A real-life wedding planner tells us how to set up our own Purple Wedding—regicide and all.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones is now officially the most-watched HBO show of all time, and it has a fanbase with a ferocity to match. People name their kids after the show. They get tattoos. They build the most elaborate cosplay costumes imaginable. Some people even set up Westerosi weddings.
But even the most determined (and wealthy) fan would find it extremely difficult to accurately replicate the decadence and bloody excesses of the weddings of Game of Thrones—whether that’s a regal ceremony backed by the two most powerful families in the land, or the “barbaric splendor” of a Dothraki marriage, with 40,000 unruly tribesmen in attendance.
But we started to wonder: What if you could? How much would a bird-filled cake, a five-dwarf joust, and a rare poison necklace actually cost, in modern-day USD?
What if you were truly determined to host one of Game of Thrones’ infamous weddings in real life, and had the resources to do it? What challenges would you face, and just how much would it set you back?
Even with our copious infographic experience, we couldn’t calculate this one alone. So we roped in the help of Sarah Haywood, described by Time as “Britain’s most sought-after wedding planner and an authority on multimillion-dollar weddings.” Haywood has dozens of high-end nuptials under her belt, and she agreed to lend us her professional perspective.
The good news: Not one of the weddings in Game of Thrones is out of the question. “Absolutely everything is possible if you get the right people in,” Sarah says, and, of course, “if you’ve got the money.” With the largest, most ostentatious weddings, it’s just a case of having sufficient infrastructure, and planning and logistical costs can—and do—run into the millions.
Using Sarah’s expertise, we’ve put a figure to every one of the five weddings seen in Game of Thrones thus far. Read on, and find out just how much it’d cost to host your own Red Wedding.
MORE GAME OF THRONES MATH:
First however, here’s the headline figure* for each Westerosi wedding—ranked up against some of the most high-profile and lavish celebrity weddings in recent memory. We used E Online’s wedding breakdown for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. For Michael Jordan’s vows and the Royal Wedding, we deferred to the good people at BuzzFeed.
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Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo
Season 1, Episode 1: “Winter Is Coming”
The legendary status of Game of Thrones’ weddings was cemented in the show’s very first episode, when Daenerys Targaryen was forcibly wed to the tribal chief Khal Drogo, arranged by Dany’s impressively creepy brother Viserys in exchange for an army.
If you wanted to tie the knot Dothraki-style, the total proceedings would cost you more than a whopping $8 million. Here are some of the key costs:
Food: Food and drink fit for a Khal’s 1,000 most treasured warriors and advisers is going to set you back $587,615, while simpler fare—horsemeat and root vegetables—for the other 39,000 tribesmen in attendance will cost $1,636,927.50. Add to that kitchen costs (around $80,000) and it brings the total food bill to $2,305,129.
Insurance: $323,599—A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair, and that’s the kind of fact that makes insurance brokers jittery. Public Liability Insurance normally comes in at around 1 percent of non-production budget, but if you intend to truly embrace Dothraki customs, you better up that to 5 percent.To this you can add another $37,000, spent on a (presumably ignored) health-and-safety assessment.
Coordination and production costs: $1,617,977—The logistics of a wedding involving 40,000 unruly guests is seriously pricy. Accommodation for them all is a staggering 4 million dollars for two nights—the single biggest cost of the wedding—but the planning alone is going to set you back another 1.5 million.
Dowry: This one isn’t included in the headline $8.6 million cost. But if you want to host a Dothraki wedding properly, you’re going to need to gift the bride’s family a 10,000-strong army of Dothraki warriors to invade Westeros with (when the Khal feels like it). The value of this—based on the average cost of training a U.K. soldier—is a staggering $718,871,402. Shame Viserys never got to use it, eh?
Robb Stark and Talisa Maegyr
Season 2, Episode 10: “Valar Morghulis”
Considering this was the marriage that effectively lost Robb Stark his head, you’d think it might be a bit more ostentatious. But no, these vows were as low-key as you can get and held in a forest by torchlight. The only cost here would be the officiant’s fees (around $500) to make it “official.”
Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark
Season 3, Episode 10: “Second Sons”
Tyrion and Sansa are not a match made in heaven, it’s fair to say. This wedding is grander than Robb Stark’s, to be sure, but for all the claims that Tywin Lannister “shits gold,” the wedding he planned for his hated dwarf son was only around four times as expensive as the average American wedding ($27,000). Let’s see what was priciest:
Ceremony and venue: $41,113—With enough money, and the right bribe—sorry, donation—any place can be rented, Sarah says. For a major religious venue like the Great Sept of Baelor, $16,000 in hiring costs along with another $4,000 donation to grease the wheels should would do nicely. A castle hall for the subsequent evening feast is a little more than $20,000 for the night.
