Diary of a High-Society Bridesmaid

Kim Schlegel and I have been friends since college, so I am no stranger to the Schlegel way of doing things. But nothing could have prepared me for her April wedding to Justin Whitman.

SAY CHEESE: Kim and Courtney pose for a snapshot during the reception.

Standing near the caviar and vodka buffet, under a magnificent 33,985-square-foot tent in Lee Park, I surveyed the crowd. The big jewels were out of the safe that night, and there was more couture in the room than on the entire third floor of Neiman Marcus NorthPark. Mother of the bride Myrna Schlegel dazzled in a royal blue Oscar de la Renta gown. Houston socialite Becca Cason Thrash mingled nearby in a black and white Ralph Rucci haute couture gown from Paris and estate vintage Cartier turquoise and diamond jewels. Gene Jones sparkled in diamond earrings the size of my cell phone.

I can’t remember seeing so many Who’s Who types in one place: Lee Iaccoca, Norman Brinker, Mike Modano, Dominick Dunne, Buzz Aldrin, Gillian Hearst-Shaw, Lisa Arpey. And then there were the royals: Princess Michael of Kent, Princess Ira von Furstenberg, Prince Kiko Hohenlohe, Princess Esra Jah. These were only a few among the literally thousands who came to celebrate the nuptials of Kim Schlegel and Justin Whitman.

I thought I had gotten used to the Schlegel way of doing things. As a close friend of Kim’s since we were sorority sisters at SMU, I’ve attended all sorts of swanky events—soirees at her family’s Preston Hollow estate, dinner parties on their cruise ship-size yacht, rock star-esque weekends in the Hamptons and Vegas. But I was still unprepared for the sheer magnitude of Kim’s April 2 wedding.

THINK PINK: Kim parties with mom Myrna at Medici.

PRIMP and PRE-PARTY
The wedding “weekend” began Thursday afternoon with a “Pampered Pink” spa party, hosted by Debbie Tolleson and Connie Howe, for the 12 bridesmaids, female relatives, and close girlfriends of Kim. Upon arrival, attendants serving champagne and cocktails in pink-feathered glassware escorted us to the Tollesons’ outdoor pavilion, which had been converted into an over-the-top spa complete with pink draped walls and a lavish buffet adorned with mannequins draped in pink towels and boas.  We picked up our personalized pink-trimmed tote bags containing a super-soft monogrammed pink robe, flip-flops that read “princess” in pink rhinestones, a pink hair clip, and a pink spa “key” that we wore around our wrists to keep track of our clothes. What seemed like the entire staff of Preston Nailery was on hand, as well three masseuses and hair and makeup stylists, to rub down, buff, polish, blow out, and beautify every last one of us.

Five hours later, Kim went to reclaim her checked clothing, but her sister Kari had mischievously replaced them with a gown from David’s Bridal (“$848 marked down to $99,” she boasted), plus gloves, a veil, and a “bachelorette” tiara. The normally conservative and couture-clad Kim is the last girl I’d expect to see running around town in a cheesy bachelorette outfit, but she happily obliged. Minutes later we were in a stretch Hummer on the way to Medici, downing champagne and screaming the words to “It’s Raining Men.”

THINK PINK: Kim’s brother (and groomsman) Kirby joined the women, including Connie Howe and Debbie Tolleson, at Medici.

Justin and his groomsmen joined us at the club, as did Kim’s mom Myrna and her friends, who showed up in their pink robes and flip-flops. “Big Daddy” Bob Schlegel ordered Veuve Clicquot and late-night hors d’oeuvres for the entourage, who tore up the dance floor for hours.

After midnight, fellow bridesmaid Mary Collings and I left, intending to hitch a ride to our cars from my boyfriend Jeff, only to be thwarted in the parking lot by the Schlegels’ heat-packing head of security. After he okayed Jeff’s credentials, we were allowed to leave. There would be no bridesmaids held for ransom.

 

HAUTE STUFF: The tablescape was designed by Todd Fiscus, with flowers by Lucy Rivas of Bella Flora. Dinner included Zodiac Room favorites.

PRACTICE RUN
We started with hair and makeup (yes, for the rehearsal) before noon on Friday, then the 40 members of the wedding party attended a walk-through of the ceremony at the Meyerson Symphony Center. Kim, her mother, and her sisters wore sleek dresses, pantsuits, and sparkling jewels, which I assumed was their attire for the cocktail party and dinner that followed the rehearsal. But that was only their daywear. Kim’s rehearsal-night dress was a gorgeous white and gold Carolina Herrera runway wedding gown that she had altered into cocktail-length perfection. Kari, too, was stunning in a layered lace Ungaro with aqua ribbons.

