It's the talk of the box office—Crazy Rich Asians grossed about $34 million in the film's opening weekend alone. Sporting an even more astronomical price tag, though, is the book-turned-movie's famed wedding, the focal point of the entire Kevin Kwan novel, which was intended to cost a whopping $40 million (casual). But, that's not to say the movie's cast and crew doled out eight figures to bring the over-the-top ceremony to life. In fact, the production designer, Nelson Coates, got fairly creative to pull off a budget-friendly IRL equivalent that even Eleanor Young would likely approve of.
Crazy Rich Asians chronicles the relationship of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding) as they venture to Singapore, Nick's homeland, for the "wedding of the year" (we're talking royal wedding equivalent) between Colin Khoo (Chris Pang) and Araminta Lee (Sonoya Mizuno). The cast only had about five days to film the ceremony within Chijmes, a church in the heart of downtown Singapore from circa 1904, and a budget not exactly fit to match the novel's exact specifications.
"We’re rubbing two dimes together to make millions," Coates told Harper's Bazaar. "You go through the book, and it’s like, 'Okay, well, that chapter alone is more money than we have to make the movie!' It’s about capturing the ambiance of wealth."
So, how does one do so minus the Khoo family fortune? Using plenty of palm leaves and 36-inch tall artificial grasses, Coates and his team first designed the space to look like an indoor garden. They also interspersed green velvet seats, intended to replicate moss, within the greenery for a nontraditional seating arrangement that made guests appear to be sitting in the midst of the plant life. "The wedding needed a focal point unlike any I had seen in a church," Coates previously told Brides.
Here comes the bride—perhaps the most enthralling wedding moment came during Araminta's walk down the flower-lined water aisle, which Coates modeled after a river for a "walking on water" illusion. Hidden water jets and a reflective, mylar-like fabric laminated onto waterproofed marine plywood lined the aisle and brought his magical vision to life. The film's props team also used copper and LED lights to handcraft hundreds of faux butterflies and fireflies, which guests used to serenade the bride during her grand entrance. These aren't your standard nuptials, that's for sure!
Ultimately, Coates worked to ensure he didn't cross the fine line between lavish and gaudy while decorating the set. "One thing about the old culture in Singapore is that they're not showing off their wealth," said Coates. "It’s offensive to talk about your money, and to be showy about your money, and so we don’t ever want this to go into tacky." We'd say he achieved his goal with flying colors, considering the affordable wedding appears to live up to its book-based inspiration.
While it's safe to assume the rest of us probably don't have an indoor jungle or water-infused aisle on our wedding mood boards, this proves that any ceremony vision is possible with a little creativity.