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Celebrity Weddings 2014: Costly and Captivating

What little restraint that remained, post-recession, over the scope and price of celebrity weddings suddenly vanished on May 24, as Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, in a Givenchy gown, took to the stage at the 16th-century Forte di Belvedere in Florence, Italy, for a wedding that by some estimates cost upward of $12 million. Then again, in show business, demonstrating a lack of restraint is hardly a sin.

Not to be outdone (in abundant style, if not in dollars) was the wedding of the actor George Clooney and the lawyer Amal Alamuddin, in an Oscar de la Renta dress, on Sept. 27, which unfolded at the Amal Canal Grande, a former Venetian palazzo. It was a union that played out on a global scale as a flotilla of paparazzi bobbed along the Grand Canal as they sought to capture glimpses of the couple, their party and guests.

Not far behind as attention grabbers were the singer Solange Knowles and the video producer Alan Ferguson, who were joined in the presence of the bride’s sister Beyoncé and her husband, Jay Z, on Nov. 15 at the Marigny Opera House in New Orleans. The scene stealer there was the bride, who wore a caped white Humberto Leon for Kenzo gown that set what will perhaps become a new fashion trend.

Sure, Katie Couric and John Molner, who were wed before 50 guests on June 21 at the East Hampton, N.Y., home of Ms. Couric, (who wore a dress by Carmen Marc Valvo) managed to make their event a modest one. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, after years of tabloid speculation, were married in a low-key yet high-style manner (she wore an Atelier Versace gown) on Aug. 23, with their six children and fewer than two dozen guests participating at Château Miraval in Correns, France. The Aug. 2 marriage of Cheryl Hines and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., at the home of the groom’s mother, Ethel Kennedy, in Hyannis Port, Mass., was somewhat more reserved, but had sufficient verve to hint that the “Camelot” of the J.F.K. era is gone but not forgotten.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West leaving their residence in Paris, a day before their wedding on May, 24. Credit Kenzo Tribouillard/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Others, like Scarlett Johansson and Romain Dauriac, who were married Oct. 1 in Philipsburg, Mont.; Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, married Sept. 6 in Italy; and the actress Jodie Foster and the actress and photographer Alexandra Hedison, who were married in April, chose to keep their plans a secret until after their ceremonies.

Still, when it came to the weddings of the conspicuous and outright famous, many went for over the top instead of merely memorable. Nothing less than a 20,000-square-foot ersatz castle with a moat would do for the wedding of Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat guard, and the actress Gabrielle Union, who were married in a black-and-white themed event on Aug. 31 at the Chateau Artisan in Miami.

Gay weddings in 2014 were no less lavish. Nick Denton, the mogul behind Gawker and other sites, had his can-you-top-this moment when he married his partner, Derrence Washington, on May 31 in a ceremony and party for more than 300 guests at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where friends of the couple read from Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” and Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Nate Berkus, the interior designer and television host, and Jeremiah Brent, who also owns an interior decorating firm, chose the New York Public Library main branch for their May 3 wedding, with Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray among their 220 guests.

Along the way, the musician Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and the model Behati Prinsloo had a wedding ceremony in front of 300 guests on July 19 at Flora Farms in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with the actor Jonah Hill leading the event. Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, stars of the New York City Ballet, were married June 22 at the General Theological Seminary in New York — just one of three couples from the company who have married this year.


On Sept. 6., Neil Patrick Harris married his partner David Burtka in Italy. Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The actress Patina Miller (“Pippin,” “Hunger Games”) was married on June 14 to David Mars at the Foundry in Long Island City, Queens. And Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, co-stars of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” in which they play Snow White and Prince Charming, were wed on April 12 in Venice, Calif.

But was this mood to spend trickling down? According to Shawn Rabideau, a New York events planner: “Brides and grooms are still cautious. They are reserved with their planning, and then in the end if there’s a cushion they may spend it. These are brides and grooms that saw their parents go through some tough times in 2008 and 2009 and thus we are finding their spending habits are a bit more selective.”

The buzz at weddings in 2014 wasn’t only about who was walking the aisle and at what cost. The presence of camera-laden drones made news when a United States congressman, Sean Patrick Maloney, used one in an effort to capture aerial images of his June 21 marriage to Randy Florke, a home renovator and decorator, in Cold Spring. N.Y. After the multi-rotor device had loudly zoomed over the assembled crowd, it dawned on a political opponent of Mr. Maloney’s that the presence of this device, typically used for surveillance, may have violated the rules of the Federal Aviation Administration — an agency governed, in part, by the Congressional committee on which Mr. Maloney sits.

