Back in 2014, on a sunny May Saturday in Europe, reality TV’s reigning queen Kim Kardashian wed her prince Kanye West in one of the most lavish weddings the world has ever seen.
They’ll always have Paris. And Florence.
After nearly seven years of marriage, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have called it quits, with the beauty mogul filing for divorce on Feb. 19 after months of deliberation.
It was a break up the world seemed to know was coming, a source telling E! in January that “they haven’t spent time together as a married couple in months.” But for all the discussion around the impending moment, its arrival lacked the typical Kardashian-West fanfare. There were no paparazzi, no reporters and no, well, extravagance that so often followed them. In other words, it was the opposite of how their union began.
Because, back in 2014, on a sunny May Saturday in Europe, reality TV’s reigning queen wed her prince in one of the most lavish weddings the world has seen. There was an impressive array of flowers, a standout Givenchy gown, a gilded carriage and a heaping dollop of speculation about whether a certain family member might attend. Sound a little familiar?
Of course for Kim, the drama surrounded brother Rob Kardashian, who flew all the way to Paris for the couple’s pre-wedding festivities only to ditch out when the rest of the family boarded private jets to the actually wedding site in Florence, Italy. Feeling insecure about his 100-pound weight gain, Rob nonetheless made the transatlantic trip to support his sister and future brother-in-law. But en route, Kim reported on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, “He read some nasty comments about himself and he just didn’t feel comfortable and he didn’t want to see all my guests.”
While an insider told E! News that Kim understood, she was no less heartbroken. “It makes me so sad for him,” she explained. “And I don’t even want to think about it. I don’t want to talk about it. Today is my wedding and I don’t want to cry. I just want to, you know, have it be a happy day with amazing memories.”
Because make no mistake, this was the main event. The bachelorette party at the Eiffel Tower, brunch at Valentino Garavani’s 17th century Château de Wideville and a pre-wedding dinner at the Palace of Versailles, complete with a performance by Lana Del Ray, guides dressed in Marie Antoinette-inspired garb and an arrival via horse-drawn carriage—those were all nice. (So nice, actually, that one insider told E! News, “Everyone was crying because they had never experienced such a party” and Kim would later reveal that everyone got so drunk, including sister Khloe Kardashian!)
And yet all of those were trumped the moment the duo’s 200 guests were told (surprise!) they’d actually be flying to Italy for the vows.
The couple purportedly chose the site because of a quiet getaway they enjoyed for Kim’s birthday when they upped their relationship status from friends to more in 2012. Really enjoyed. To hear Kanye tell it, they “conceived” the first of their four children, now 7-year-old daughter North, “among the Renaissance masterpieces,” he shared with Florence’s La Nazione newspaper. “It was our first honeymoon. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world—for me the most beautiful in Europe.”
Offering sweeping views of the city below and hills in the distance, the 16th century Forte di Belvedere (its roughly $400,000 rental fee just a fraction of the estimated total $2.8 million budget) was a stunning spot for a ceremony.
Kim just had to get through a little drama first. First there was Khloe’s hangover, so intense that she slept as a glam squad handled her hair and makeup, then the revelation that Rob had split and, finally, Kim’s fears her cathedral-length Givenchy veil—matching her custom lace mermaid gown with illusion cutouts—was so heavy it might “make me trip and fall right on my face.”
But when she made her way down to a waiting Kanye she didn’t stumble once. Even as she caught sight of famed Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli belting out “Con te Partiro.” The singer-songwriter is a favorite of both Kim and her late father Robert Kardashian so he was an appropriate choice for the processional, Kim just assumed they’d use a recorded version. “I thought I was walking to the aisle to his CD playing,” she told E! News. “But when I got to the altar, I did a double take and screamed. I couldn’t believe he was there himself.”
The surprise, arranged by Kanye, left her feeling “like I was walking down the aisle with my dad.”
And it was just the first of several breathtaking moments. Standing in front of a staggering wall of white blooms, pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr. led a ceremony as Kim’s siblings Khloe, Kourtney Kardashian, Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner looked on alongside celeb guests such as John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Rachel Roy and LaLa Anthony. (Fresh off their Met Gala fight and reportedly fearing a run-in with Rachel, Beyoncé and Jay Z begged off.)
After confessing to one pal he’d practiced his self-penned vows in the mirror to commit them to memory, Kanye delivered his heartfelt words without a hitch and the parents to then 11-month-old North (watching in her own custom haute couture Givenchy) sealed their marriage with a kiss.
“The whole wedding was just filled with so much love,” Kylie would later confess on Good Morning America. “It was just really amazing to watch that.” Echoed sister Kendall, “Everything was amazing. And to see two people so happy. I think that that was probably my favorite part.”
Some may have chosen the décor at the reception that followed. In addition to the bright red lights that dotted the fort’s perimeter, contemporary American artist Vanessa Beecroft installed several pieces around the sprawling grounds.
And then there were the more than $100,000 worth of floral arrangements courtesy of one of Florence’s oldest flower shops, Thierry Boutemy and the 224-foot imperial marble table so large it they needed a crane to hoist it in. And because escort cards are so passé the custom piece was etched with the name of each guest at their assigned spot.
Others may have named the four-course dinner of homemade pasta stuffed with ricotta, monkfish filet and beef filet with potato tarts washed down with glasses of Armand de Brignac champagne and Brunello di Montalcino san Filippo red wine.
But for most, really, the highlight was the entertainment. And we’re not just talking about pal John Legend’s performance of his beloved wedding favorite “All of Me.” Or even the fireworks show that soon followed.
Because at some point amongst the cutting of the seven-tier Galateo Ricevimenti cake and dancing to classics such as Etta James‘ “At Last” (reportedly performed by John), Otis Redding‘ “A Little Tenderness” and Michael Jackson‘s “Rock With You”, the groom took the mic for a 20-minute speech that can only be described as pure Kanye. Along with rambling about being in the limelight and brushing off tabloid covers, a source reports he announced to a cheering room, “I am defined by being a celebrity…the world is our altar.”
And he worships at his bride’s feet. Calling her famed family an “industry” and “the most remarkable people of our time” who can “make the world a better place,” he gushed even further when it came to Kim. The reality star, who presented him a book of selfies as a wedding day gift, was the “ideal celebrity” and the “ideal art.”
And the inspiration behind the ideal day. Because for all the extravagant touches, one insider insisted to E! News that the “entire wedding felt very normal. It might appear like it was something over the top, but it was very much focused on the important things that mattered most.”
With just a touch of excessive revelry. A few months after the bash, Kim shared some details on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. “There was actually one guy and one girl that were completely wasted—actually, there was a couple,” she dished, adding that one of her hairdressers “split his pants dancing to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ and he had to run out.”
Hey, even the royal wedding got a little rowdy. And as Kim summed up, “It was crazy, but it was so much fun.”