There's lots to consider when planning a wedding: dresses, cakes, bands, halls...all of which can add up to a hefty bill for the parents of the bride (or, in some cultures, the groom). But perhaps those bellyaching about the substantial hit their bank account is about to take should pause to consider some of history's most outrageously lavish weddings. Suddenly dropping a few grand on a one-wear gown doesn't seem so bad, does it?
1. Attila the Hun and Ildico (453 CE)
Attila the Hun, perennial barbarian bad boy, was apparently also a perennial playboy. Leader of the Huns, Attila somehow found time to marry 12 women and father an unknown number of children. Never able to quite get enough, Attila still might have wanted to hold off on the last wife. On his last wedding night, in 453 CE, the royalty of every nation under Hun dominion, from the Rhine to the Volga, were in attendance, and thousands of gallons of booze and whole herds of sheep were brought in to slake their appetites. No ordinary nuptials, the drinking and feasting were to last for days, but on the morning after taking his 16-year-old bride to bed, the 50-something warlord was found dead. Whether his death was caused by poison, overdrinking, or just too much fun in the sack, the world will probably never know.
2. Margaret of York and Charles the Bold (1468)
Despite the protests of France's Louis XI, who was fearful of an alliance between the English and the Burgundians, Margaret of York was engaged to Charles the Bold, aka the duke of Burgundy. And in spite of the king's objection, the crazy cats decided to go forth with said ceremony and party like it was 1469. Extravagant even by the standards of European royal weddings, the blessed event was accompanied by a tournament in which the most famous knights in Europe bludgeoned one another for days. And Margaret's crown, covered in pearls and diamonds, was so valuable that it's now on display in the treasury of Aachen Cathedral. Of course, the pre-ceremony celebrations were equally grand. The nuptials themselves were preceded by parades through the streets of Bruges, a pageant reenacted every year during (coincidentally enough) the tourist season. Sadly, Margaret's subsequent life was a little less like a fairy tale: she lived to see the death of her husband in battle (1477) against the French and the overthrow of both Burgundy as an independent duchy (1482) and of her own family across the Channel (1485).
3. Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly (1956)
Billed as "the wedding of the century," the union between the prince of Monaco (whose family is actually descended from Genoese pirates) and the Hollywood star was the talk of the civilized world for much of the mid-1950s. Rainier gave his bride a 10-carat diamond ring, and his subjects gave their new princess diamond earrings and a necklace to match and, for no particular reason, a Rolls-Royce. Of course, the gown was no joke, either, as Grace's dress was designed by an Oscar winner, Helen Rose. The couple had two wedding ceremonies "“ a private civil ceremony in the Riviera principality's throne room and a public religious ceremony in Monaco Cathedral. Over 600 of the world's rich and famous attended the reception, including Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, and Ava Gardner. Tragically, Princess Grace was killed in 1982 in a car accident. Interestingly, commemorative U.S. postage stamps were issued in her honor, but they gave her name only as "Grace Kelly." Why? Because U.S. law bans the placement of foreign monarchs on its postage stamps.
4. Muhammad and Salama of Dubai (1981)
Things can be rough when you're constantly trying to "keep up with the Joneses," or the Hamids, as the case may be. Arab weddings are often such bank-breakers that Arab economists frequently bemoan the size and expense that have become culturally expected. But that didn't stop Rashid bin Sayid al-Maktoum, sheikh of Dubai, in planning his son Muhammad's 1981 wedding to Princess Salama. Lasting a mere seven days (seven!), the wedding was held in a stadium built expressly to host the festivities. Twenty thousand guests attended, and the bill came in at just over $44 million.
5. The Mittal Affair (2004)
In possibly the most luxurious wedding in history, Vanisha Mittal, daughter of Anglo-Indian steel tycoon Laxmi Mittal, married Amit Bhatia, an investment banker who literally cashed in. The wedding, held in June 2004 in a chateau in France, lasted six days and was reported to have cost over $90 million (yes, that's U.S. dollars). The guest roster included some of Bollywood's brightest stars and some of Europe's deepest pockets. Among the expenditures: $520,000 for a performance by pop diva Kylie Minogue, who performed for a half hour. That's almost $300 per second.
[Those first five were excerpted from our book, mental_floss presents: Forbidden Knowledge.]
Four More Elaborate Weddings We Did Not Attend
• Prince Charles & Diana Spencer: On July 29, 1981, over 600,000 people packed the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the new royal couple. According to the BBC, "The bride's nerves showed briefly when she mixed up the Prince's names "“ calling him Philip Charles Arthur George, rather than Charles Philip. Charles, 32, in the full dress uniform of a naval commander, slightly muddled his vows too, referring to "thy goods" rather than "my worldly goods." We should forgive their nervousness. The wedding was seen by over 750 million viewers worldwide, making it the most-watched program in history.
• Star Jones & Al Reynolds. In 2004, the former View co-host set (unofficial) records in both the shameless wedding product placement and bridezilla categories. Jones shilled for several companies in exchange for free stuff, including invitations, bridesmaids' gowns and tuxedos. Continental was the official wedding of the Jones-Reynolds nuptials. After the ceremony, Star scolded her co-hosts on air: "I could not believe that my cohost [Joy Behar], not only did she bring a camera, but had the audacity to pull it out to take my picture."
• Paul McCartney & Heather Mills. In 2002, the former Beatle married model-turned-activist Heather Mills in Monaghan, Ireland. The ceremony featured the song "Heather," written by McCartney for his new bride. The Indian-themed party featured dancers in authentic Indian dress, fireworks and a vegetarian feast. The estimated cost was $3 million. Far more expensive: not signing a pre-nup beforehand.
• Liza Minnelli & David Gest. Forbes rated this couple's $3.5 million bash the most expensive celebrity wedding. The ceremony featured Best Man Michael Jackson, Maid of Honor Elizabeth Taylor, and a performance by Tony Bennett. From Forbes: "Guests feasted on a 12-tier wedding cake and received personalized favors encased in satin candy boxes embossed 'Liza and David 4 Ever.' (The pair divorced the next year.)"
We also didn't attend any of the elaborate White House weddings, famous TV weddings, memorable movie weddings or the "November Rain" ceremony, which we still don't understand. (It's been 15 years -- has anyone figured out what that video means yet?) But as we mentioned last Wednesday, this is the wedding we most regret missing.