Can you spend too much on a wedding dress?

Following the world’s first "billion dollar wedding", Emma Spedding asks: can you throw too much money at a bridal gown?
Angelababy, China's answer to Kim Kardashian, wore two couture dresses at her £20 million wedding last year. Photo / Getty
Angelababy, China's answer to Kim Kardashian, wore two couture dresses at her £20 million wedding last year. Photo / Getty

Wall-to-ceiling banks of fresh flowers, fleets of Rolls-Royces to ferry guests, and live performances from Jennifer Lopez and Sting... the world's first "billion dollar wedding" last week was as extravagant as you'd expect.

And at the heart of the lavish nuptuals between Russian oligarch Said Gutseriev, 28, and 20?year-old dentistry student Khadija Uzhakhova was her jaw-dropping Elie Saab haute couture gown.

With a skirt and four-metre train made of delicate chantilly lace, embellished in a pattern of silk flowers, pearls, clear and mirror crystals and sequins, it was a wedding dress designed to make a statement.

The bride at last week's billion dollar wedding wore Ellie Saab. Photo / Instagram _wedding_world
The bride at last week's billion dollar wedding wore Ellie Saab. Photo / Instagram _wedding_world

And, just in case it didn't, the couple's week-long wedding extravaganza moves to London this weekend for what is rumoured to be a private concert by Sir Elton John and Beyonce.

"Thousands of hours go into a dress like this," says James Lord, founder and CEO of the Quintessentially atelier.

"It will be entirely made by hand, with no sewing machines involved. If there are a thousand crystals, each could take up to a few minutes to sew on. I would say that this dress would take 2,000 to 3,000 hours to make and could have up to 50 people working on it.

"Elie Saab has declined to confirm the cost of Uzhakhova's dress, but estimates have been put as high as pounds £277,000 - which, says Lord, is a conservative guess.

"The most expensive wedding dress I've heard of was a Valentino costing £500,000, commissioned by a Russian bride. Couture gowns by Vivienne Westwood, Elie Saab and Suzie Turner average at £100,000, depending on the style and materials.

Ralph & Russo closed their show with an extravagant wedding gown. Photo / Getty
Ralph & Russo closed their show with an extravagant wedding gown. Photo / Getty

"While the world of bridal couture is shrouded in secrecy, the output is visible twice a year when many of the haute couture shows in Paris traditionally feature one statement bridal piece on the catwalk.

Britain's first couture company, Ralph & Russo, closed their most recent show with one of the most spectacular wedding gowns in couture history: a dress with a train so long it required six atelier staff to turn it at the end of the runway.

READ MORE: • World's first billion dollar wedding

The gown has 826 metres of tulle and 46 metres of organza, with millions of crystals, pearls, organza flowers and three-dimensional petals."The embroidery alone for the SS16 bridal gown took over 50 couturiers 6,000 combined hours to create," designer Michael Russo reveals to the Telegraph.

Queen Victoria is credited with starting the trend for wedding dresses when, in a radical departure from women just wearing their best dresses to get married, she commissioned a white lace gown for her 1840 wedding. Couturiers noticed that society girls wanted to emulate their Queen and started creating white dresses - a colour that had traditionally been worn when women were presented at court.

Society brides haven't always felt the need to walk up the aisle in the most expensive gown their wealthy fathers can buy. In 1919, when industrialist Andrew Carnegie gave away his daughter, 22-year-old Margaret, it was a simple affair, held at the family's Upper East Side home, with fewer than 100 guests and bagpipers for entertainment. The bride wore a simple white satin dress trimmed with lace.

If you don't know much about Princess Grace's wedding, apart from the dress, it's simply because weddings weren't as public or as grand as they are today. Photo / Getty
If you don't know much about Princess Grace's wedding, apart from the dress, it's simply because weddings weren't as public or as grand as they are today. Photo / Getty

Similarly, when it comes to dressing a royal bride, it doesn't have to be pricey. The Queen famously saved up ration cards to purchase the material needed for her bridal gown, designed by Norman Hartnell, made of ivory duchesse satin and decorated with 10,000 pearls imported from America.

Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, favours an "old-fashioned mindset" when it comes to the big day. "The smart thing for a society wedding is to make it very chic and subtle, low-key: St Paul's Knightsbridge, then a reception or a dance at Claridges. If you're very grand, you have a reception in your own home. You don't hire a castle. If, like me, you don't remember much about Jackie O's or Princess Grace's wedding, apart from the dress, it's simply because they weren't as public or as grand as they are today."

And couture bridal budgets today are eye-watering. One oligarch is rumoured to have touted her £1 million budget to her favourite fashion house, with the proviso that she got a personal appointment with the designer. He declined.

European and Hollywood royalty seem to veer towards Italian designer Valentino to create showstopping dresses - he's made wedding gowns for everyone from heiress Nicky Hilton to Princess Madeleine of Sweden.

The Chinese and Russians head to Dior and Elie Saab. The actress Angelababy (China's answer to Kim Kardashian, thanks to her 58 million followers on social media), wore both at her £20 million wedding last year.

Elie Saab made a wedding dress that she wore in her engagement photos, while Dior spent five months creating her dress for the big day, with 170ft of tulle crafted into seven skirt layers and a 10ft train.

Because of the workmanship that goes into these gowns, it's hardly surprising that very few women get to wear one. In 2014, the Telegraph reported that in the three years since Dolce & Gabbana began their Alta Moda collection, they had designed just 15 wedding dresses.

So how does one get to be the type of person who purchases a £100,000 wedding gown?

Lord advises you will need a well-connected wedding planner. "If a wedding planner already has worked with the designer, it is easy to commission a custom gown. Brides who commission couture also often have a relationship with that designer.

"For the rest of us, it's probably more about admiring from afar...

- Daily Telegraph UK

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