If you're a fan of the Crazy Rich Asians books, you know the series reveals an insider's look at the opulent world of Singapore's elite. And just like the novels, the movie adaptation of Kevin Kwan's series—in theaters today—deliciously delivers on the drama, the wealth, and the fashion the series is known for. Like the movie's main character Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who wears Marchesa above, you'll be whisked away into the inner circle of Singapore, where designer wardrobes rule, family drama reigns, and grandiose lifestyles are the norm (think a private jet for a bachelorette party on a private isle). But before we discuss the movie's OMG-worthy details—which you'll love, btw—we have to celebrate this movie for what it is. For one, it's the first major motion picture with a majority Asian cast in 25 years (since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club). And two, it follows a relatable relationship and all the obstacles (ahem, family drama) and successes (no spoilers, here) that come with it. We'll let you watch the movie for all the deets, but know that the plot revolves around the handsome Nick Young (Henry Golding) inviting his girlfriend, Rachel, to the wedding of his best friend in Singapore.
But other than all that, and the fact that we love any good romantic comedy, we're here for Crazy Rich Asians because, duh, it features an insanely amazing wedding! In fact, we were so enamored by the wedding—or shall we say, "the social event of the season," as guests call it—that we called on Nelson Coates, the movie's production designer who put it all together. So, what's it like to throw a wedding of such magnitude, especially on the big screen? "Creating wedding scenes for movies is not too dissimilar to real world weddings. Flowers, invitations, seating, décor, the music... all those decisions still have to be made," he says. "But there's one major difference—if the scene requires several days to film, flowers, food and costumes have to be refreshed, and look like no time has past." Also, brides, so you can relate: Even the big producers are limited with install times, rules, and scheduling. In this case, they had just five days to install, produce, film (and strike!) the set at Chijmes, a circa 1904 church in Singapore's downtown where the ceremony took place. And just four days to do the reception, which involved scheduling conflicts with Singapore's Prime Minister and creating a promo movie to even secure access to the property.
So, yes, planning a wedding on screen can be similar (and also very different!) to planning a wedding IRL. But, just for fun, keep reading to hear all the film's design inspiration and what it's like to produce a wedding for the big screen. And after you read up and get ideas for your own big day, grab your girlfriends and reserve a row of seats (hello, bridesmaid bonding!) to take in the crazy good romantic comedy that everyone is talking about it.
As we mentioned, the climax of the movie is the wedding of Colin Khoo (Chris Pang) and Araminta Lee (Sonoya Mizuno). And, boy, does it deliver—so much that "the Aunties" estimate it's worth 20 mil, or maybe even 40. First, let's discuss the bride's gown, which is actually a jumpsuit designed by Mary Vogt with a 10-foot train, thousands of Swarovski crystals, and "waterproof material" so she can walk on water. (More on that below!) To create the environment surrounding the "fantasy ceremony," production designer Coates says he was inspired by Kwan's books, director Jon Chu's ideas, and their explorations of the Straits Peninsula. Ultimately, they decided on non-traditional seating (inside a church!)—"the wedding needed a focal point unlike any I had seen in a church," he says—and designed an indoor garden of water and palms to illustrate the country's slogan, “Let’s make Singapore our Garden.” To create the illusion of the guests walking through grasses (and the bride on water!), the entire floor of the church was covered in painted pegboard and then filled with 36-inch-tall artificial grasses (fake so they'd retain their shape). From there, benches were installed (as to not interfere with the all-grass look) and covered in green velvet to look like moss.
But the biggest hurdle of the install was the aisle itself. "The most challenging element was the flower-lined water aisle, constructed in truck-able segments, and somehow waterproofed during the fast installation," Coates says. It was covered in a reflective, mylar-like fabric laminated onto waterproofed marine plywood, and lined with orchids, bromeliads, and ferns. And as if that doesn't sound like enough work, he adds that water jets were hidden in the plants lining the constructed aisle to allow for the adjustment of water volume and direction. But that's not all! As a final touch, Coates enlisted the props team to handcraft hundreds of copper wire butterflies and fireflies on artificial branches highlighted with LED lights for guests to lift out of the grasses as the bride walked down the aisle—ahem, we mean river. "Those wonderful touches made the bride 'walking on water' look even more breathtaking," he says. "I love creating photo moments or scenes that make a venue look unique for a particular event. In real-life weddings, as in the movies, the photos will live on long after the ceremony and festivities."
After the ceremony, guests move over to the outdoor reception at Gardens by the Bay, a 250-acre park in the middle of the city, which is where the drama goes down in the movie—quite literally. (Spoiler alert!) "The concept included multiple levels featuring custom tables for 300 guests, plus a nod to classic Hollywood with backdrops and bandstand," Coates explains. "I wanted the tables to be non-traditional and thought oversized to feel more opulent, which each seating 14 people." In addition to arranging a grand-scale event that seriously makes you go OMG (seriously, the venue alone does!), Coates wanted the reception to celebrate and feel true to the region. To do so, they stuck to a red and gold color palette, which is traditional to weddings in China, Malaysia, and Singapore, and incorporated Chinese fan designs, love poems, and calligraphy into the backdrops. And, surprisingly (or maybe not!), weddings in the movies serve up a full meal! "We created a central food display table with ice sculptures, and an array of stunning regional delicacies," he says. "And, of course, traditional 30-layer, multi-color Kua Lapis cakes were made for each place-setting."
Now, how do you create all this on a scale that isn't, um, quite as crazy? "Bring as much nature into the ceremony as possible," he says. "Experiment with the color combinations found in nature to create a palette for your event. Look at a flower you like and mix your colors in the same way as the bloom. If it goes together in nature, it can work for you!"