7 Absurdly Expensive Weddings In History That Will Make Your Jaw Drop

by JR Thorpe

These days, an absurdly expensive wedding is often seen as a celebrity pastime — who can forget Kim and Kanye's over-the-top Florence nuptials, with flower walls and hand-carved marble tables? — but throughout history, the most mind-blowing weddings have been the preserve of royalty. In the 21st century, royals occasionally face pressure to do things a bit more decorously; when Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden married in 2010, there was a strong protest movement that declared the wedding too expensive in a time of austerity. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's upcoming nuptials in May will likely undergo the same scrutiny. In the past, however, the royal families of the world viewed displays of wealth at weddings as a necessary facet of their rule.

The big expenses for royals in the most lavish weddings in history don't necessarily come from big dresses and fancy bouquets; they have to do with guests and the country in general. From hiring extra security for visiting dignitaries (not to mention crowd control), to days and weeks of pageants and parades, a royal wedding's more costly side has often been its public one. Sadly, it doesn't look as if Prince Harry will be giving the citizens of the UK a four-day marriage festival, as may have been the case hundreds of years back, but we can still be entertained reading about some of the most expensive royal weddings in history.


Margaret Of York & Charles The Bold

Medieval weddings between heads of state were an exercise in showing off. No wedding exemplified that more than the nuptials of Margaret of York and Charles The Bold of Burgundy in 1468. It's estimated that their wedding cost around $200 million in today's money, in large part because the celebration of the wedding involved pageants, performances, jousts and huge feasts that went on for days. Awed onlookers described the bride being transported in a gold litter with white horses, with an ermine-trimmed gown and a specially-made crown, while hordes of trumpeters and dancers announced her arrival — and it seems Charles even had special fountains made that spouted hippocras, sweet wine, freely day and night.


Khadija Uzhakhovs and Said Gutseriev

This modern wedding, which took place in 2016, is probably one of the most expensive ever conducted; it's been called the "billion-dollar wedding," according to ELLE, and that may not be too far off the mark. Billionaire oil heir Said Gutseriev married student Khadija Uzhakhovs in Moscow in unthinkable luxury, including custom-made Elie Saab gowns, performances by J.Lo and Sting, and seating for hundreds of guests. The dress itself was so heavy due to its layers of crystal that apparently Uzhakhovs found it difficult to walk — but what does that matter?


Princes Charles & Princess Diana

The 1981 royal wedding that apparently set off a trend for nuptial lavishness in the 1980s, both regal and common, is still one of the most famous in history — and it wasn't cheap, with an estimated cost of around $70 million in today's money. Much has been made of Diana's pearl-encrusted gown, but it seems that the bulk of the budget for England's heir to the throne was actually spent on security; the wedding was televised live, the couple processed through the streets of London, and considerable resources were spent on keeping them safe from the unprecedented crowds.


Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi and Princess Salama

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1981 was a banner year for extravagant weddings, and that of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a prominent member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, actually may have eclipsed Diana and Charles in cost. While royals rarely reveal the true extent of their wedding spending, it's thought that this one cost around $100 million. The groom's parents built a custom-made stadium to house the 20,00 wedding guests, 20 jeweled camels carried the wedding presents, and part of the celebrations included feasts for every town in the Emirates.


Prince Arthur & Catherine Of Aragon

Tragically, Prince Arthur's marriage to Catherine of Aragon would be brief, because he'd die five months later — and Catherine would then become famous as the first of Henry VIII's six wives. But when the wedding itself took place in 1501, it was one of the most lavish of the medieval age. A fountain of wine was constructed by St. Paul's Cathedral in London, and celebrations went on for a full week, with tournaments, jousts, and a ceremony in which the royal couple were dressed to the nines in matching white satin.


Marie Antoinette & Louis XVI

It's impossible today to quantify the sheer cost of Marie Antoinette's ill-fated wedding to Louis XVI in 1770, but tens of millions in today's money is a sensible estimate. As befitted the marriage of the heir to the throne, everything was done in style: Marie Antoinette arrived n France with an entourage of 57 carriages, and after a year's wait, the wedding was formalized with a giant public ceremony. Unfortunately, on the last day of festivities a gigantic fireworks display in the Tuileries of Paris, the biggest ever seen in France, went horrifically wrong when a display fell over and killed many members of the crowd.


Prince Abdul Malik & Princess Dayangku Raabi’atul ‘Adawiyyah Pengiran Haji Bolkiah

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No state's ruler does lavishness quite like the extraordinarily wealthy Sultan of Brunei, one of the richest royals in the world. When his youngest son married in 2015, the Brunei royal family put on a show of serious lavishness: the couple married in gold cloth with jewels everywhere (even the wedding bouquet was made of gems, rather than flowers), with 5,000 guests present, and the festivities lasted for 11 days. No specific costs have been made public, but the millions invested in the event likely didn't cripple Brunei's purse at all.

Practically the entire world is waiting with bated breath to see what Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding will entail this coming May, but it's clear that they have a pretty strong tradition to follow.