Wedding planners to the stars — and the very wealthy — dish on the most over-the-top demands their well-to-do clients have made, including securing a bird as a ring bearer.
Alexandra Lee Nurthen
Celebrity wedding planner David Tutera had just put the finishing touches on an elegant Manhattan celebration at Gotham Hall several years ago.
He had auditioned and hired the violinists, sourced hundreds of Swarovski crystals and candelabras for the tablescape, and dressed a towering chuppah with thousands of white rose petals.
Then, the day before the wedding, the high-society Manhattan bride dropped a bombshell: The groom was still married. Could Tutera find a fake rabbi to perform the ceremony?
The bride’s father, who was footing the bill, was flatly refusing to be publicly humiliated by the shocking news — and so they had a fake wedding.
“I had to get him dressed, so he looked the part. It was a fast and furious casting call. He had to read the prayers and get the hell out of there before anyone could tell it was fake,” the Los Angeles-based Tutera recalled of the high six-figure affair.
Los Angeles-based wedding planner Kristin Banta was tasked with finding half-naked angels serving edible “clouds” during one whimsical wedding party. Blake Gardner
In-demand planner David Tutera has seen it all in his line of work.Courtesy of David Tutera
“It was a circus,” Tutera said of shelling out thousands of dollars of his client’s money to salvage the whirlwind event.
When celebrities and 1-percenters tie the knot, wedding planners often work overtime with a limitless budget — and find themselves trying to avoid stepping on landmines when they can’t make magic happen for clients who aren’t accustomed to being told no.
Such was the case with heiress Nicola Peltz, who tied the knot last spring with Brooklyn Beckham — son of soccer star David and fashion designer Victoria — at a star-filled Palm Beach, Florida, affair. The final bill was estimated to be about $3 million. Serena and Venus Williams and Eva Longoria attended.
In the wake of the big day, however, lay utter carnage, according to court filings in a lawsuit from put-upon planners Nicole Braghin and Arianna Grijalba, and a seemingly petty countersuit from the bride’s billionaire dad, Nelson Peltz, who wants his $159,000 deposit back — after tasking the duo with rescuing the shambles of an event just six weeks before the big day.
The whole affair wound up so chaotic, Nelson is said to have wanted to call off the wedding, calling the event a “s – – t show.”
Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz tied the knot last April in Palm Beach. The final bill was estimated to be about $3 million.
The Beckham wedding appeared to be a nightmare for wedding planners suing the Peltz family. The bride’s billionaire dad, Nelson Peltz, wants his $159,000 deposit back after tasking the wedding planners with rescuing the shambles of an event just six weeks before the big day.brooklynpeltzbeckham/Instagram
Tutera said that while billionaires may have money to throw around to pay for pop star performances, canopies made from cherry blossoms and multiple custom Versace dresses, as Peltz demanded, it can often lead to headaches and pure chaos when it comes to actually getting the job done.
“Three decades of doing this, and I always say I think I’ve seen it all, and the answer is, no,” Tutera told The Post.
Sometimes, he can’t pull rabbits out of hats — but he’ll always try.
“My reply always to my clients is never ‘no’ — it’s, ‘Lets take a look at what’s possible and let’s redefine what’s possible based on what you want to spend on these crazy requests,’ ” he said.
A view from outside of the Palm Beach wedding of Beckham and Peltz held last April. The event was fraught with problems — to the point where billionaire dad Nelson Peltz wanted to cancel the event.Backgrid/Mega / BACKGRID
Grand entrances are usually where some of the most eyebrow-raising delusions of grandeur come in, Tutera said, recalling a time when a Manhattan socialite bride marrying a real estate mogul wanted to walk down the aisle with a leashed tiger at Cipriani 42nd Street.
“I said, ‘OK, we’ll look into this.’ And, obviously, that’s not going to happen, because we can’t control the tiger,” Tutera said.
In another instance, Tutera found himself having to do backflips to convince an Armenian bride that it wasn’t a good idea to enter her wedding ceremony with several hundred guests at Cipriani Downtown in SoHo from an 70-foot-high trapeze.
“I said, ‘I don’t know if this is a great idea, because you’re wearing a ball gown. Are you part of a circus? I don’t think so.’ ”
“Three decades of doing this, and I always say I think I’ve seen it all, and the answer is, no,” Tutera told The Post. Courtesy of David Tutera
A lavish reception room designed by celebrity wedding planner David Tutera’s event-planning team.Courtesy of David Tutera
Tutera made a deal with his client — if she took lessons at a trapeze school in Chelsea, she could potentially swing it.
“She took classes, and the day of the wedding, she went up there in her dress and she didn’t do it. She freaked out. She spent a fortune on the logistics, the permitting, the trapeze classes,” he said, noting, “I try to tell people it’s a bad idea, but they don’t listen.”
In another instance, Tutera said he found himself having to secure extra security for a former “The View” co-host’s 2004 nuptials at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Midtown when she spilled the beans on air where her ceremony was to be held.
“She announced the day of her wedding, the time of her wedding, the location — I looked at her, I was like, ‘I can’t believe what you just created for all us.’ We had just a couple of days. She wanted a grand entrance, a really grand entrance, like she was the queen of England,” he said.
“We had to secure the NYPD. We had to secure a secondary security company to shut down Park Avenue for a series of streets, because now we had a traffic issue,” Tutera, who typically plans weddings in the high six and seven figures, recalled. “What she wanted, she got.”
Kristin Banta, creative director at her namesake Los Angeles event-planning and design firm, whose soirées are typically priced in the six figures, sometimes seven, has been asked to request everything from half-naked angels atop golden ladders serving guests below edible cotton-candy clouds, to a dragon (a costumed human walking around on stilts) spitting out fake flames, and a live hawk ring bearer.
“All of which we made happen,” she told The Post.
Tutera’s grand entrances for brides and grooms have featured everything from a trapeze attempt to a white horse gracing the streets of Beverly Hills, California, to musical acts.Courtesy of David Tutera
“The goal is to somehow find ways in which to keep the event luxe while adding these quirky requests so that they are simply a wink to those in attendance,” Banta said, noting that she has had to turn down some requests to ensure the safety of guests.
Those instances have included asks for firing up paper lanterns in the middle of the woods, flaming cocktails and a particularly enthusiastic hora in an 18th-century room with 8-foot-high ceilings.
Tutera was once tasked with constructing an elephant-shaped floral arrangement.Courtesy of David Tutera
“It’s honestly more comfortable working with a hawk ring bearer or a couple wanting to enter on elephants than an untrained dog or infant carrying a diamond ring down the aisle — or anything on fire, in general,” she said of having to reign-in overzealous asks.
“Our intention is to ensure each wedding looks completely different, that each is relevant to the couple and that we keep it classy and [devoid] of tigers.”
Meanwhile, despite Tutera’s years of experience, many of his clients simply won’t be told what to do.
He recalled one instance when he advised a deep-pocketed chiropractor client — who was unusually intent on having Tutera call him “doctor” — not to sing at his daughter’s Hamptons wedding affair in 2018.
He also told the father to spend a few thousand dollars on a backup generator, in case the power went out. Both pieces of advice were ignored.
“He didn’t listen to me, of course. Karma came in and we lost power right at the point where he picked up the mic,” Tutera said, thankfully, noting the Frank Sinatra ballad that the doting dad had chosen to belt out went unheard.
The icing on the cake, says Tutera: The doctor knew he had nobody to blame but himself.