Ritz Carlton, Osaka
The luxe in-house chapel at the Ritz-Carlton, Osaka. For a mere $1 million price tag, the happy couple and their guests can just about have full run of the hotel's amenities.
By Jon Bonné
updated 6/29/2004 10:11:33 AM ET 2004-06-29T14:11:33

Got sticker shock when your wedding planner delicately delivered her estimate? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

A Japanese hotel last week unveiled an exclusive, unsettlingly comprehensive package designed to give newlyweds everything their hearts and wallets could desire. Price tag: a cool $1 million.

“We feel that it’s our responsibility to turn our guests’ dreams into reality,” said Mutsuko Akesaka, public relations director for the Ritz-Carlton, Osaka, which devised the package as a way to draw attention to Japan’s one-time capital and third-largest city.

Even in spendy Japan, where the Ritz-Carlton estimates a 65-person wedding can cost nearly $30,000, this is a bit extravagant.  But that isn’t to say you don’t get a deal. Just a few of the amenities:

  • A complete reception and dinner for 300 people, including a 10-layer cake and a performance by traditional maiko dancers. (A maiko is an apprentice geisha.)
  • The best suite in the hotel for the happy couple, plus two nights of accommodations for all your guests in rooms with Italian marble and twice-daily maid service. (The Ritz-Carlton’s 292 rooms easily top $300 a night, so that could be well over $120,000 in hotel rooms, especially if you have a lot of single friends.)
  • The groom’s choice of tuxedo, and a wedding dress of the bride’s choice, plus some choice time with one of the hotel’s “wedding stylists,” former fashion models who help brides improve their poise. The bride also gets a jyunihitoe -– a 12-layered traditional wedding robe worn by Japanese royalty.
  • Bulgari jewelry for the engagement and wedding rings, and gifts for all the guests.
  • Not one but two honeymoons: a week each in Milan and Bali, with a chartered jet and accommodations at Ritz-Carlton properties. (Equivalent first-class airfare alone could top $32,000.)

Needless to say, there might be a penny or two of profit in there, but “it’s a good deal," Akesaka said, " ... if you start adding up."

Ritz Carlton, Osaka
The hotel's best suite will be made available for any couples with the cash to get the $1 million package. But the hotel provides a wedding planner to every couple who gets married there.

Hotel event staff have gained popularity with couples as wedding planners' salaries -- and ambitions -- keep growing. Even at $1 million, buying the whole wedding as as a package might save you from all those hidden costs that add up at the last moment. After all, hiring one bartender at the Ritz-Carlton’s San Francisco property costs $225. A single ice sculpture can set you back $500 or more.

"No bride's budget is ever big enough," said Liz Zack, senior online editor at wedding site TheKnot.com. "Any wedding can cost a million dollars if you do it right."

Zack quickly contemplated a handful of decadent ways to blow seven figures at the altar. If a couple were inclined to use (and could find) Dom Perignon 1973 Oenothèque, at over $400 per bottle, a celebratory toast for a few hundred friends could quickly eat some cash: "In 30 seconds you can go through $22,500."

The Ritz-Carlton, which scored the top rating in Japan this year for Zagat’s international hotel survey, hasn’t hosted something quite this extravagant during its seven years of operation. But other Japanese hotels have arranged similarly opulent affairs for celebrities.

High-profile festivities on other shores have been similarly costly. Paul McCartney’s wedding to Heather Mills cost an reported $1 million. Estimates soared even higher when Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones got hitched at New York's fabled Plaza hotel in 2000, where banquet charges are thought start at about $425 per guest. Zeta-Jones also draped herself in a Christian Lacroix gown, which added an estimated $250,000 to the tally.

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"Those are the only people who I can think would even come close to spending that much," said Mike Taylor of Fairmont Hotels, which operates the Plaza.

Sometimes, there's less to these price tags than meets the eye. Much ado was made over "Bachelorette" Trista Rehn's wedding and its claimed $4 million cost -- with observers noting much of the expense was likely comped for product placements.

There are no takers yet on the Osaka deal. But even if you’re ready to send in a deposit, you may still want to check availability. The Ritz-Carlton insists on a six-month lead time (sorry, J. Lo!) to prepare all the details, and it will only host one of these little fêtes per year.

Which isn't to say you can’t set your sights even higher.  After all, Indian steel magnate Laskshmi Mittal recently paid for a 1,500-guest, six-day affair in some of France’s most hallowed venues, including Versailles and the Tuileries gardens.  His bill?  $60 million.

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