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The Times list of the most extravagant weddings

  • Posted On: 10th June 2013
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Liza Minnelli and David Gest (March 17, 2002)
Cost: £1.8 million

The Oscar-winning actress’ wedding was a real cabaret, with fleets of black limousines sweeping guests to the Marble Collegiate Church where Minnelli (56) and Gest (48) tied the knot in true Manhattan style. Gest, who compulsively collects memorabilia of Minnelli’s mother, Judy Garland, wed the actress in an extravagant ceremony orchestrated by world-famous wedding planner Preston Bailey. The wedding was attended by hordes of celebrities including Michael Jackson as best man and Elizabeth Taylor as maid of honour, who enjoyed a twelve-tier wedding cake and sixty-strong live orchestra. One bridesmaid described the event as “the night of 1,000 facelifts.”

2. Princess Elizabeth Windsor (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Prince Philip (November, 20 1947)
Cost: unknown
The magnificence of the royal wedding, with its Norman Hartnell dresses and nine 400lb wedding cakes, was frowned upon by some quarters in the frugal atmosphere of post-war Britain, although ingredients for the main cake were in fact a gift from the Australian Girl Guides association. For the rest, the splendour was a welcome break from the privations of a ration-book economy. Thousands turned out on to the streets to cheer for the princess and her new husband, who King George VI gifted with the titles Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich for the occasion. In the interests of economy, some officials proposed an elaborate fireworks display in order to make use of the “surplus explosive chemicals” left over from the war.

Times Archive, 1947: Marriage of Princess Elizabeth

3. David Beckham and Victoria Adams (July 4, 1999)
Cost: £500,000

The multi-millionaires lovingly known to the world as “Posh ‘n’ Becks” wed at Luttrelstown Castle in Ireland in a not-so-subtle statement on the coincidence of royalty and celebrity at the turn of the 21st century. Fireworks and white doves filled the sky as the newlyweds posed on a pair of magnificent velvet thrones, the bride wearing a large gold crown studded with diamonds. OK! Magazine bought exclusive rights to the Beckham wedding for £1 million, the largest sum ever offered for a celebrity wedding, kicking off a harrowing battle with their longstanding rivals, Hello!

4. Amit Bhatia and Vanisha Mittal (June 18-21, 2002)

Cost: £30 million

In the most expensive wedding festivities ever conducted, four days of lavish revelry marked the nuptials of banker Amit Bhatia and Vanisha, daughter of the steel magnate Laxmi Mittal. The engagement ceremony is said to have been the only public function ever held at the palace of Versailles, near Paris; later in the festivities, nightclubs were hired across the city and the couple starred in a specially written full-scale Bollywood musical version of their early relationship. Kylie Minogue was amongst the many performers. Thousands of guests, flown in from over the world, sipped cocktails after the Mehendi ceremony, where world-famous artist Ash Kumar designed an exclusive henna pattern to match the embroidery on the bride’s designer dress.

5. Donald Trump and Melania Knauss (Jan 22, 2005)
Cost: £900,000

Real-estate mogul Trump married his third wife, Slovenian model Melania Knauss, in a ceremony at Palm Beach. The wedding was designed to be “understated”, despite the bride’s £106,000 dress by John Galliano, which sported a 13-foot train and weighed an astonishing 50lb. Scores of rowdy onlookers gathered outside the reception desperate to spot celebrity guests such as Hilary Clinton, Tony Bennett and Billy Joel, who later serenaded the waiting crowds in an impromptu performance. ‘This is the closest you’ll get to a royal wedding in America,’ said one guest.

6. Barry Drewitt and Tony Barlow (July 1, 2006)
Cost: £800,000

Chemical research millionaires Drewitt and Barlow became the nation’s first openly gay surrogate parents after a five-year transatlantic battle, and were the first men to be recorded jointly as parents on a birth certificate. This extraordinary family does nothing by halves, and their wedding in Chelmsford, Essex was no exception. Daughter Saffron, five, who already owned 150 pairs of shoes and £200,000 worth of designer clothes and bags, chose a Christian Dior off-the-shoulder dress for the event. Her dad and daddy arrived at the ceremony in a pumpkin-shaped Cinderella-style glass carriage pulled by six plumed white horses, followed by stretch limousines worth half a million.

7. Nero and Pythagoras (c.AD 65)
Cost: 25,000 Denarii

In a fallow period between luckless wives, Emperor Nero married a young Greek slave-boy, Pythagoras, in a traditional Roman ceremony with rings and flame-coloured veil. The festivities were accompanied by Tiberian pleasure-boats stuffed with exotic animals, feasting, singing and “high-born” prostitutes. According to the historian Tacitus, the emperor took the woman’s part in the ceremonies.

8. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas (Nov 18, 2000)
Cost: £1.5 million

The actress, who was born on a housing estate in the Welsh village of Mumbles, married Hollywood leading man Douglas amid lush festivities at New York’s famous Plaza hotel. The aftermath of the wedding was even more fantastic than the celebrations themselves. Despite the high security, photographers from Hello! Magazine gatecrashed the event and took surreptitious pictures. Rival glossy OK! had already secured an exclusive photo deal. After a drawn-out civil court wrangle, OK! made legal history by successfully suing Hello! for £1million. Unlike the two embittered magazines, the Douglases continue to enjoy a functional relationship.

9. Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer (July 29, 1981)
Cost: undisclosed

A global audience of 750 million viewers tuned in to watch the heir to the British throne wed a blushing 20-year-old former children’s nanny – the largest viewing figures recorded in television history. The royal couple married in St Paul’s Cathedral, with Diana in a dress of antique lace with a 25ft train, as crowds of 60,000 flocked to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds on a one-off British national holiday. Stylishly flaunting royal protocol, the couple stole a kiss on the balcony – an image which remains iconic despite the shattering of this fairytale marriage over years of messy divorce, infidelity and tragedy.

10. Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLoughlin (June 14, 2008)
Cost: £5 million

Private jets flew the couple’s 64 guests to Portofino, where the England footballer and his childhood sweetheart were wed in an intimate Catholic ceremony in a 16th-century castle overlooking the Italian Riviera. The bride wore a handmade, £200,000 full-length Marchesa gown embellished with pearls and crystals, with a 25ft train. Afterward the wedding, guests were ferried to 24-hour party on a multi-storey, multi-million pound super yacht complete with solid gold fittings and a helicopter pad. The couple also dished out £400,000 for an exclusive performance by Colleen’s favourite pop group, Westlife.

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