Imagine spending $250,000 on flowers. Or $20,000 on a cake. How does $15,000 to $20,000 for toilets sound?
Sounds like the first Wedding of the Century.
Wedding industry experts say that when Chelsea Clinton gets married Saturday at a private estate in upstate New York, the tab could hit $2 million, $3 million or more — a canape or two above the average $24,000 that most American newlyweds will shell out this year.
Most weddings host about 150 guests; the Clinton-Mezvinsky nuptials are expected to have 400 to 500.
Details have been notoriously scarce, but Sally Kilbridge, deputy editor of Brides, said industry insiders have gathered enough intelligence to sketch out roughly what sort of shindig the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will put on when she marries her longtime boyfriend, investment banker Marc Mezvinsky.
Some estimates put the cost at close to $5 million, but Kilbridge said Chelsea Clinton won’t let it get too extreme.
“I’m going to say 2 to 3 million,” Kilbridge said. “Just because I don’t know if they will go that over the top when it comes to every little item of the wedding, and possibly because it’s not really Chelsea Clinton’s style.” Kilbridge estimated costs for some of the higher-profile items: — Gown by Vera Wang, whose New York store Chelsea was photographed visiting: $20,000 — not off the rack, obviously.
— Cake, possibly by Sylvia Weinstock: $20,000. Expect intricate, fabulous designs. — Flowers: $250,000. “It’s going to be glamorous with a capital G,” she said. (And this isn’t even that much, she said: Donald Trump laid out $500,000 for flowers when he married Melania.) — Catering: $750,000. Add another $30,000 for beverages.
— Tents: $600,000. These, she joked, guarantee it will not rain.
— Portable toilets: $15,000-$20,000. These will not be construction-site facilities. Think air conditioning, attendants, flowers. — Entertainment: $40,000.
“It’s obviously a large wedding,” said Darcy Miller, editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings. “But knowing what we do about Chelsea, she seems to be understated, someone who has tried to stay out of the crowds, someone who has tried to have her own life.” Miller also brought up the logistics and realities to confront.
It’s a destination wedding where everything from guests to flowers to the wine will be shipped in from afar. So, they’ve got to keep the flowers cool, the guests and staff fed, quartered and cool. The stylist needs a room for the night. So does the makeup artist and photographer. Bring enough to tip the wait staff needed to keep 500 A-listers well-served. Valets? Flooring? Lights?
For those worried about how the Clintons will finance the celebration, fear not: Chelsea’s parents are, conservatively, worth tens of millions of dollars. The former president raked in $40 million in six years just from speaking engagements — upwards of $10 million alone in 2006. Of course, this assumes they’ll pay for the party. Like every other detail, mum’s been the word.
And then there’s security. Some of it will be paid for by the couple. But when there’s a diplomat for a mother and a former president for a father, the government picks up some of the tab, too. And agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration help out by declaring a no-fly zone in the air space over the site along the banks of the Hudson River.
Aerial photographs by The Associated Press show that large party tents have been erected at the palatial Astor Courts, a historic estate most widely reported to be the location. Locals told the AP that a caravan of black limousines snaked down a road to the south that’s sprinkled with similar properties. And a state police official said some roads would be closed and parking restricted Saturday around the center of the village.
Then there’s the air space closure from 3 p.m. Saturday to 3:30 a.m. Sunday in a generic FAA nod to “VIP (Very Important Person) Movement.” The status is granted only to the highest of government officials — which would include Chelsea Clinton’s parents.
“It’s good policy. You do have a former president showing up at a big event; it’s only prudent that the FAA does this,” said Michael Boyd, airline consultant and president of the Boyd Group International in Evergreen, Colo.
There were no indications Thursday that access near the estate to the Hudson River, normally plied by recreational and commercial craft, was being similarly restricted. The Dutchess County sheriff’s marine patrol planned no special changes Saturday and hadn’t received any restriction notices from the Coast Guard, patrol Sgt. Michael Dampf said.
Amtrak, which runs passenger trains along the river, expected no changes in service Saturday, said spokesman Cliff Cole.
Despite all indications pointing to the Clinton wedding, State Police Maj. Michael A. Kopy refused to spill the beans.
“There’s a private event that’s planned for the Rhinebeck area,” he told reporters. “We expect a significant influx of people and vehicles in the Rhinebeck area, which is typical during any summer weekend.” Police were predicting an influx of reporters and curiosity seekers, but Kopy said he was confident that traffic plans used for other large events, like the Dutchess County Fair, would be more than adequate.
The media and the public aren’t the only people watching, though.