Based on the novel by Kevin Kwan, the film focuses on Rachel Chu and her boyfriend Nick, who head to Nick's hometown in Singapore for his best friend's wedding. The film depicts one of the most lavish weddings in the history of any major motion picture.
Below, Production Designer Nelson Coates takes us behind the scenes on what went into making these nuptials an on-screen reality, and what viewers can expect from the film.
BG: How long did the set take to set up?
NC: We had a five-day window to dress the church, rehearse with actors, film the entire scene, and to wrap out of the church. Needless to say, a lot of elements were prefabricated off-site and an off-site dry run rehearsal of the installation of the grasses, sculpted moon-gate and platforming helped us identify how to speed up the process to get the interior of the church dressed in 1 ½ days!
BG: Can you describe the wedding and reception in terms of decor for the film?
NC: The wedding and reception are the culmination of the visual journey through Singapore, representing the most opulent colorful scenes in the movie. The director and I wanted to create a unique visual experience for wedding guests and the audience. As Singapore is known for its magnificent gardens with a national slogan du jour of “Let’s make Singapore our Garden!,” Jon [Chu] and I really wanted to build on that concept and create a magnificent indoor garden as only the Singaporeans would think to do.
Chinese cultural influences infused the décor with over-sized 8-foot tall bamboo fans, and an intricately carved Chinese Moon gate – which so often serve as a focal point for Chinese Gardens. Beyond the fern-laden moon gate was a forced perspective tropical garden and path. Hand-painted lanterns with blessings for prosperity, fertility, and double happiness were created along with oversized Chinese planters, which flank the wedding party. The director wanted to include non-traditional seating and potentially a meadow feel and water. Those wishes turned into a field of 3-foot high grasses and green velvet benches, and a rose gold aisle lined with bromeliads and orchids. Two story green velvet drapes and hanging ferns, and numerous varieties of Heliconia and ginger flanked the entrance and seating. Twenty four two-story Ravenala Madagascariensis, commonly known as travellers palms flanked the audience, with two 5-ton trucks worth of tropical plants lining the interior sides of the church.
Our props team created hundreds of handcrafted LED butterflies and fireflies on branches for guests to bring out of the grasses as the Bride walked down the aisle. Those unique touches made the bride “walking on water” look even more breathtaking.
Reception by the Bay
NC: After extensive research of some of the most expensive and elaborate wedding receptions in the world, the concept featured oversized tables seating 14+ guests, multiple levels of seating throughout the space, and a tip of the hat to classic parties & movies of old Hollywood with a bandstand, jazz orchestra with music stands, and white piano. Carrying the fan motif from the wedding to the reception, the graphics team researched classic Chinese love stories, love poems, graphics, and sayings which could be incorporated into the fan designs.
One of Singapore’s top wedding cake designers was engaged to create the stunning 8-foot tall reception cake. As with many Chinese weddings, the wedding cake was an artificial stunner with the actual cake being served directly from the caterer. The stage floor and dance floor graphics were abstractions of classic Chinese flower drawings. The color combination was the culmination of all the colors used in the Singapore scenes – an explosion of frenzied reds, oranges, fuchsias, and pinks. All the flowers in the foreground were real with matching silks beyond. Small scale “Super Trees” replicating the design of the multiple story structures in the garden were fabricated as light sources on camera. And to present the opulence of the evening, a central food display table was laden with a wide range of spectacular food including a suckling pig, enormous shells dripping with seafood, and incredible ice sculptures (faux of course for the heat). Gardens by the Bay loved our scenery so much, they asked to keep several elements, which of course simplified our wrap!
BG: How much would a real wedding like this cost? For both the ceremony and reception?
NC: So much of the cost of a wedding and reception at this level of opulence depends on the cost of venue rentals, speed of installation and wrap out, and how much is rented or purchased, what season of the year and whether flowers are in season, musicians fees, food & alcohol prices, etc. So suffice to say this could be quite the range of price, but tipping more to the pricey end!
BG: Can you explain what makes it the most extravagant wedding ever shown (as we haven't seen the film yet)?
NC: The amount of constructed décor, custom seating, the quantity and type of plants, florals and two-story palms creating an entire interior botanical extravaganza, not to mention a water feature to allow the Bride to walk on water! Even the LED fireflies and butterflies for the guests make this unique!
BG: What was the inspiration for the scene?
NC: The gardens of Singapore served as a major inspiration, as well as traditional Chinese wedding details taken to a much larger scale. A stunning atrium with travellers palms and ferns that the director and I scouted in Thailand gave us the idea for incorporating palms and water elements, and the director's desire for non-traditional seating and a meadow-feel led to the field of grass filling the church. Basically, the over the top feeling of the wedding described in the book was modified and built upon to capitalize on enhancing our church location and the amazing gardens we visited during prep.
BG: How many people attend the wedding in the film? i.e. is it a 200 or 400 person wedding?
NC: With so much plant material, including the 24 travellers palms, and space for all the film crew and camera gear and cranes, we knew we would have to make the wedding slightly smaller than the reception. The wedding scene incorporated seating for 225 plus the wedding party. The Reception on the other hand, constructed in the middle of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, was 300, plus the wedding party.
The highly anticipated major motion picture, "Crazy Rich Asians" hits theaters August 15.
For Real Wedding inspiration, visit our Real Weddings page.