Suspension of disbelief is the philosophy that movies are made of; it invites us to believe that we might fall in love with an operating system, that time travel is possible, that the wildest coincidences can change lives all over the place. For the most part, we go with it. Except for all the moments that we don’t, because that would never happen.
Wedding movies consistently push those boundaries. The movie 27 Dresses wants us to believe that a person could be a bridesmaid in two weddings in the same day, could zip between venues and dresses without anyone noticing. Bride Wars suggests a public school teacher could afford a couture gown. Bridesmaids (a funnier and better wedding film than most, IMHO), offers a moat, a light show, and a surprise appearance by Wilson Philips. You know, standard wedding stuff… for the movies.
This phenomenon of wild mistruths needed further study. I started asking around and made an impressive list of wedding movies to scrutinize, you know, for science. And I wrangled my own wedding planner, Renée Dalo of Moxie Bright Events, to help me.
What did I learn? Well, it seems everyone has a different place where the line crosses into silly, and skepticism creeps in. I am wildly annoyed that all of the guests in Notting Hill are wearing outfits of the same color palette. Renée love-hates The Wedding Planner (of course!) for all sorts of unrealistic costs and hijinks; Jennifer Lopez could not just walk off during the last big wedding, nonchalantly handing her headset over to the assistant! Disney’s The Little Mermaid was mentioned more than once; people are very dubious of Eric and Ariel’s relationship, the mermaid guests, and King Triton’s rainbow. Sample question: “Who pays for it?! Do mermaids even have money?!”
After our binge watch, I started to feel cynical and sad about my suspension of disbelief, like missing my childhood faith in Santa Claus (see above photo for visual representation of my mood). I mean, why are we thinking about how mermaids pay for wedding cakes, anyway? Then I remembered why I care: this is how we learn what weddings are “supposed” to look like! The Wedding Industry Complex feeds on the fantasies we’re told from a young age, and movie weddings feed off the WIC’s ideal of bottomless budgets.
Real world weddings can absolutely be elaborate, but they don’t need to be. That message gets lost in the layers of couture dresses, candle-lit chandeliers, and Wilson Philips concerts. Mermaids notwithstanding, wedding movies suggest to us that they represent reality. Without a diverse representation of weddings and budgets (and cultures), we learn to expect a status quo that is unfair and unrealistic for many—if not most—people.
With that in mind, we tried to pull some films apart and figure out exactly what felt like the most unrealistic—sometimes offensively so—weddings. Many, many movies were suggested, but the list below is the five most mentioned, most loved, most questionable, most ridiculous weddings we found from the silver screen.
The wedding in this movie is one of the opening scenes, and it doesn’t show us much. In fact, the few shots we see of the reception are of a fairly modest affair. It’s the last moments of the ceremony that has everyone talking. Overall, there are a lot of questions, even for a scene people love more than hate. How much does a surprise choir cost? And would it have been more valuable to pay for a videographer instead of having their friend film it with his handheld camcorder that he waves around willy-nilly all the time? Were those musicians all friends of the bride and groom, or did everyone ignore the twenty or so strangers holding instruments in the congregation throughout the ceremony? As unrealistic surprises go, it’s lovely, but also, who risks a surprise at a wedding? What if the couple hates it?
Steel Magnolias, is I’m pretty sure just everyone’s favorite movie wedding to love and laugh (and then cry) about. Even if you do believe that blush and bashful are two different shades of pink… that is a lot of draped bunting. Renée pointed out that the famous red velvet armadillo cake would cost upwards of $600 to have made in Los Angeles these days, and it’s not even the (lavish) main cake.
Aesthetically, if any wedding inspired my own dreams before I was engaged and actually planning a wedding, Rachel’s colorful bohemian multi-cultural wedding is it. Watching it with an eye for planning and budget and time-line, though? It’s like the plan for the three-day affair was to say “yes” to every single idea, and that concept seems exhausting and pricey (no wonder there is family drama). The rehearsal dinner features at least thirteen speeches. The ceremony and reception exist in the house, the entire backyard, and inside a huge tent. Individually, strings of colored bistro lights aren’t expensive, nor are paper lanterns, necessarily. But it doesn’t stop there. Paper streamers and banners span the wraparound porch. Every surface is covered in flowers of all types—tropical, native, green, colorful, lilies, and carnations. In some locations there are just buckets of flowers, as if they ran out of ideas of where to put them. Fresh orange carnations hang from beams, and the groom and his groomsmen wear luscious carnation leis. I know that the filmmakers are a part of a large musical community, including the band TV on The Radio (band member Tunde Adebumpe plays the role of groom Sidney), but I’m not sure even the most musical group of people in the world could have as many consecutive musical acts in a single evening. I counted at least six different groups, bands, trios, DJs, or sessions, not including the Brazilian Samba dancers who arrive accompanied by a huge group of percussionists. Another note: there is no discussion in the film about the extensive multi-cultural elements of the wedding, so I have trouble determining what is appropriate celebration of the actual cultures present, and what is appropriation in the name of diversity—is it all beautiful or offensive? I don’t know.
Okay, so everyone knows that the entire Sex and the City world is built on disbelief. For years we accepted, with a grain of Carrie that these four women could live in their gorgeous Manhattan apartments and afford all those pricey shoes, and they had jobs, sure, but they also had a lot of time for lunch? Nonetheless, Stan and Anthony’s wedding in the beginning of SATC2 is so ornate that the writers had to work in lines about it, “Well you dropped quite a bundle.” This wedding is where I really put Renee’s skills as a planner to work with her experience and a calculator. Stanford’s black-tie bundle includes: Connecticut inn destination ($40,000 including catering), swans ($8,000), a crystal theme that includes a five-layer cake with suspended tiers ($1,000), chandeliers everywhere, a gay men’s chorus ($5,000) with a full string orchestra ($3,500), a live band for the reception ($15,000 including the horn section), a full bar ($7,000) towering center pieces and… and… Liza Minnelli as the officiant (note: in real life Liza Minnelli charges $100,000 for an appearance). Now double all those numbers, because everything in Connecticut is twice as expensive.
Father of the Bride wins for the most oh, come on moments and details of any other movie wedding on my long list. The difference between SATC2’s wedding and this wedding is that Father of the Bride presents characters who are supposed to be a regular middle class family (okay, upper-middle class). I am totally willing to accept that Martin Short the wedding planner would not have arranged for valets, and so two ten-year-old boys take on the task and drive cars all over the front lawn. Fine, okay. But they expect me to accept that a church would allow lit, tall taper candelabras on every pew for the ceremony (floral work including candelabras: $15,000)?! Swans in the front lawn, maybe ($8,000). Coordination staff using electric hair dryers to thaw out the tulips ($150 per staff person), nope nope nope. The gorgeous tented backyard ($5,000), the chandeliers ($8,000 in lighting), the centerpieces (a second round of $15,000 floral costs), full live band with a piano and horn section (minimum $3,000), the draped and twisting and roped rose garlands everywhere, the ice sculptures ($3000 each)! Top all of that with the frustrating sequence when Steve Martin cannot reach his daughter for a dance… it’s all just too much.
Which movie wedding do you think is the most ridiculous? are you fighting against anyone’s expectations (cough, maybe your parents?) that movie weddings represent “the norm?” Which ones do you shamelessly love?