The 1981 nuptials of Prince Charles and Lady Diana cost a staggering sum.
The most extravagant weddingsPrince William's wedding is expected to rank among the most expensive of modern times. These are the A-list blowouts it will be judged against.
When it comes to getting married, the rich are really no different than you or me: They want to have weddings to remember. Their financial firepower just gives them more ways to pump up the drama than the average U.S. bride and groom with a $24,000 budget.
Rather than a simple spray of white roses, Donald Trump wed Melania Knauss amid 10,000 roses, peonies and hydrangeas. Where the more common man might have had Uncle Tony's son's garage band play at the reception, Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise had Andrea Bocelli.
When Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the heir to the throne in Dubai, married Princess Salama in 1981, his proud parents built a 20,000-seat stadium for the week-long celebration, the most expensive wedding on record at $100 million in today's dollars. The sheikh visited every town in the emirate by horseback during that week, and fed them all. During the ceremony, wedding gifts for his bride were delivered by 20 bejeweled camels.
When Indian steel barron Lakshmi Mittal married off his daughter Vanisha in 2005, the family sent out 20-page invitations contained in silver boxes. Mittal paid for 1,000 guests to stay for five days in five-star Paris hotels. The reception was held at the Palace of Versailles and concluded with a celebratory fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower. Total cost: $60 million, the third most expensive wedding of modern times by our estimation.
Across the channel, the British royal family has been no stranger to opulent nuptials. When Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, the fairy-tale wedding, complete with horse, carriage and a worldwide TV audience of 750 million, had a price tag to match: an estimated $70 million in today's dollars, No. 2 on our list, with Diana's ivory silk gown alone believed to have cost more than $15,000.
[ Related: Who is paying for Will and Kate's big day? ]Prince William and fiancee Kate Middleton will reportedly take a more low-key approach to their big day, opting to arrive in a car rather than the traditional horse-drawn carriage. Despite the nod to more austere times, the estimates are still staggering. Reports suggest the wedding could top $30 million.
Perhaps the propensity for all of us, rich and not-so-rich, to go over the top for our wedding is an attempt to make sure we're serious about our mate on the first go-round. An opulent service, with vows made in front of hundreds, can place an obligation on the bride and groom to work through rough patches rather than toss it all aside at the first hint of rough water.
[ Photos: The world's most eligible royals ]But no amount of glitz and expensive pageantry offers any guarantee. Take Liza Minnelli and David Gest. Michael Jackson served as best man at their $3.5 million wedding in 2002. Natalie Cole sang "Unforgettable." The ultra-A-list guest list, which one wag labeled "night of 1,000 facelifts," included Elton John, Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Mickey Rooney, Barbara Walters and 1,500 others. Yet a mere 18 months later, the two split up amid accusations by Minnelli that he tried to poison her.
Here's hoping that Will and Kate do better.
THE MOST EXTRAVAGANT WEDDINGS
1. Princess Salama to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
$100 million, 1981 (today's dollars)
To hold a really large wedding it helps to have a large venue, such as the 20,000-seat stadium specially built for the now-ruler of Dubai for his 1981 wedding to Princess Salama.
2. Charles, Prince of Wales, to Diana Spencer
$70 million, 1981 (today's dollars)
There are special expenses when royalty weds, including mob control. Part of the millions spent on the fairy-tale wedding of the decade was allotted to ensure tight crowd surveillance. The joy of the occasion would later turn to ashes, proving that the amount spent on the wedding does not necessarily equate to the likelihood it will succeed.
3. Vanisha Mittal to Amit Bhatia
$60 million, 2005
Six days, 100 guests, the Palace of Versailles, free jet transportation to France for the ceremonies, five-star hotels, fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, can-can girls, all these expenses add up -- in this case, a total of $60 million.
4. Aleksandra Nikolic to Andrey Melnichenko
$30 million, 2005
Entertainment was an important part of the wedding between this Russian billionaire and model, with performances by Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, and Julio Iglesias, each of whom raked in an estimated $3.6 million for the gig.
5. Priya Sachdev to Vikram Chatwal
$20 million, 2006
Take 600 guests for a 10-day wedding celebration and jet them from city to city in India, and you have the foundation for an over-the-top opulent wedding. Chatwal (nicknamed the "turban cowboy"), owner of
luxurious hotels such as Dream New York, managed to bring the event in at a tidy $20 million.