LOW-KEY

Why Hollywood Is Falling in Love With Secret Celebrity Weddings

Young couples like Alison Brie and Dave Franco are bucking the trend of lavish, multimillion-dollar weddings a la Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single male celebrity in possession of a good fortune and/or recurring primetime role must be in want of a famous wife. Whether it’s a romance, a fauxmance, or whatever Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift were doing, relationships between celebrities have consistently blurred the lines between the personal and the professional. Examples include Drake and J. Lo briefly synchronizing their social media accounts in order to promote new music and Beyoncé and Jay Z teaming up to collaborate, copulate, and usher in the messianic age. Of course, there are non-fame related reasons for A-listers to couple up: love, homosexuality, and the Church of Scientology, to name just a few. Then there’s the simple fact of proximity—if you trap two beautiful, shiny-toothed people together on a movie set or at a VIP table, chances are they’ll be popping out kids and naming them after produce in no time.

While celebrities can and do date the proletariat, this is one of the rare instances where incestuous relationships are actually preferable. After all, the diamond-encrusted divide between regular people and famous folks is integral to maintaining our celebrity culture. If A-listers were actually just like us, there would be no need for People magazine and OK!, let alone the Daily Mail online. And without celebrity coupling and the nepotism that inevitably accompanies it, there would be no Girls think pieces left to write, putting dozens of bloggers out of work. What would we complain about? And in a world where even Blake Lively is on normal-people Tinder, who would we lust over?

If celebrity envy is the bread and butter of the entertainment zeitgeist, then celebrity weddings are the crack cocaine. Imagine the greatest day of your life: You’re surrounded by your friends and family, and pledging your eternal devotion to the love of your life. Now imagine all of that, except objectively way better—that’s a celebrity wedding. The celebrity wedding, whether in Paris, the Hamptons, or Turks and Caicos, is the epitome of the enviable and the unattainable. The bridesmaids all have IMDB pages, the dresses are Vera Wang, and the band is Elton John and/or Bono. The bride walks down the aisle to the hum of a paparazzi helicopter and the pictures go for hundreds of thousands of dollars to the highest bidder. With a wedding like this, could you blame someone for requesting a do-over? Specifically Kim Kardashian, the undisputed kween of the 21st century celebrity wedding.

While Kim’s under-discussed first ceremony—before her sex tape and Ryan Seacrest skyrocketed her to fame—was a quiet affair, her wedding to Kris Humphries was an epic undertaking. Televised for our viewing pleasure, the nuptials cost a reported $10 million dollars, a number made even more ludicrous by the fact that the marriage ended 72 days after the Humphries cut their $20,000 cake. “Kim’s Fairytale Wedding” was more than just the beginning of a short-lived union between an Armenian treasure and a dead-eyed professional athlete. It was also a four hour “Kardashian Event” on the E! network, “starring” such luminaries as Lindsay Lohan, Julianne Hough, and Eva Longoria. Even more impressively, Kardashian may have actually made money off her multimillion-dollar shindig, between the free gifts she got from vendors, the paid bachelor and bachelorette parties she and Humphries hosted, and the reported $1.5 million she raked in for exclusive wedding photo rights.

If that’s the kind of pomp and circumstance that accompanies the union of Kim Kardashian and a C-lister, just imagine what happened when Kim traded up for Kanye. Actually, you don’t have to imagine, because that $12 million wedding was filmed too. For the Florence ceremony, Kim wore Givenchy Haute Couture, Balmain heels, and the unsuspecting smile of a woman who doesn’t yet know that her husband is morally and financial bankrupt. From the 20-foot wall of highly Instagrammable white flowers to a half million-dollar, custom-ordered marble table for the wedding reception, Kimye spared no expense. Even more remarkably, the couple is still together.

Ever since Kim and Kanye rented out Versailles for their rehearsal dinner, other celebrity couples have been at a loss. After all, nothing says incomparable opulence quite like Marie Antoinette’s pre-revolution home base. Instead of trying to one-up the Wests, celebrities have gone in the opposite direction: weddings so low-key that the public doesn’t even know about them until weeks, even months after the event. The most recent example of a hush-hush ceremony comes courtesy of Dave Franco and Alison Brie, two famous people who probably didn’t even bother to invite Julianne Hough. As the brother of an A-lister, Franco’s wedding probably boasted all sorts of celebs… but we’ll never know who attended, because neither of the actors’ publicists had the decency to slip photo booth pictures to Page Six. Instead, we got a dismal post-facto report, confirming that Brie and Franco were indeed married, “though it’s unclear when they officially wed.”

This “news” came just a day after it leaked that Broad City’s Ilana Glazer was also a married woman, having tied the knot at some point in February. Seriously, if we can’t even figure out the exact date of a celebrity wedding after it takes place, how can we expect to get to the bottom of the real mysteries, like if Taylor Swift voted for Trump or if Kendall Jenner is gay? To be fair, Glazer’s newly minted husband is a scientist, not a celebrity, which grants her a certain amount of leeway. The same cannot be said for Penn Badgley and Domino Kirke’s under-the-radar wedding. In the past, the union of two peripheral celebs—a Gossip Girl alum and a practicing singer/doula—would be a field day for the B+/A- list celebrities’ representatives. Between all the “Lonely Boy no more” jokes and the phrase “practicing doula,” some well-placed pics and a timely wedding announcement could have ruled the soft news cycle. Instead, Badgley and Kirke got married at a courthouse, dined at a small Brooklyn restaurant, and lightly publicized the whole thing on Instagram.

Three low-key celebrity weddings indicate a trend, and a trend inevitably triggers a trend piece. This, dear reader, is that trend piece. So, what can we make of the fact that the man behind the Upper East Side’s cattiest gossip site just married a Brooklyn doula over a vegan, gluten-free wedding cake? In addition to the insult to Josh Schwartz’s vividly imagined oeuvre, the hipster aspect of Badgley’s wedding offers some much-needed insight. Both Domino Kirke and Dave Franco boast painfully unconventional siblings; meanwhile, Ilana Glazer is just plain cool. Since the high-key celebrity wedding has been so thoroughly done, it follows that the casual wedding has become the new status symbol. Why spend money failing to compete with the A-listers when you could send the message that you’re laid-back and in love while still making headlines? It might piss off People, but you’ll have gained some hipster celebrity street cred and a few thousand Instagram followers in the process.

But while I would encourage Penn Badgley and Domino Kirke to do whatever they want with their lives (spill dirt on Little J and cut umbilical cords, respectively), I have to take issue with their wedding day. It’s not that their gluten-free cake doesn’t sound lovely—similarly, I respect Franco and Brie’s desire for privacy, and Ilana Glazer’s no-fucks-given approach to getting married. But if famous people start having normal-people weddings just for fun, it will rob the rest of us of more than just four-hour-long TV specials. It goes back to the unstated agreement at the heart of celebrity—A-listers get to be rich, beautiful, and famous, but they have to put on a show for the rest of us. Without custom-made celebrity gowns to lust over and water-stained wedding pics to peruse, what’s the point of even getting a pedicure? And with no multimillion-dollar ceremonies to measure ourselves against, how will we know just how much we’re missing? I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a world where I can aspire to Florence, not Williamsburg. And even if I’m not eating my wedding cake at a marble table that Kanye West custom-designed and ordered, it’s nice to know that that is a real thing that happened to someone. So to all the celebs out there who are young, in love, and considering eloping: Stop being so selfish.