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Bollywood couple Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor Image Credit: Supplied

The allure and appeal of star nuptials

Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Assistant Editor - Features

The world loves celebrity weddings. Brooklyn Beckham and Hollywood actress Nicola Peltz were married last week, and Bollywood stars Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt exchanged vows on Thursday. These are the latest in celebrity weddings, which are covered in minute detail worldwide.

Star weddings are intoxicating affairs where nothing is off-limits. Exotic locations, a guest list of stars and luminaries, designer dresses, dazzling jewellery, and the finest cuisine make for an enchanting experience. These are beyond the reach of ordinary folk. For them, it’s a fantasy come alive.

So when celebrities tie the knot, the world swoons and some of these ceremonies are elevated to epic proportions. What stokes the obsession with celebrity weddings? It is emblematic of a society that’s ‘desperate for joy and celebration’, according to media mavens, brand managers, and image consultants from India’s entertainment industry.

“We are now a society in desperate need for joy, and weddings have become this opportunity to celebrate, even if it’s a vicarious guilty pleasure,” Pritish Nandy, author, producer, and media maven, said in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.

Showbiz weddings are a byword for decadence, glossy wealth display and glamour. Whether it’s Hollywood dreamboat George Clooney marrying British lawyer Amal in a destination wedding at Lake Como in Italy or global power couple Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas tying their knot in a palatial hotel in Rajasthan, the interest in them peaks.

“Earlier, when you opened a newspaper, I used to find good news, bad news, arts, music, theatre. But now, all we have is news which is invariably about crime, lynching, or some horrid news. So today, there’s this desperate need for something to entertain us and celebrity weddings are now our answer,” Nandy said.

During the pandemic, weddings were scaled down, resulting in ‘revenge voyeurism’. Even if it’s an obscure star or a talent with fading bankability, the interest around their nuptials always soars. But the Ranbir-Alia wedding is on a different level.

“With Ranbir-Alia Bhatt wedding, we have a male actor who comes with the Kapoor dynasty name. Earlier, celebrity weddings used to happen in secret with a handful of people in attendance. Now the stars surround themselves with an entourage of sycophants, and the whole thing reeks of being this grand brand building exercise,” he added.

Shefali Munshi

A star wedding in any part of the globe has the power to transfix you and transport you to a fantastical world, according to Shefali Munshi, Dubai-based celebrity manager and former Director of Culture & Lifestyle for Expo 2020.

“Celebrity weddings are aspirational. Even if you don’t have access to it, you pick up fashion trends through guest watching. There’s so much interest that I have seen some clients offer tons of money to be a part of such weddings. Remember, these people are their biggest idols, and marriages give them a sense of access and familiarity. By watching them closely on their wedding day, you feel a sense of bonding with these elusive stars who live in a fishbowl,” said Munshi, who has handled the UAE visits of actors like Salman Khan, and Janhvi Kapoor, and Ranveer Singh in the UAE.

Image Credit: Seyyed Llata/Gulf News

Another popular theory on the fanatical interest in celebrity culture is that when people watch their favourite stars marry, it makes them ‘more human’.

Tehzeeb Ahmed

“You realise that they are normal people who fall in love off-screen. You are curious to see what they look like when they are naturally happy, and you also get to see their families’ reactions. Celebrity weddings help bring the person behind the screen one step closer to your world,” said Ahmed, an image consultant who runs the PR firm Buzzy Bee.

Ahmed, who also handles social media profiling of celebrities, admits to ‘celebrity wedding stalking’.

“My recent guilty pleasure was watching the famous ‘Crash Landing’ duo Bin Jin’s wedding. I find that social media only works to curry our excitement and curiosity … They are collectively aspirational, and watching them marry makes you feel one step closer to these big stars who are otherwise inaccessible and elusive,” she added.

What the wedding planners say

Anjana Kumar, Senior Reporter

Social status, culture, rituals and financial power drive celebrity weddings, say event planners in the UAE.