Entertainment: A selection of court musicians provide the soundtrack to Tyrion and Sansa’s evening. For $7,051, 24 assorted singers, lute-players, and drummers can be yours for the night too.
Insurance and other costs: Threats to Joffrey’s manhood notwithstanding, the wedding should be a distinctly subdued affair. The public liability insurance—pegged at 1 percent of the non-infrastructure budget—will be a little more than $1,000.
Likewise, the health and safety checks will be a steal at just $900, and coordination costs fall just short of the $21,000 mark.
Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey
Season 3, Episode 9: “The Rains of Castamere”
Ah, this one. The wedding that has gone down in television infamy. The Red Wedding. Robb Stark hoped by marrying off his uncle Edmure to one of Walder Frey’s daughters, he could win back the lord to his cause. Lord Frey had different ideas. I worry for your partner—and your sanity—if you intend to base your marriage off this one, but here we go anyway.
Food and drink: The books tell us that Robb Stark’s soldiers weren’t catered for, but for the dual feasts held in each tower of the Twins, it’ll cost around $63,000—or $126 per high-born guest. The booze bill is more expensive, at a cumulative $340,000 for all 3,500, noble and low-born alike.
Facilities: Walder Frey was kind enough to offer up his castle free of charge to the nobles, but the men outside require feasting tents and fire pits. For three, each large enough to hold a thousand men, it’ll cost $75,550. The legally mandated 20-man security detail for 48 hours is a little under $37,000—for all the good it does Robb Stark.
Murdering 3,500 people: This is the real kicker. You can’t host a real Red Wedding without the wholesale slaughter of a rebel King’s bannermen, and that doesn’t come cheap. Mafioso hitman get paid around $1,600 a pop; to make sure you get the job done properly, you’ll want more than 3,000 of them. Excluding any higher-ups trying to take a cut, that’s all in all $5.6 million.
Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell
Season 4, Episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”
At the dawn of a new century, King Joffrey of the Houses Baratheon and Lannister was joined in wedlock with Margaery of House Tyrell. From a several-dozen-course feast to jousting dwarfs, the proceedings are epic in every sense of the word, and they have a pricetag to match.
Food: The books tell us a “hearty” breakfast is served at the Queen’s Breakfast beforehand, including “honeycakes baked with blackberries and nuts, gammon steaks, bacon … chopped eggs cooked up with fiery peppers … and flagons of a light sweet golden wine.” This would cost $251 per each of the hundred guests. At the wedding feast, however, more than 70 monstrous courses are served, including “peacocks … served in their plumage, roasted whole and stuffed with dates” and “roast herons and cheese-and-almond pies.” Cooked by a world-class chef, a feast of this caliber stretches to around $1,800 per person—to feed all 1,000 at the feast, that’s $1,863,579.
Oh, and the booze will set you back another $755,505.
Entertainment: With a total entertainment bill of $1,837,759, this isn’t something done by halves. Notable costs include heralds ($4,500); a choir and choir master ($5,000); a dancing bear ($11,300, including insurance, handling and travel); firebreathers ($4,200); an exotic acrobatic troupe ($11,000), a firework set by “master pyromancers” ($420,000); and, of course, a five-piece performing dwarf act, a steal at just $2,500.
The green room, furniture, props, and sound and lighting equipment to support all of this comes to a cumulative $148,750.
Flowers: $562,599. The Tyrell sigil is a rose, and the floristry costs are commensurate to this. The ceremony flowers are $94,000, the gazebo flowers and additional arrangements are another $60,440 each, and the centerpieces for the feasts will be around $315,000. Altogether, including other arrangements, it all comes to more than half a million dollars.
Other: It’s testament to the scale and extravagance of the occasion that for a wedding like this, you’d expect to pay around $1,385,000 on coordinating and production costs alone. The health and safety risk assessment would set you back another $20,000 or so, and skips, recycling, and disposal are roughly $37,000.
Another logistical issue, flagged by Haywood, is the sheer number of courses: bizarrely, one of the most difficult aspects of the entire wedding would be finding enough plates and cutlery of a high enough quality for them all. That single aspect would ring up an unbelievable $1,400,000 bill—just the luxury glassware would be $640,000.
Regicide: Joffrey was murdered with a rare and deadly Westerosi poison known as “The Strangler,” but there are real-world alternatives that will do the job equally well. If you’re determined to have the death of a boy king as the climax of your wedding, a lethal dose of the poison ricin can be found for sale online—if you know where to look—for just $20.
Infographic and illustrations by Max Fleishman.
A very special thanks to Sarah Haywood Luxury Wedding Planners & Event Designers for providing the statistics that made this article possible.
*Due to a degree of uncertainty over Westerosi taxation and economic policy, none of the prices quoted include tax.
Main photo via HBO