There’s rich ceremonies, there’s filthy rich receptions, and then, there’s crazy rich weddings. The ensemble cast and crew behind the film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel Crazy Rich Asians certainly knew the expectations were high for the wedding scene, touted as a $40 million affair depicted as the “royal wedding of Asia” across Singaporean high society.
In reality, the crew had 36 hours total to capture the scene, which culminates from the hullabaloo of Rachel Chu’s somewhat traumatic journey into Nick Young’s obscenely wealthy enclave in Singapore. The eye of the storm is the wedding itself, a moving moment paired perfectly to the tune of Kina Grannis’ sumptuous cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” There’s extravagance and there’s heightened emotions as the camera pans between Nick (Henry Golding) and Rachel (Constance Wu), the bride Araminta Lee (Sonoya Mizuno) and the groom (Chris Pang), and Astrid Leong (Gemma Chan), who’s grappling with her own relationship issues as she’s accompanied to the society event of the year by her grandmother, family matriarch Su Yi (Lisa Lu).
“The wedding scene in the movie—and I’m not being biased—I’m speaking as someone who loves watching weddings on-camera and in movies… I love a good wedding,” Kwan tells The Knot. “This was the most beautiful wedding scene ever shot in the history of cinema. How it emotionally wraps you up with the moment of nerves. And when [Araminta] steps onto the water and everything goes quiet… That’s when I lost it.”
Kwan pauses. “I do not cry at movies. But during this scene, I sure did.”
The $40 million nuptials, between scions Araminta and Colin, was, in reality, a rapid turnaround of a feat for the production crew and the cast. “That’s what we said in the movie,” director Jon M. Chu explains of the hefty fictional price tag of the nuptials. “But we only had 36 hours to shoot whatever we wanted to do inside.”
The challenges also aplenty. “By adding water to the aisle was complicated, and by adding the grass that you can’t move around in was much more complicated than expected,” Chu continues. “We had crew stuffed into a small space… And we had pews trapping us in.”
Fans can only marvel over such attention to detail. The inside of CHIJMES, a 19th-century convent-turned-event space located right in the middle of Singapore’s trendiest restaurants and hotels, served as the appropriate venue; the timing was impeccable. “It’s a highly prized wedding venue in Singapore,” explains production designer Nelson Coates. “We, of course, checked their schedule and shock of all shocks, there was a five-day window of overlap. The only available [time] all summer in Singapore.”
To prepare for the strict time frame, the team actively assembled various components externally. “Everything was designed to come in and out as quickly as possible… especially since we installed an entire botanical garden into the church,” Coates reveals. “We built everything off-site and we’re working with several different nurseries to find out what we could rent or purchase. Then we basically did a test run to various constructed elements.”
The benches were covered in moss to seamlessly integrate into the greenhouse theme of the nuptials. Coates hand-commissioned the lanterns and the bending beams of light that illuminated the center aisle. Then, there’s the water-filled aisle, which will certainly become a topic of conversation within various wedding circles.
“When we were early in the process scouting several countries from where we would film the bulk of the movie, we were in a space that had a beautiful reflecting pool and an atrium and enormous travelers palms,” Coates reveals of pre-production with Chu. “We wondered, ‘If there was only a way to do the wedding right here.’ That just started percolating in our heads, we wanted travelers’ palms and water in the wedding. That idea percolated for a while and another idea that Jon had early on was if people came in, then you were on a hill or a meadow, that would be astounding.”
The emotions are high in the film as Colin awaits his bride. Nick, the best man, nervously watches his girlfriend make her way into the venue only to be snubbed by his mom, Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) and his other aunts. Somehow, Rachel lands in a pew beside a princess (Kris Aquino), engaging in lively conversation about micro loans.
“I think you have a fighter,” Colin notes to Nick as he refers to Rachel, unabashedly seated front row as Grannis elegantly delivers her rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” The entire scene dims and goes silent as the camera pans over to Araminta, the bride. Water slowly trickles down the aisle over flowers to provide a dazzling visual effect while the entire congregation stands with makeshift lights to receive the bride. “So take my hand…” Grannis croons moments later as the main characters Nick and Rachel lovingly look to each other. “Take my whole world too. ‘Cause I can’t help falling in love with you.”
“I was influenced by royal weddings, wedding designs,” Kwan says. The initial inspiration behind the nuptials was an amalgamation of influences, ranging from weddings he’s personally attended (one of the most extravagant being a three-day affair in a variety of European chateaus) as well as Marie-Chantal Miller’s 1995 wedding. “Seeing how people make weddings really truly special was what I wanted to put in this scene,” he notes. “It’s a modern spectacle. I want more and more wedding scenes for the movie and for the books.”
Like the ceremony space, the reception was equally breathtaking filmed under the illuminated haven of Singapore’s elaborate Gardens by the Bay. “For the books, I created the wedding from scratch based on these remote islands I knew off the coast of Singapore,” Kwan explains. “For the movie, it felt so perfect to do it for Gardens by the Bay. It was almost tailor-made to the description of what I wrote about. I was like, ‘This is ideal. It’s going to look amazing, and people who don’t know Gardens by the Bay, would think that these crazy multimillion dollar sets with those trees.’ The secret is that it exists already.”
The wedding sequence was shot in June 2017. Thirteen months later, Chu married the love of his life on July 27 in an intimate wedding in Napa.
“I understand more now than back then to be planning a joint-designed wedding together. It was very fun,” he says. The ceremony was a rather unconventional mix of personalization infused with symbolism (guests were surrounded by willow trees for the couple’s infant daughter Willow), surprises (the groom called in numerous guest performances), and celeb attendees (including Scooter Braun and the Crazy Rich Asians cast).
Above all else, values. “We did two interesting things,” Chu notes. “We did a dedication to family members who had passed, then we did a vow to each other’s parents.”
Following the wedding and the reception, the couple hosted a late-night after-party accompanied by a 10-piece band. For a jet-setting director, a wedding planner was essential, and the couple tapped Natalie Good of a Good Affair to orchestrate and execute their vision. “It was just magical,” he raves. “It was a great weekend.” The couple will enjoy a “latermoon” as Chu’s honeymoon was essentially the press tour for Crazy Rich Asians. His wife, of course, joined him in support on the symbolic jade carpet—at the premiere of the film at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
And while Chu had yet to experience the emotional queues of his own wedding during filming, the complex moments between family members and friends, heightened by intense feelings of love and commitment, certainly permeate through the screen. Chu, Kwan, Coates, and the cast nailed the sentiment of what guests feel at weddings.
“I wanted to show—the movie is called ‘Crazy Rich Asians’—there’s a lot of wealthy people around,” Chu concludes. “But ultimately, it’s not about wealth at all. That’s the message. You don’t need any of that. Yes, this is an extravagant crazy wedding, but what makes you cry isn’t the extravagance. That almost makes you laugh.”
He reflects. “When you cry, it’s about these two people, who for the first time, he sees her as the person he’s going to spend his life with,” Chu continues of Nick and Rachel. “They’re an embattled couple and it’s here, in this beautiful wedding, that they find the resolve… All the extravagance and the craziness disappears.”
Leaving viewers with a crazy rich experience.