Menka Bhatia and Preeti Shahpuri

Dubai-based wedding planners Menka Bhatia and Preeti Shahpuri of Love said: “Weddings are not just a thing to celebrate. There are standards to be met when it comes to a wedding. For a celebrity wedding, more attention needs to be given to planning and delivery of everything from décor to hospitality. “Right from picking up guests from the airport to ensuring that gift hampers are delivered to the guests’ hotel rooms, celebrity weddings are larger than life and very detail-oriented,” she said.

Security is a key factor, Shahpuri added. “The guest list has to be scanned well and due checks made. We cannot have people gatecrashing.”

Bhatia said money is always a consideration. “Everyone comes with a budget for weddings. They may or may not share it with us. But the moment you step over the line — they say it is over our budget. Every wedding and every client is different. For some families, the personal touch with guests and family is critical; for others, it’s the food, or the venue, or the décor. It just varies.”

Olivier Dolz

French expat in Dubai Olivier Dolz said one of the takeaways in a big wedding is the pressure from social media. Dolz has been part of some mega-celebrity weddings, and the brief given to him in some cases went over the top. “One time, we had a wedding with 45 dancers who distributed [expensive] perfumes to over 600 guests. Another time guests were given a glass of bubbly with a diamond ring inside. It was quite crazy.”

Dubai is a city that spells excellence, and it spills into our guests’ needs when it comes to weddings. It is not just a social status that drives people to have a big wedding, it is also about culture.

- Russian expat Anna Grosova | Founder of Opulent events

Russian expat Anna Grosova, 40, founder of Opulent events, said she has been part of organising VIP weddings, and it has always been a great experience. “Dubai is a city that spells excellence, and it spills into our guests’ needs when it comes to weddings. It is not just a social status that drives people to have a big wedding, it is also about culture. For example, South Asians have large families and groups of friends. Naturally, they will plan a bigger wedding.”

It is not just about the status. Equal importance is given to the elaborate rituals

- Taher Warorawala | Partner at RGV Events & Weddings

Taher Warorawala, a partner at RGV Events & Weddings, said celebrity weddings are also about the culture and rituals. “It is not just about the status. Equal importance is given to the elaborate rituals,” he said, adding that no phones and non-disclosure agreements are a major part of it.

Comment: Why celebrity weddings are a rage?

Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Assistant Editor

George Clooney and his wife Amal Alamuddin in Venice.

Don’t ask me the name of Italy’s president in 2014, but quiz me about the designer that human rights lawyer Amal wore at her wedding with George Clooney in Lake Como that year, and I can tell you that it was that dreamy off-shoulder Oscar de la Renta gown. And that’s the allure of weddings of divinely beautiful stars. They sell a dream, and unsuspecting mortals like us with limited access to wealth and privilege want to buy into their dream. And our rabid fascination for celebrity culture and weddings will not fade.

Here’s the thing: there’s something magical when two famous figures in the world of entertainment unite. You have idolised them on the big screen, but seeing them married makes them seem more humane. And if they found love in the world of harsh online dating, then perhaps there’s hope for everyone.

For instance, I have scrutinised every move made by Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt in the last two weeks. Every nugget of information thrown in the media’s direction was lapped up. The social media feeds were filled with their courtship details, making them seem like one of us. Plus, weddings have natural feel-good frills attached to them.

Watching celebrities — who have everything under the sun — finding a special someone is weirdly heartening and comforting. And, let’s not forget the fashion element in all these weddings. Our eyes are glued to what the bride wears on her wedding day. They are invariably dreamy and expensive but watching them wear those glittering gowns and embellished skirts keeps you updated on the fashion front. The rich and the privileged lead a life that we can only dream of, and being a part of their momentous day makes you feel like you are one of them, even if momentarily. Celebrity weddings feed the voyeur in us, and something tells me that this global pastime is here to stay.

What expatriates in the UAE say

Anjana Kumar, Senior Reporter

Glamour is always an attraction. People love to read about over-the-top weddings or wedding of celebrities and important political heads. When it comes to opulent weddings, my personal take would be to keep the celebrations to the minimal. There are many hungry people in the world. I personally would put my savings to feed the hungry than spend it on a lavish wedding.