Others, who were marrying in Colorado and Washington State, where marijuana had been legalized for sale and consumption, decided to openly smoke it at their receptions. A guest at one such wedding — one whose design had come not from the pages of a glossy weddings magazine but from High Times — was startled to find a gift bag containing a joint, a lighter and cannabis-infused lip balm. Marijuana use at weddings is “out of the closet now,” Kelli Bielema of Shindig Events in Seattle told The Times in July.

In sum, 2014 was not only a time for some to financially exhale, but to unabashedly inhale, as well.

A version of this article appears in print on December 14, 2014, on page ST29 of the New York edition with the headline: Caught Up in Their Love Affairs.

Why Wedding Dress Shopping is so Horrible

By Alyssa Rosenberg November 4 at 1:45 PM

Every person who decides to have a wedding has his or her own encounters with the irrationalities and unfairness of the various industries dedicated to selling expensive white dresses, arranging flowers, catering dinners and selling monogrammed paper napkins and fans. When my colleague Catherine Rampell was a reporter at the New York Times, she launched an economics-minded investigation and concluded that “Bridezillas keep prices high for the rest of us,” their convictions that their marriages cannot be legal without Mason jars or Vera Wang dresses eliminating price elasticity and transparency.

We cannot all have Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, but we definitely deserve a better shopping experience. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

For me, the part of wedding planning that has made me feel most like an insane person (thus far) is shopping for a wedding dress. Even if you do not buy the idea that a wedding dress is the most important piece of clothing a woman will ever purchase, it is certainly likely to be among the most expensive. So why is every facet of the traditional wedding dress shopping process set up to make it incredibly difficult for women to make the decisions that are right for them?

Some of the ways in which wedding dress shopping is different from other retail experiences are petty. Certain salons, though not all of them, ban shoppers from taking pictures of themselves in dresses. I suppose I understand why an industry that sells extremely expensive, single-use items with a value that is hugely dependent on perception and sentiment would do this. If I were a bridal designer or retailer, I would be terrified that my potential clients were going to take pictures of my wares and combine practicality with fluttery feelings by asking a seamstress to recreate a dress at a more sensible price point.

But in more consequential ways, bridal retailers often seem to fail at being, well, retailers. I had two appointments with traditional bridal salons earlier this year. And while both had carpeted private changing rooms with boxes for me to stand on so I could pretend I was wearing high heels, and both had saleswomen assigned to me, neither store had the actual dresses I visited them to look at.

On the first trip, I made an appointment at a trunk show (for the uninitiated, an event where designers who do not normally stock their wares in stores bring samples to different cities) at a bridal salon that is part of a larger Washington clothing store. When I made the appointment, I asked specifically about trying on a certain design and was assured it would be available.

But when I showed up and stripped down to my Spanx, the designer’s representative told me that the dress was not available for sale anymore. Which would have been awesome to know before I stuck it on a Pinterest board, much less took off from work early and planned an additional trip to New York to try to track it down.

I tried another traditional bridal salon in Virginia on the strength of the pitch on its Web site: the store is the only local retailer that stocks a couple of brands of dresses that caught my eye. Only, when we got there, the saleswoman tartly informed me that they did not have a single dress from one designer in stock and that they only had a few by the others. Maybe, she suggested, I could come back in a few months when they got the new line in.

This lack of transparency — and why not be honest? — and concern for customers is not just a waste of our time and research energy. It is in direct contradiction with the idea that a wedding dress is important and special.

Apparently, when we show up with pages ripped out of bridal magazines and carefully curated Pin boards, we then are supposed to abandon all of our preferences and research and just fall in love with something else. This is your very special day! But your opinions do not really matter, and because you are a woman, you can be distracted by something else! Wheeee! Cosmos for everyone!

The best wedding dress shopping experiences I had occurred in more-crowded dressing rooms, where I had to share mirrors with other women who are getting married, and my friends had to wait for their entourages to vacate the few available seats. Unlike their snazzier counterparts, J.Crew and Anthropologie — which are relatively new entrants in the wedding dress game — sell dresses at price points that feel only marginally rather than seriously deranged. And when you go to their stores, they actually have the dresses that appear on their Web sites available for you to try on.

When H&M debuted a wedding line that consists of a single $99 dress earlier this year, Caitlin Dewey wrote that the offering “promotes — on a massive, mainstream scale — values that run opposite absolutely everything the wedding industry stands for. H&M is essentially telling brides that what they wear on their wedding day has no bearing on how much they love their spouse-to-be.”

Or maybe it is telling them that no matter what they spend, they deserve clarity about the potential selection and a decent return for what they are willing to shell out. It says a lot about the wedding industry’s failures that this still feels like a radical idea.

Alyssa Rosenberg blogs about pop culture for The Washington Post's Opinions section.