begged Nelson not to cancel the wedding because it would ‘destroy Nicola’s career’”.
It’s clear that the rich and famous will gladly blow the cost of a small island on their nuptials, but for such an apparently happy day, why does it sound so traumatic for everyone involved?
Marcy Blum has been in the event industry for 37 years, and is regularly named the top event planner in the world. I pepper her with gossipy questions about the weddings she’s planned. Who shouts at who? Who’s been jilted at the altar? What’s been the wildest demand made by a couple? But she won’t tell me, and she’s reluctant to say much at all. I don’t blame her – Blum’s clients have included LeBron James, Billy Joel, Salman Rushdie and Kevin Bacon. On a client’s wedding day, Blum watches every dish leave the kitchen. She’s there watching the drinks being served. She sends the couple down the aisle. She tells me that the most expensive wedding she’s organised was priced within the “several million” dollar range.
“The couple isn’t happy until the guests are happy,” she says. “You don’t want to disappoint them.” There’s clearly a lot of reputation and money at stake. She assures me that celebrity and high-profile clients are “usually” a delight to work with, adding that the Peltz-Beckham saga is an “anomaly”.
Leading event planner David Tutera, though, says otherwise. He has written eight books inspired by his career. “Billionaire B****s” is the title of a chapter in his new book, Journey to Joy: A Boy Unveiled, which recounts scenarios with some of his most testing clients. “It’s the world of celebrities and prestigious people,” he says. “They have no parameters. They have no filter.” He spills stories about fake rabbis, dramatic entrances and groom meltdowns. It all sounds romcom-worthy.
Think of that peer pressure! Instagram, Pinterest – no wonder brides lose it
One bride told Tutera she wanted to arrive at her wedding suspended in a trapeze. She had picked a venue in New York City with 70-foot ceilings. “As opposed to using her feet, she wanted to enter the room lowered down on a trapeze,” he tells me. “She thought she was Pink. No joke.” Tutera says that her dress was so huge that it wouldn’t have been physically “safe”. Instead of denying her this theatrical moment, Tutera told her to sign up for trapeze lessons. “I said ‘you go and learn, and when it comes to your wedding day, and you want to get lowered down from 70 feet above, we will make that happen’,” he recalls, politely yet firmly. “I knew that when she’d show up at her wedding, there was no way she would go up that high.”
In another outrageous demand, Tutera was asked to literally fake a ceremony. After it transpired that the groom was in fact still married to his ex, the father of the bride requested Tutera find an actor who could play the role of the rabbi. “He said to me ‘No, we’re not cancelling this wedding, I paid for it.’ So it was a fake ceremony,” Tutera tells me. “After the party is over, they went their separate ways and split up,” he laughs.
At this point, I realise that a huge part of Tutera’s job is convincing excessively wealthy people not to embarrass themselves in front of everyone they know. “We get ridiculous demands,” he says. “And often I have to have a conversation with the client and say, first of all, this is unsafe, or this is not [going to be] a reality.” He’s typically asked to be more than just a wedding planner, too. “I become a mediator, a referee, a magician, a best friend. And the last thing I am is the planner and the designer.” Who are you refereeing, I ask? “All of them, the bride, the groom, the mother, the bridesmaids,” he says. “You always have to feel like you’re ready to battle.”
Mark Niemierko, a British wedding planner who designed James Corden and Julia Carey’s wedding, thinks that his clientele have been “more sane” than the Bridezillas and obsessive mothers of the brides we hear about in popular culture. But that doesn’t mean his clients won’t go to extreme lengths to have a standout wedding. He’s hired dogs to give an English venue more of a “country vibe”. One bride even asked to arrive at the ceremony in a helicopter… even though she was already at the venue. Another time a British Pullman train was hired to transport the guests to the hotel.
He says that Disney has a lot to answer for when it comes to unachievable fantasy weddings. Niemierko has previously called Beckham and Peltz “privileged egomaniacs” for their wedding demands, but he does sympathise with the desire to have perfect nuptials. “You can say what you want about Nicola, but I can understand where that stress comes from,” he says. “When you’re three and you’re watching Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and you dream of your wedding day… And think [of] that peer pressure! Instagram, Pinterest – no wonder brides lose it.”
Granted: Peltz doesn’t come across well in the counter lawsuit. A slew of passive-aggressive, Wagatha Christie-style WhatsApp messages populate the lawsuit documents, such as Peltz objecting to the floral arrangements not being white enough, or when she demands IN CAPITALS to see the invite list. To top it off, Grijalba and Braghin have accused Nelson of “acting like a billionaire bully” after they asked why they’d been fired. But if anything it is proof that some high-profile weddings aren’t particularly about love but rather business: how you’re seen, who you’re seen with, and how much money it’ll take to get what you want and fast. Everything else is irrelevant.