A seemingly never-ending parade of beautiful people air-kissed and greeted one another. Justin’s French relatives (from his mother Caroline’s side) arrived looking unmistakably European chic. Several glasses of champagne later, caught up in the evening’s magic, I noticed Vanity Fair columnist Dominick Dunne, and I almost greeted him enthusiastically before I remembered that we’d never actually met.

Kim’s sister Kari, Alex Perry, and Lauren and Mariel Armstrong.

Eventually the out-of-town guests were whisked away to a dinner at the home of Kelly and Norman Green, while the Schlegel and Whitman families and the wedding party stayed for a tented dinner in the garden. All 100 guests were seated around a single table the size of several tennis courts, decked out with porcelain vases, lemons, flowers, and candles. Everyone was talking about how extraordinary the tablescape was, but we were seated so far apart that we had to do it via text messages.

The last toast of the evening was Justin’s, during which he climbed up on the table and walked the half-mile perimeter with the microphone, acknowledging friends, family, and finally his bride-to-be along his victory lap. It was quite a performance—but then again, his father is Oscar-nominated actor Stuart Whitman, so he’s got great performances in his blood.

THE CEREMONY
Drivers were dispatched at 6 Saturday morning to collect the bride, her family, bridesmaids, flower girls, and pageboys for the noon ceremony at the Meyerson. Wardrobe, makeup, and hair began at 7 in the green rooms. Over the intercom, we heard the symphony and choir rehearsing. We felt like the cast of some big production about to perform a sold-out, opening-night show. The photographers, wedding coordinator Mary Wright-Shah, a half dozen assistants, and the security team had wireless earpieces so they could communicate with each other. It looked like a super-glam covert operation, with a bunch of dressed-up people walking really fast, seemingly talking to themselves.

SHOWTIME: Mr. and Mrs. Whitman walk down the aisle.

Famed local designer Michael Faircloth—a favorite of First Lady Laura Bush—personally escorted the bridesmaids’ dresses and shoes to the dressing room. The sashes of the dresses, which Faircloth expertly tied for each of us, were made from the same ribbon that was tied to the wedding invitation, program, and save-the-date card.

Before Kim dressed, she gave each bridesmaid a pair of pearl and diamond earrings by designer Sue Gragg, who is so high-profile that even one of the 6-year-old flower girls recognized her work. (The flower girls received Sue Gragg pearl bracelets.) Each bridesmaid also received a crown-shaped brooch and personalized “something blue” lingerie. I had collected so many gifts, I felt like a presenter at the Academy Awards.

About six people helped Kim into her gown. When she emerged at 11:30, she looked just like a princess, with an 18-foot train that would have made Lady Di proud. The dress was Givenchy haute couture, made specifically for her in Paris. (Kim took three trips to Paris and two trips to New York to finish all of her fittings.) An antique tiara provided by Carter Malouf of William Noble was the finishing touch.

No wedding is complete without a few mishaps, of course, and Kim handled them beautifully. As we bridesmaids were waiting for our cue to report downstairs, Kim noticed that the bridesmaids’ bouquets weren’t what she had envisioned, and the wreaths the flower girls were supposed to carry were mistakenly put in their hair. But no bridezilla tantrums here. Kim calmly gave instructions. The hairdressers frantically pulled out bobby pins, and the halos once again became wreaths. And the message was sent to Todd Fiscus via earpiece that we weren’t walking down the aisle until we had gardenia bouquets. But he was across town, transforming the tent for the evening’s festivities.

“I had five boxes of gardenias left,” he told me later, “so I set up an assembly line and wired them together while we had a car pull around.” Less than a minute before the door to the symphony hall swung open, the assistants came sprinting toward us with the new bouquets. Crisis averted.

The gardenia-infused cake was created by Le Gateau.

So the ceremony began. Three best men, nine groomsmen, two maids of honor, 10 bridesmaids, six flower girls, one ring bearer, and two pageboys, along with the entire Dallas Symphony Orchestra, conductor Andrew Litton, the Dallas Symphony Chorus, Chorus conductor David Davidson, two scripture readers, an organist, and a soloist (Kim’s uncle, Steven Horst, a professional baritone) took the stage. If you lost count, that’s more than 300 people.

Despite the formality of it all, there were humorous moments. After Kim’s father gave her away, he took the short way back to his seat—right across her train. The bride and groom recited their own vows and, in the process, forgot a few of the in-sickness-and-in-health-type promises, but the Rev. Mark Craig (pastor to President Bush) made sure they got all of them in.