- American expat Steve Moore, 32, MC and sports announcer

If one has the financial capability to spend, then go ahead and spend it on that dream wedding. Weddings are always special in people’s lives. So you can live it up.

- Georgian expat Tamara King, 32, a beauty and photo model

In the case of celebrities, they feel obliged to do it in a big way as they feel they need to give it to their fans. There is a thin line they need to draw between what is obligatory as a public figure vs what is really personal and dear to them. Personally for me I don’t have the patience to sit and watch a lengthy wedding, whoever the celebrity maybe. Mine was a quiet one and I loved it that way.

- Polish expat Sandra Martinho, 46, homemaker

The glitz, glamour, fancy clothes and accessories all work for me. Personally my wedding will be a simple affair. But for those who have the clout, I would say go for it.

- Filipino expat Ryan Banks, architect

They [celebrities] owe it to their fans and people all over the world who do not get three straight meals a day. I would rather put that money on charity than spend it on a lavish wedding. Of course social status, peer pressure drives these weddings. One cannot help this.

- Sri Lankan expat Chanka Honemeyer, 60, homemaker

I love watching the big fat weddings. It is very exciting. Fashion and jewellery designers create masterpieces at such weddings. You learn about designers, their creations. The venue also is a major aspect of big weddings. One learns about new venues, destinations to host a wedding. They intriguing spots for travel. So am all for destination and celebrity weddings.

- Indian expat Sakina Feroz, 29, PR and events consultant

What the social media users say

Evangeline Elsa, Social Media Editor

Why are we obsessed with celebrity weddings? This is the question social media users seem to be asking today. Many observed that despite several pressing issues around the world, we seem to be very focused on how stars celebrate their wedding ceremonies. From what a celebrity bride wore, to which celebrity was invited, fans want to know everything. Here’s a look at what social media users discussed.

On Thursday, Bollywood actors Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt tied the knot. It soon became a trending topic on social media, to which tweep @sdp_singh asked: “Why are you wasting so much time on some celebrity’s wedding? There are more important things happening in India and the world.”

The recent wedding ceremony of David Beckham and Victoria Beckham’s eldest son Brooklyn Beckham was another widely discussed event this week. Twitter user @ElskeKevie25 posted: “Brooklyn Beckham’s OTT (over the top) wedding shows us everything that’s wrong with celebrity culture.”

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Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz got married on April 10. Image Credit: Insta/ brooklynbeckham

Another tweep @humaningsince00 wrote: “My trends look like oh there is … in the world, it’s a crisis, but hey, here are all the wedding updates of a celebrity couple, below which is the always trending boyband you love, and of course take this random sports news… haha. I cannot believe this is real.”

Indian tweep @majornirmal highlighted how people in India are so obsessed with celebrity weddings that many families end up spending too much money trying to follow suit. The user wrote: “Super rich celebrities conduct their wedding as a close knit event involving immediate family and close friends. Whereas the average middle income families in India take loan, exhaust all their savings to have an extravagant wedding only to add on to their miseries.”

@Intellctualmimi wrote: “The day isn’t far when celebrities will actually sell tickets for their wedding and monetise the whole ceremony. #RanbirAliaWedding”

Twitter user @MemeQueenOshin had an answer for the curious. She wrote: “Because, I like seeing wedding pictures. It’s so beautiful. Celebrity or anyone idc (I don’t care). I just love the pictures.”

Meanwhile, Facebook and Instagram this week have been flooded with photos of wedding pictures of Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz’s star-studded wedding as well as Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt’s wedding. The more private a wedding, the more curious people seemed.

Earlier this month, fans shared wedding photos of Korean TV actors Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin, who tied the knot on March 31. This week, a viral video showed how fans mobbed the couple at Los Angeles International Airport as they pushed their luggage through the terminal and while they waited for their ride. The K-drama darlings, who wed in a private ceremony, have taken two weeks off their busy schedules for their honeymoon.