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Planning The Big Day
Sabrina and Jason's fairy tale wedding is set to take place at the Watson estate on Martha's Vineyard, the stylishly rustic island retreat popular with celebrities, politicians and socialites. For generations, the island has been home to a close-knit community of African-American families that has included former Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Harlem Renaissance writer Dorothy West and former U.S. Senator Edward Brooke.

"The setting was important in terms of establishing the world that we were entering,” says Palmer. "Martha's Vineyard has had a well-heeled black community for more than two centuries. Unfortunately we weren't able to shoot there, but we found a location in Nova Scotia that is dead ringer for that world.”

The filmmakers located a sumptuous estate near Lunenburg, a picturesque Nova Scotia fishing village founded in 1753 and named a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1995. "The scenery is dazzling,” says Bishop Jakes. "That area is magical. I've been blessed to travel all over the world, but it was one of the most beautiful and serene places I have ever seen. It is one of the highlights of the movie.”

The Watson home stands away from the town on acres of pristine wetlands. "We were so fortunate to find this amazing estate with bridges and duck ponds and barns and beaches and a football field,” says Edmonds. "It's absolutely gorgeous and we were able to utilize it all in our storytelling. "

Production designer Doug McCullough says the house was selected for its interior flow as well as its glorious setting. "The house is very grand and has all this natural beauty all around it still,” he notes. "The rooms flow together so we were able to move around easily between rooms. There's a beautiful open deck by the ocean, where a very dramatic scene between Loretta Devine and Angela Bassett plays out.” In addition to helping define the privileged world of the Watsons, the grandeur of the setting also serves to highlight the differences between families. "The Taylors are fish out of water when they go to Martha's Vineyard,” says Edmonds. "Mrs. Taylor is complaining from the moment she gets off the ferry. Everybody else is impressed by how beautiful and palatial the Watsons' estate is, but she finds it pretentious. What she's really expressing is her fear that her son is going to start changing and she'll lose him.”

The wedding is an outdoor affair with the reception in a tent, but there is nothing simple about it. McCullough approached the planning process much like an actual wedding. "In the story, the wedding has been thrown together quickly, but the Watsons have the resources to make it elegant and classic,” he says. "We did a lot of research, looking at websites and magazines to see how real people did their weddings and receptions. We borrowed all the best ideas.”

The logistics were demanding, because everything had to be brought in from the mainland. "We built this humongous tent in the middle of a field,” he says. "Since we were actually on an island, we had figure out how to get the trucks and all our staff over. We made a detailed plan, just like a real wedding. We didn't really like the edges of the tent, so we softened it with sheers and filled it with delicate gold chairs and beautiful roses. It looks like the most gorgeous wedding reception you could possibly imagine.”

Edmonds was extremely involved in the planning for the wedding. "Salim asked me to be hands-on in the look and style,” she says. "So a lot of the things on the production design side of things just happen to coincide with my own taste. I really love creamy things and so that's the palette you'll see. The antique roses for the wedding are my favorite flowers.”

The film's costumes served an important role in emphasizing the differences between the Watson and the Taylor families. Costume designer Martha Curry worked closely with Akil and Edmonds to find the right choices for both sides. "It was great collaborating with Salim,” she says. "He knows a lot about clothes. He is particular and he has great taste. If the script says Prada, he wants to see Prada. And he knows Prada.”

Edmonds brought her own flair to the costumes. "I wanted the whole cast to look very fashion-forward,” says the producer. "The girls, especially, are very cosmopolitan and I wanted to make sure they dressed accordingly. We were shooting on a very modest budget and so we had to be creative in terms of getting the look we wanted. Sabrina is all about understated grace and elegance. We found a beautiful strapless bridal gown that hugged the body and then flared out at the bottom. It was all silk with pearls up the back.”

Edmonds also wanted classic elegance for the male characters' wedding wardrobe. "We wanted to do something a little different from traditional black tuxedoes or wedding suits. I love the old Rat Pack look, so we put the guys in cream dinner jackets and black trousers. The groomsmen had black bowties and to make Jason a little different, we gave him a cream bowtie and cream cummerbund.”

Akil says the planning and preparation for the festivities gave the film a communal spirit not unlike that of a real life wedding. "What I'm happiest about is the fact that everyone involved seems to have a sense of ownership,” he notes. "Everyone is very proud of this film. I think we've stepped out a bit and done something special with respect to the story and the characters. I think we got great performances out of everyone. And I think the movie's beautiful. I hope people will enjoy it, and that it's as much fun to watch as it was to make.”


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