Celebrity weddings: For richer - and for poorer

By Celeste Gorrell Anstiss, Kathryn Powley

Former TV3 and Prime presenter Kelly Swanson-Roe was up-front when asked about any 'extras' when she married psychologist John Aiken. Photo / Getty Images
Former TV3 and Prime presenter Kelly Swanson-Roe was up-front when asked about any 'extras' when she married psychologist John Aiken. Photo / Getty Images

Forget something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Celebrity weddings are more likely to involve something designer, something free, something exclusive and something contra.

Women's magazine insiders say Kiwi celebrities paid for their wedding story can also wangle lucrative "contra-deals" in which goods and services are supplied in exchange for a mention in story.

A frenzy of celebrity weddings this summer have included Dan Carter and Honor Dillon, Mike Hosking and Kate Hawkesby, Ali Williams and Casey Green, and Tamati Coffey and Tim Smith.

These days few well-known sports or television personalities marry without the assistance of a magazine. Today, television political reporter Guyon Espiner marries his fiancee Emma Wehipeihana in a "small, private" ceremony, one of the few this summer that - refreshingly - does not involve a mag deal.

A typical confidential magazine contract stipulates the magazine will provide free photography, hair and make-up and security. It states the amount the couple will be paid - estimates range from around $10,000 to $50,000 for A-list nuptials - and that the bride and groom or their agent have final sign-off on the text, photos and headlines.

But behind the scenes, other deals are often made. A magazine insider who has covered and set up stories for celebrity weddings in Australia and New Zealand said enormous numbers of "extras" were often laid on - even if the publishing magazine didn't always directly pay for them.

"There's a lot of kudos for companies to be associated in print with a celebrity wedding, and the celebrities know that," said UK-based journalist Jo Knowsley, former associate editor of Woman's Day and former commissioning editor of New Idea in Australia.

"The stars do sometimes ask the magazine to cover things like the cake, champagne, flowers or the bridal car - but it's more common for the naughtier ones, or their wedding planner, to go directly to the suppliers themselves. They'll negotiate big discounts or complete freebies on their promise that the company will be mentioned in the magazine."

Celebrities told her: "You must mention X hats, Y jewellers or Z cake decorators". But she would refuse as pictures were the most important thing in a wedding piece, and a list of suppliers would detract from the story.

"Of course the more a celebrity has been around and knows what to expect, the more they'll push the boundaries. They range from charming but optimistic about what freebies they might get to incredibly demanding and downright greedy. You get a not-particularly-nice glimpse of some aspects of human nature," Knowsley said.

Not all those mentioned have given the happy couple a freebie though. The Village Goldsmith of Wellington were cited in All Black Dan Carter and Honor Dillon's wedding story, but spokesman Ian Douglas said the couple paid for their rings.

With their iron-clad confidentiality agreements, few celebrities were willing to talk publicly about their wedding deals. But former TV3 and Prime presenter Kelly Swanson-Roe, who has moved to Sydney and is studying architecture, was up-front when asked about any "extras" when she married psychologist John Aiken in 2007.

"I think if you are an aggressive self-promoter you could get everything from the flowers to the cake. We didn't do that."

"Francine Fletcher from Boo Hair Design offered [her services] and that was wonderful. I already had a contract in place with Sabine and they did the bridesmaids' dresses which I insisted on paying for because I'm a bit old-fashioned in that respect."

Other celebrities told the Herald on Sunday they'd only received payment for their story, with no extras.

One celebrity bride said: "Some people negotiate discounts with suppliers. Our florist offered us a discount if they were mentioned in the magazine, which they weren't in the end, so we paid them full price. The dress and bridesmaids' dresses, I got a really lovely deal, but that was to do with the relationship I had with the designer beforehand."

* * *

Just in case you thought celebrities got everything for free here's a story to restore your faith.

A 26-second clip on YouTube shows NewstalkZB's Mike Hosking standing in front of a World Moving and Storage truck in September 2010. He faces the camera and explains why he and (now) wife Kate Hawkesby chose that company when they moved house.

"We thought, there's a New Zealand-owned business and a good business and we wanted to support that ... They're a brilliant company and we thoroughly recommend them."

Another freebie? Not for Hosking. Managing director Raymond Dobbe said the company asked him to do it and they were delighted when Hosking said yes. It was a one-take free endorsement.

That said ... about a year later the company started paying for Hosking to do radio advertorials.

- Kathryn Powley

* * *

COST OF POSTPONING

A young couple who postponed their wedding were told they couldn't have their deposit back because the reception venue would sit empty and unprofitable on a summer Saturday evening.

But on the night that they were to be married, the couple passed by Manukau's Greyhound Function Centre - and spotted another wedding party in full swing.

Barbara Williams and fiance Fakaanga Mapa, both 23, decided to delay their nuptials because they could not afford to make the day as special as they had dreamed. They had saved $15,000, but decided they wanted to invite more guests and provide better catering.

Now the couple are furious at being left $500 out-of-pocket on their deposit, despite giving three months' notice that they wouldn't be needing the venue.

The big day had been planned for January 14 but by September last year their plans had grown so they decided to delay until spring.

"We needed more time to save," Williams said. "We were still keen on the venue, we just wanted to move the date."

The contract with the venue allowed for a full refund, including deposit, if the date was filled by another booking.

But the centre's manager John Ahio told the couple the date had remained vacant.

Surprised that an in-demand function centre was not booked out on a Saturday night in summer, the couple dropped by the venue at 7pm - and found another wedding in full swing.

"There were people dancing and children running around. We asked a group of guys, who were smoking outside, what was happening and they said it was a wedding," Williams said.

"I stood outside the party and called the manager to confront him. He didn't return any of my calls until the next week."

Had her wedding gone ahead, Williams' guests would have arrived at 6pm. By 8pm the other party was showing no signs of wrapping up, she said.

"It was very distressing. It's more the principle rather than the money itself."

Ahio told the Herald on Sunday the other booking was booked to finish at 4pm but ran over-time. He said it was not a paid booking.

"I know she lost $500 but we miss out on bookings that the business can make $10,000 easy," Ahio said.

- Celeste Gorrell Anstiss

- Herald on Sunday

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