Expensive Royal Weddings

Love isn’t cheap when monarchies are involved. From the multimillion-dollar wedding of Princess Diana to Grace Kelly’s dowry, The Daily Beast ranks some of the costliest ceremonies in royal history.

Eero Hannukainen / All Over Press Sweden / Getty Images,All Over Press Sweden

Eero Hannukainen / All Over Press Sweden / Getty Images

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Daniel Westling June 19, 2010

Expected price tag: $16 million
Price tag: more than $3 million
In the biggest royal wedding since Lady Di married Prince Charles, Sweden's crown princess wed her former trainer at a cost of more than $3 million. An audience of close to 1,200 (including six kings and nine queens) packed into the Stockholm Cathedral, while an additional 250,000 watched the ceremony and accompanying procession from the streets, which the government had decorated with flower arrangements. Several parties disapproved; the bride’s father wasn’t hot on the idea of her marrying a commoner, the public’s disdain for the modern monarchy increased with news of the affair’s grand cost, and royalists were upset that the bride’s father escorted her down the aisle rather than the groom, as Swedish custom dictates.

AP Photo

Prince Charles of Wales and Diana Spencer July 29, 1981

Price tag: nearly $5 million
At the time, the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles was dubbed “the most expensive in history,” though in total the nuptials cost just $2 million ($4.7 million, adjusted for inflation). The largest check was written for security, which at $600,000 was twice the price paid for the two-week honeymoon aboard the royal yacht Britannia. Other big-ticket items included $40,000 for the five-foot-high cake, $100,000 for flowers and decorations, $100,000 for a pre-wedding reception, $10,000 for five bridesmaids’ dresses and, of course, $60,000 for Diana’s diamond and sapphire engagement ring that’s now embellishing Kate Middleton’s hand. The princess’ dress was a spectacle itself, with a 25-foot train that trailed behind her for the three-and-a-half minute walk down the aisle as some 750 million people watched from home.

Bazuki Muhammad / AP Photo

Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah of Brunei and Sarah Salleh September 9, 2004

Price tag: nearly $6 million
At the tender age of 17, the commoner Sarah Salleh became Brunei royalty at the sultan of Brunei’s palace during a wedding that included 2,000 guests (about half a percent of Brunei’s total population) and a price tag of $5 million in 2004. About 20,000 people in the surrounding area were able to see a 15-minute fireworks display. Following the ceremony the new couple was honored with a five-mile parade, along with more than 100 limousines for family members. Guests included Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito and Duke of Gloucester Prince Richard, according to official reports.

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Prince Pavlos of Greece and Marie-Chantal Miller July 1, 1995

Price tag: at least $7 million
According to reports, the total bill for the wedding and reception for the duty-free heiress and her Grecian prince was between $5 million and $8 million—which equates to between $7 million and $11 million in 2011 dollars. Why so costly? The night before the nuptials, a dinner and reception for more than 1,200 guests were held, adorned with giant tents built to look like the Parthenon, 100,000 flowers flown in from Ecuador, and so many lights that they had to be approved by Heathrow Airport. Marie-Chantal’s Valentino dress, requiring four months of work and 12 types of lace, cost an additional $225,000. The reception following the wedding included 300 cakes in addition to the eight-tier wedding cake.

AP Photo

Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly April 19, 1956

Price tag: Unknown, in the tens of millions
The marriage of Hollywood royalty Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco was a union forged in destiny. When Kelly was young, she told her sister, “One day I’m going to be a princess.” Little did Kelly the child know that Kelly the movie star would fulfill that dream. Her engagement ring was a 12-carat diamond, flanked by smaller diamonds and her dress, designed by famed film costume designer Helen Rose, took six weeks, 36 seamstresses, 25 yards of taffeta, 100 yards of silk net and thousands of pearls to complete. As a wedding gift, Prince Rainier gave her a yacht. The wedding itself was a media event along the lines of the upcoming British royal union, with thousands of photographers and reporters and a live broadcast to Europe and an estimated 30 million people tuning in on television. According to biographies of the starlet, Prince Rainier’s father demanded a $2 million dowry in advance of the nuptials from the bride’s father, Jack Kelly, a construction mogul. Ultimately, he paid half that sum (about $8 million in today’s money).

AP Photo

King Mohammed VI of Morocco and Salma Bennani March 21, 2002

Price tag: Unknown, in the tens of millions
King Mohammed and Salma Bennani broke several traditional molds with their marriage—the first that the king publicly announced his engagement to the computer engineer Bennani in October 2001. The following March, the king and Bennani signed a marriage contract, making their union official. Against custom, Bennani was given an official title: Her Royal Highness Princess Consort of Morocco. In July 2002, the couple was feted with a lavish public ceremony—which had traditionally been private—that included 1,500 guests, among them Bill and Chelsea Clinton, 1,400 horsemen, and the freeing of more than 8,000 prisoners, the Associated Press reported. In another break with tradition, Salma Bennani is the king’s only wife; King Mohammed’s father had two wives and a harem.

Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo

Kate Middleton and Prince William of Wales, United Kingdom April 29, 2011

The upcoming wedding between the second-in-line to the throne Prince William and budding fashion icon Kate Middleton is sure to be the celebrity event of the year for the United Kingdom, if not all of Europe. The relationship between Middleton and Prince William was cemented November 16, 2010, when their engagement was announced. The reception for 600 guests is scheduled at Buckingham Palace, with Australia and Canada rumored as potential honeymoon locales. With a bank holiday declared for the wedding date and more than 200,000 spectators expected in Hyde Park, London will be on virtual shutdown. The estimated $16 million wedding could also produce a consumer spending boost of around $1 billion.

Odd Andersen / AP Photo

Crown Prince Felipe of Asturias, Spain and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano May 22, 2004

Price tag: nearly $29 million
Just two months after a terrorist bomb killed 191 commuters in Madrid, Crown Prince Felipe married former news anchor and divorcee Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano. More than 1,500 dignitaries attended the ceremony at Madrid's Almudena Cathedral, which was decorated with more than a million flowers, with 20,000 police in tow for security (still, an uninvited retired Spanish colonel carrying a gun was able to sneak into the event—to no serious malady other than embarrassment—according to The Toronto Sun). Along with a pre-wedding feast hosted by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia and the post-wedding reception that included more than 1,000 bottles of Champagne, the event cost an estimated $25 million in 2004. The wedding was dedicated to those killed in the terrorist bombing.

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai and Princess Salama, Early May 1981

Price tag: $100 million
Seven days, a brand new stadium with a capacity of 20,000, and about $100 million (in inflation-adjusted dollars)—those were the numbers for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and Princess Salama’s wedding. Ambassadors, princes, and other royals and officials from Arab and African nations were brought in on 34 private jets. In keeping with tradition, Salama was unable to enjoy the festivities herself—she had to stay in her room for the seven days. The wedding is still considered the most expensive in modern times, when adjusted for inflation.

Margaret of York and Charles the Bold of Burgundy, 1468

Price tag: $325 million
The wedding that united the English and the Burgundians, to the dismay of King Louis XI of France, was so grand its anniversary was celebrated with a street parade in subsequent years that imitated the post-nuptial pageant. The festivities also included a four-day joust between the most prestigious European knights and a crown built for the bride coated in pearls and diamonds.