An Ode To Luxury Weddings

Sarah Haywood

From carving out the white confection couture pieces (priced at what most people earn in a lifetime, and taking almost a year to craft) to the million dollar engagement rings that cost more than the wedding itself, here’s an excerpt from the wedding-planner’s diary that takes you backstage to some of these opulent affairs.

Fairytale Wedding

The ‘Fairytale Wedding’ has now time-travelled from being a metaphor into a real-time bespoke spectacle, as much it is a tradition, around the world.

Whether it is summoning the cult of excess and grandeur reflected in the Great Indian Weddings of the Nizams and Maharajas, or the charm and sophistication that formed the ceremonial backdrop of the recent royal extravaganza, (Prince William and Kate’s grand nuptials) weddings remain an epic celebration of life.

Known for her meticulous planning, Sarah Hayward’s ‘resume’ boasts of a list of Herculean feats- from tracking a misplaced bride and retrieving diamonds from the muddy pool, to replenishing the gigantic spread of fresh crabs and caviar with chilled champagne aboard a private jet, that was carrying the wedding guests for the soiree.

Sarah Haywood takes us through some of her favourite nuptials, spectacles that she stitched from scratch and wedding wows she delivered to her coveted list of celebrities, public figures and nobility around the world, on their big day.

Luxury Abodes: Wedding Venues

In her book, weddings are more about the pursuit of passion than the money.

And it is this very pursuit, that has taken her across the world in search of an array of never before venues for her exclusive clientele. Sarah and her team have landed up at stately English homes, exquisite châteaux, stunning vineyards and even the ‘bohemian rhapsody’ of Necker Island in the Caribbean in search of that perfect wedding venue. A luxury wedding in Tuscany even had her team dig up terraces, erect temporary buildings and source power and water supplies to accommodate the guests in an old villa that could not hold that many guests. A task that took them over two months to accomplish.

Another English wedding had her negotiate a heavy deal with one of most exotic English castles in UK. Home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, the magnificent Highclere Castle, which featured in a British TV period drama (the hugely successful Downtown Abbey), had caught Haywood’s eye (and the bride’s fancy). The venue became the stage where the saga of grandeur unraveled in its full splendour.

Palate Pleasures: Food and Wine

Life is not full of tasks but tastes. And it’s an epithet practiced religiously by the jet setting billion-dollar club who descend from the star pedigree. They dine at the best restaurants, indulge in the finest ambience and soak in the culinary experiences around the globe. Their soaring expectations can only be matched by stitching an experience that’s far more superior than the last one.

The food at weddings is a sign of one’s roots, and should reflect both family values and lifestyle. Sarah remembers how she had to source some exotic meat for a Canadian couple, all the way from Toronto to London (notwithstanding the different laws of the two countries), and how, on another occasion, her team had to hop, skip and zip across the globe to hire the choicest selection of sommeliers for a couple who were connoisseurs of fine wine.

But her favourite is an instance where she had to fly in a giant ten-tier wedding cake, along with 300 personalized bridesmaid patisserie cake boxes, to a quaint little town in Italy. The jet was so packed that the cake had to be placed right at the entrance, the pilot (gauging the seriousness of the situation) had to announce that “in case of emergency, passengers will have to eat their way out of the plane”. The cake survived the midair crisis, and made it to the wedding venue without any scratches, perfectly intact.

Another favourite memory of Sarah’s concerns the time when they achieved the extraordinary feat of conceptualizing a giant ice bar in the sweltering heat of July. The bar was filled with shot glasses (made of ice) and top-end vodka, capped with five buckets of Beluga caviar. It was impossible for the bride, who hailed from Moscow, to think of a wedding without ice and vodka and it was a surprise that they engineered for her!

Sarah and her team are always looking out for something extra-ordinaire and enticing chefs and local culinary wizards from their plush kitchens and quaint cafes, to cook up a culinary magic for these starry affairs.

Flower Revolution: Wedding Florals

Blooms speak the language of love. Flowers are an essential part of decor, from a string of marigolds to flower bunches flown in from around the world. Peonies, hydrangeas, lilacs, garden roses and orchids abound to weave the lyrical rhythm at the wedding. From theatrical centrepieces, like a peacock swathed in petals, and floral sculptures made out of exotic plants, to delicate table arrangements adorned with silk linens and bespoke candelabras, Sarah’s team work closely with renowned floral designers to create a floral fantasy for wedding day. She recommends that you opt for the flower of the season, one that blends into the surroundings and complements the look of the wedding.

For bridal bouquets (slowly catching on with Indian brides), Sarah recommends including a piece of heirloom jewellery (maybe the grandmother’s brooch). At her wedding, the Duchess of Cambridge chose to carry a posy that conveyed a new floral language, her wired, shieldshaped bouquet contained myrtle, lily-of-the-valley, sweet william and hyacinth.

Bespoke’ Give Aways

When it comes to personalized elements, the world is Sarah’s playground. From flying the bride to the diamond capital of the world (Antwerp, Belgium) for a crucial appointment, and sourcing rare pieces with 201 facets (as opposed to the regular 51 facets), or tracking a rare piece to be halved into two and chiseled onto the engagement rings of the couples, Sarah knows how to catch the pulse of bespoke just right.

Whether it is incorporating antique laces or rich brocades (for ensembles at Indian weddings) or having to order wedding gifts (such as engraved iPods with the wedding playlist already downloaded), the surprise factor is an important part of any personalized list. She remembers having to track a vintage Rolex watch from an auction once.

Sarah and her team are always scouting for newer personal elements to incorporate into weddings. Her style, though, is understated. Sarah suggests a return to roots for clients, the character to be reflected in the activity planned for the couple. She recalls fondly a wine-tasting tour in Bordeaux which she had organized for the wedding guests as a special favour to the wedding couple (who were wine connoisseurs), and also a trip to sartorial giant Hermes for the guests, since the bride loved shopping for the iconic ‘Birkin’ and ‘Kelly’ handbags.

But for ‘over the top’ starry effects, Sarah recounts how a client opted for a credit card for guests at a Middle Eastern wedding, which had a credit of an ounce of gold.

As they say, bespoke is incomplete without a touch of indulgence. And Sarah agrees that weddings are incomplete without the celebration of the soul.

Sarah Haywood, a british wedding planner, is regarded as the authority on multimillion-dollar weddings by Time magazine (and the insider and front-rower at the acclaimed 2011 Royal Wedding). When not skipping time zones around the world to craft her besspoke weddings, Sarah Haywood can be reached at the London based headquarters of Sarah Haywood Wedding and can be contacted at or through

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