Extreme Wedding Planning

From bridesmaid pre-nups, to custom-made dog tuxes, for some couples, ordinary nuptials just won’t do.

By Alicia Coffman

How much is too much when it comes to wedding extravagances? The bar seems to rise every year-fueled in part by detailed coverage of lavish celebrity nuptials. Seventeen million people watched the 2004 wedding of Trista and Ryan, the couple from ABC’s The Bachelorette. Trista wore $50,000 shoes encrusted with more than 200 diamonds. (No word on whether there were diamonds on the soles of her shoes.) This year, Mariah Carey out-jeweled Trista with a 17 carat diamond ring.

While not many people can afford double-digit carats on their hands, or their feet, some non-celebrity couples are giving the stars a run for their money. From having a dance choreographed to reflect the personality of the bride and groom, to spending $20,000 so that each guest can have their own tiny, tiered wedding cake, there doesn’t seem to be a limit to what a creative Bridezilla (or Groomzilla) can order up. Here are nine of the wildest wedding extravagances of the season.


1. Dancing with the Wedding Stars. For anyone who’s watched too much of the popular dance contest TV show, or thinks that a waltz just won’t cut it for that first dance, there’s an alternative. Hire a choreographer to create a dance designed to reflect your personality and that of your future spouse. And we’re not talking about a slow dance with a few dips. The most requested choreographed dances are up-beat with high kicks, shimmies and shakes. “A lot of people take slow-dance classes, but that only creates an awkward first dance that’s not about you,” says Gabriella Barnstone, co-founder of MatriMony Mony a New York City dance studio that has been creating wedding dances for the last five years. Barnstone says that in the last year, as word about the dances has spread, business has doubled. And while this is one of the few studios that specializes in wedding choreography, many dance studios will offer the service on request.


Barnstone and MatriMony Mony co-founder Emily Greenhill interview the bridal couple in a casual setting about their dislikes, how they met, and what their first song will be. They then use that information to create a dance. For example, Barnstone took note when Rachel Venokur and Christopher Clark, who were married June 1, told her that they loved the television show Will and Grace. The next thing the couple knew, they were channeling Karen’s trademark hip and arm swings to the beat of their “first dance” song choice “You’re My Best Friend,” by Queen. (Good thing their favorite show wasn’t ER.) The cost? For $1,500, the bride and groom get the choreography, one rehearsal, and a video of the session. Extra brush-up sessions are $500 an hour.


2. Bridesmaid Pre-Nuptial Agreement. Yes, you read that right. If having to squeeze into a puffy, unflattering horror of a dress wasn’t bad enough, now bridesmaids have another indignity to contend with. Some brides are so worried about the way their wedding party will look, they have a lawyer draw up a pre-nup that can include things like requiring that a bridesmaid not gain more than 7 pounds before the wedding, not consume too much alcohol at the reception, vow to take extra care of her skin and hair, and not to make any inappropriate advances toward male guests at the reception. [For a peek at a sample agreement, go to the American Bar Association Website).


Although brides who’ve used pre-nups were reluctant to go on the record for this story, several of them explained that the agreements were necessary to ensure that their day was perfect.


“People can have a contract for just about anything that’s not illegal,” says Randy Kessler, who teaches family law at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta. “This sort of document simply states that if the woman keeps the requests of the contract, she will be a bridesmaid. If not, she won’t. It’s not the craziest contract idea I’ve seen or heard of.”


If worded correctly and signed by both members, the contract, which can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 to draw up, could be used in court. For example, Kessler says, if a woman flew all the way to Hawaii for a wedding and didn’t end up being a bridesmaid because of a breach in her contract, and then she tried to sue the bride for the expenses of her flying to Hawaii, the contract could be used in court as proof that the bride had the right to take away the privilege of being a bridesmaid.


But Kessler cautions overzealous Brizezillas: “A wedding should be a happy time. And to be honest, getting lawyers involved always puts a damper on things.”


3. A Justin and Mallory Martini? It would seem that a drink is a drink, but in the wedding wars, nothing is simple. Couples can hire a “mixologist” to create a cocktail that reflects their spirit and the theme of the wedding. “When we come in we can create an atmosphere that completes the puzzle,” says Will Shine, co-director of Contemporary Cocktails in Manhattan. ” We provide beautiful, garnished cocktails with a class style that match the couple and the style of the wedding.”


4. Bar None. When an ice sculpture of a cherub or a flower basket doesn’t seem cool enough, couples can order up an entire bar made of ice. Without drinks, the cost is usually between $700-$1,000, says Anja Winikka, editor of TheKnot.com.


5. Let Them Each Eat Cake. The latest rage is to give each wedding guest their own cake. For a tiny, but intricately decorated three-tier cake, the cost can be about $100 a person. The math is easy to do, but hard to swallow: 200 guests equals $200,000. A simpler version will cost you as little as $15 per cake, says Cheryl Kleinman of Cheryl Kleinman Cakes in Brooklyn, NY.


6. Power Flowers. A few vases and bouquets can seem skimpy to some couples. Now brides are having walls built of woven flowers as backdrops for the ceremony. If the florist uses expensive flowers like roses and orchids, the cost can rise to $50,000.


7. Double Dressing. Some brides don’t just take off that detachable train for the reception, they change into another lavish gown. “More frequently than not brides are buying two dresses for their wedding,” says Mara Urshel, owner of Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City. “The price of the larger dress can be more than the second dress, but many times they are about the same.” The second dress is usually a sheath, short or tea-length gown or any A-line for the reception and dancing.


8. The Dog’s Day. Couples are paying the big bucks to have their dog dressed in the latest wedding couture-and that means tuxes and tiny dresses. “I have clothing for all events for dogs, but by far the most people buy clothing for their dogs to go to or be in weddings,” says Linda Beckemeyer founder of Doggie Clothesline last year. “Dog lovers consider their pets a part of the family, so it makes sense that they should look great for the big day, too,” she says.


While Beckemeyer’s off-the-rack dog outfits cost $40 or under, pet-owners can order up custom made canine formal wear. Using the extra yard of the fabric, some brides are having local tailors create a replica of a bridesmaid outfit or groomsman’s suit. This option is about $500 or more.


9. Fetch! It’d be a shame if a dog in a custom-made tux didn’t walk down the aisle too. And if Fido is the groom’s best friend, why not let him be the ring bearer? It’s the in thing. According to People magazine, when singer Ashlee Simpson married Pete Wentz in May, the groom’s English bulldog, Hemingway, served as the ringbearer. Wentz’s hound may have been a natural, but if you’re thinking of giving your dog an official function, you’ll probably need some help. And yes, there are dog trainers that specialize in weddings. Joe Orsino Jr. founded Wedding Dogs of Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania about four years ago after he included his own dogs in his wedding. “I started to realize that a lot of people wanted their dogs in their wedding, but weren’t sure how to get their dogs ready for it. That’s where I come in,” he says. “A dog can easily be trained to pose for pictures, be a ring bearer or flower girl, or whatever the bride and groom wants the dog to do.” The entire process, which usually takes about week, costs $1500 per dog and includes a video of the wedding.


Even for the less lavishly inclined bride and groom, getting married has a hefty price tag. The average cost of a wedding in the United States is more than $28,000, according to TheWeddingReport.com. And so far, wedding expenditures haven’t suffered despite the country’s economic troubles. “Nothing is recession proof, but wedding are recession resistant,” says Marcy Blum, who’s been a Manhattan wedding planner for more than 20 years. “People lately are definitely more conscious when they come to me, but in the final analysis they aren’t spending less.”