After Kim became Mrs. Whitman, the monogrammed hand towels in the powder rooms were switched from S to W and a grand reception for 2,000 ensued in the lobby of the Meyerson. Attendees, including everyone you’ve ever seen in the social columns and 90 percent of the folks on D Magazine’s 100 Most Expensive Homes list,  enjoyed exotic sandwiches, cheeses, and fruits from the beautiful buffets.

When the afternoon reception was over, I asked Kim’s sister Kari, whose boyfriend is Alex Perry, if her wedding would be as spectacular. “I think I’m going to get married by Elvis in Vegas,” she mused. “Either that or I’m going to blow this wedding out of the water,” she said with a wink. Hurry—there’s still time to get on the A List.

GET DOWN TONIGHT: Kim and Justin cut a rug at the reception.

UNDER THE BIG TOP
From the Meyerson, Kim and Justin were driven to the Mansion, where they posed for their wedding portrait, and the bridesmaids were chauffeured to a two-story suite at the Crescent, where we had our hair and makeup done—again. A few hours later we were shuttled to the newly Pavestoned (of course) Lee Park. The sun was setting, reflecting beautifully on the downtown skyline. Hundreds of candles lit the park.

Seven hundred and thirty-eight of the Schlegels’ and Whitmans’ closest friends gathered to celebrate under the “tent” composed of three distinct and equally chic areas: one resembled a swanky New York bar, another served as a luxury lounge, and the third was the massive grand ballroom where guests danced all night. Dividing the “rooms” were spectacular glass walls with glass shelves on which hundreds of silver lovebirds—1,200 in all—were situated among thousands of votive candles.

As the tent filled up, well-heeled guests kept stepping on the train of my dress. Princess Michael of Kent—who probably has some experience with trains—came over and bustled my train, then proceeded to help the other bridesmaids. But soon thereafter, one guest decided that against the princess’s better judgment, the dresses looked better unbustled. As she untied the trains, she announced, “I’m Princess Ann of Dallas.”

In the ballroom, after Chuck Norris gave the blessing, more than 300 perfectly choreographed attendants served dinner. The second course was tortilla soup from the Mansion on Turtle Creek, and an apron-clad Dean Fearing was in the kitchen overseeing all 738 bowls. But the highlight of the dinner was the toast from the father of the bride, who reminisced about the origins of the evening. “When they told me a tent, I thought, ’Well, how much can a tent cost?’”

The band, Starlight Orchestra from New York, kept the dance floor packed, Manolos to Manolos, all night long. I thought Kim might be ready to leave when the DJ took over at midnight, but with her dress newly bustled and rid of the royal train, she stayed on the dance floor until the last song at 3 a.m.: “9 to 5,” by Dolly Parton.

PARTY KIDS: Kim and Justin still had the energy to boot scoot.

THE WESTERN FINALE
It’s hard to keep up with those Schlegels in more ways than one. While many of us were a little slow getting out of bed come Sunday, they were ready for more partying—this time hosting a Western shindig for the wedding party and out-of-town guests at their Ewing-style ranch in Pilot Point.

Once again, Kim was decked out for the affair, this time in a flirty Givenchy couture Western-style dress, black-and-white feathered cowboy hat, and “Mrs. W” boots custom-made for her by Lucchese. Lola trailed at Kim’s heels—wearing a Chihuahua-size cowgirl hat. While Kim and Justin enthusiastically circled the festivities, guests cheered on their favorites in the armadillo races, and the kids watched a cowboy do impressive rope tricks. Never ones to turn down a chance to dance, Kim and Justin hit the dance floor yet again, this time for a little boot scootin’.

Meanwhile, those of us who were too tired to line dance feasted on barbecue and sipped Diet Cokes while lounging by the pool. We visited the covered-wagon candy bar, where we scooped up all sorts of confections and cowgirl gift books and deposited them into to-go bags that read, “Y’all Come Back Soon, Ya’ Hear.” At 4 o’clock, Kim and Justin finally set out for their honeymoon—first a stop at the Spa at Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C., then a two-week African safari, followed by a stop in London. But all I could think about was getting back home to my fluffy pink robe.

BACK TO REALITY
Monday morning, I had serious high-society withdrawal. Who was going to do my hair and makeup? Where was my driver? The paparazzi-like photographers? The presents? I felt like Cinderella after midnight. You mean I have to go to work today? By the time I checked my e-mail, there was already a flurry of messages from other bridesmaids expressing similar sentiments. One was already planning a reunion. Thank you to the Schlegels and the Whitmans for giving us all the royal treatment. The fairy tale was fun while it lasted.

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