The inclination is natural. After Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wed in unforgettable fashion May 19, the comparisons began in earnest. Just how did their multimillion-dollar vows stack up against his brother Prince William‘s 2011 wedding to Kate Middleton?
But their beautifully extravagant nuptials may have more in common with those of another American princess: One Kim Kardashian.
Hear me out.Four years ago today, on a sunny May Saturday in Europe, reality TV’s reigning queen wed her prince: 21-time Grammy winner Kanye West. There was an impressive array of flowers, a standout Givenchy gown, a gilded carriage and a heaping dollop of speculation about whether a certain family member might attend. Sound a little familiar?
Of course for Kim, the drama surrounded brother Rob Kardashian, who flew all the way to Paris for the couple’s pre-wedding festivities only to ditch out when the rest of the family boarded private jets to the actually wedding site in Florence, Italy. Feeling insecure about his 100-pound weight gain, Rob nonetheless made the transatlantic trip to support his sister and future brother-in-law. But en route, Kim reported on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, “He read some nasty comments about himself and he just didn’t feel comfortable and he didn’t want to see all my guests.”While an insider told E! News that Kim understood, she was no less heartbroken. “It makes me so sad for him,” she explained. “And I don’t even want to think about it. I don’t want to talk about it. Today is my wedding and I don’t want to cry. I just want to, you know, have it be a happy day with amazing memories.”
Because make no mistake, this was the main event. The bachelorette party at the Eiffel Tower, brunch at Valentino Garavani’s 17th century Château de Wideville and a pre-wedding dinner at the Palace of Versailles, complete with a performance by Lana Del Ray, guides dressed in Marie Antoinette-inspired garb and an arrival via horse-drawn carriage—those were all nice. (So nice, actually, that one insider told E! News, “Everyone was crying because they had never experienced such a party” and Kim would later reveal that everyone got so drunk, including sister Khloe Kardashian!)And yet all of those were trumped the moment the duo’s 200 guests were told (surprise!) they’d actually be flying to Italy for the vows.
The couple purportedly chose the site because of a quiet getaway they enjoyed for Kim’s birthday when they upped their relationship status from friends to more in 2012. Reallyenjoyed. To hear West tell it, they “conceived” the first of their three children, now 4-year-old daughter North, “among the Renaissance masterpieces,” he shared with Florence’s La Nazione newspaper. “It was our first honeymoon. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world—for me the most beautiful in Europe.”
Offering sweeping views of the city below and hills in the distance, the 16th century Forte di Belvedere (its roughly $400,000 rental fee just a fraction of the estimated total $2.8 million budget) was a stunning spot for a ceremony.
Kim just had to get through a little drama first. First there was Khloe’s hangover, so intense that she slept as a glam squad handled her hair and makeup, then the revelation that Rob had split and, finally, Kim’s fears her cathedral-length Givenchy veil—matching her custom lace mermaid gown with illusion cutouts—was so heavy it might “make me trip and fall right on my face.”
But when she made her way down to a waiting West she didn’t stumble once. Even as she caught sight of famed Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli belting out “Con te Partiro.” The singer-songwriter is a favorite of both Kim and her late father Robert Kardashian so he was an appropriate choice for the processional, Kim just assumed they’d use a recorded version. “I thought I was walking to the aisle to his CD playing,” she told E! News. “But when I got to the altar, I did a double take and screamed. I couldn’t believe he was there himself.”
The surprise, arranged by West, left her feeling “like I was walking down the aisle with my dad.”
And it was just the first of several breathtaking moments. Standing in front of a staggering wall of white blooms, pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr. led a ceremony as Kim’s siblings Khloe, Kourtney Kardashian, Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner looked on alongside celeb guests such as John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Rachel Roy and LaLa Anthony. (Fresh off their Met Gala fight and reportedly fearing a run-in with Roy, Beyoncé and Jay-Z begged off.)
After confessing to one pal he’d practiced his self-penned vows in the mirror to commit them to memory, West delivered his heartfelt words without a hitch and the parents to then 11-month-old North (watching in her own custom haute couture Givenchy) sealed their marriage with a kiss.
“The whole wedding was just filled with so much love,” Kylie would later confess on Good Morning America. “It was just really amazing to watch that.” Echoed sister Kendall, “Everything was amazing. And to see two people so happy. I think that that was probably my favorite part.”
Some may have chosen the décor at the reception that followed. In addition to the bright red lights that dotted the fort’s perimeter, contemporary American artist Vanessa Beecroftinstalled several pieces around the sprawling grounds.
And then there were the more than $100,000 worth of floral arrangements courtesy of one of Florence’s oldest flower shops, Thierry Boutemy and the 224-foot imperial marble table so large it they needed a crane to hoist it in. And because escort cards are so passé the custom piece was etched with the name of each guest at their assigned spot.