Is it obscene to spend this much on a wedding?

Here's a question to kick-start your next dinner party conversation: If you had a $4.5 million budget for your wedding (imagination is key here), how would you spend it?

Would you scrimp on the ceremony and splurge on the honeymoon? Split the costs evenly? Or perhaps you'd blow it all on an elaborate Lord of the Rings-esque ceremony in the middle of a forest. 

That's what Facebook's founding president Sean Parker chose to do when he wed singer-songwriter Alexandra Lenas in California last month. And according to all reports, the wedding had attention to detail to rival any Baz Luhrmann film. 

When you're a billionaire like Parker – who you may know as Justin Timberlake's character in The Social Network – spending $4.5 million on a custom-designed ceremony is probably not a huge stretch. No luxury was spared – the couple even hired LOTR costume designer Ngila Dickson to create "modern and whimsical" costumes for each of their 364 guests. 

And there was this magnificent cake, which speaks for itself:

For most of us, this level of nuptial extravagence is miles out of the budget. The flowers, bonbonnieres, dinner, dress – weddings are expensive enough as it is, let alone adding Hollywood costume designers and cake architects to the bill. Even the most basic wedding costs can add up to several thousands of dollars. 

But the Parker wedding is something else altogether – there's one detail many found particularly irksome about their high-budget affair. Sean came out in defence of his "big fat nerd wedding", following media reports describing the event as "tasteless", "obnoxious" and, most damning of all, "eco-trashing". 

To create the perfect fairybook location, it was widely reported the couple had hired a landscaping company to construct fake ruins, cottages, ponds, waterfalls, bridges and staircases within a woodland in Big Sur, with plants and trees added to the location during the process. Parker explained he and Lenas "wanted the forest to speak for itself", but at the same time had to build "the basic minimum features." 


It was claimed these "basic minimum features" cost the Parkers $2.5 million in fines for failing to obtain the relevant permits to use the site – a private campground situated within a redwood forest. 

However, in a 9000-word essay published by TechCrunch, Parker refuted these claims, insisting neither the natural environment not the endangered species within it were harmed in the process. He explained that fabric liners were used to protect the grounds from landscaping and that temporary potted plants were used, and that the site had already been developed during previous events held there. 

He also justified the couple's decision to use the woodland site. 

"My wife Alexandra and I met five years ago, fell in love, and almost imediately began fantasising about our wedding day, which, we both agreed, should take place deep within an enchanted forest.

"On the day of our wedding, our friends and family walked by foot down a long winding path to the ceremony site. With each step the landscape grew ever more magical, more lush, and more surreal … they left the ordinary world behind and entered an extraordinary world imagined as a kind of collaborative art project," he wrote.

(Hmm – did you miss the memo explaining that weddings have now become "collaborative art projects"? Us too.)

In the end, it seems Sean and Alexandra are pretty chuffed with their fantasy ceremony and their marriage, and that's all that really matters. 

But we do have to wonder – how much is too much to spend on a wedding? Would $4.5 million be obscene, even if you could afford it?