A s someone who shops at discount supermarkets and never buys anything unless its in the sales, I have very mixed feelings about documentaries on the extravagant spending habits of the super-rich, so I watched Million Dollar Wedding Planner (BBC Two) prepared to roll my eyes at people spending £10,000 each on four dresses for the big day, and £300,000 worth of flowers for their event.
And indeed, my eyeballs were all over the place as Lelian Chew, a private banker-turned wedding planner to the hyper rich of Asia, organised the nuptials of three couples; Prairie and Roger, who were hiring out an entire five-star resort in Bali; Noel (a young woman) and Derek who were having 600 guests to a luxurious Hong Kong hotel, and Febyan and Angie, an Indonesian pair who were having two ceremonies, one at their Italian vineyard, the second in Indonesia.
We saw couples viewing the 12th incarnation of their wedding table setting and debating the texture of the napkins; popping into Cartier to pick out some jewellery gifts, and trying on garments for a traditional wedding tea ceremony which cost £10,000 a pop. So far, so ridiculous.
However, the programme offered more than a look at showy weddings, and segued into a study of how new wealth is seeing young people trying to break away from their parents’ traditions in China and Hong Kong. Noel and Derek wanted an outdoor wedding overseas, but to please her mother, they agreed to have a banquet reception for 600 in a soulless hotel suite so brown that it would have been like celebrating in a vat of gravy. Noel’s parents were self-made successes, and Noel’s mother was effectively giving herself the lavish wedding she had wanted for herself, but couldn’t afford at the time.
Febyan and Angie were the new generation of Asian youth; world travellers who embraced the new, but who still felt tied to the old ways of inviting hundreds – including virtual strangers – to the wedding, for luck. “It’s more of a burden than a celebration,” moaned Febyan. “It’s like I’m being punished.” I felt sorry for him. For about 30 seconds.