Michael Jackson and the most OTT showbiz wedding of all time: Liza Minnelli and David Gest’s 2002 nuptials were attended by Donald Trump, Diana Ross and Elizabeth Taylor, with MJ as best man

Stars like Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Ross attended Liza Minnelli’s nuptials to David Gest in 2002. Photos: Getty

Although she had already been married (and divorced) three times, Liza Minnelli’s fourth and final wedding to producer David Gest was surely the most outlandish.

As long-time mutual friends of Michael Jackson, the unlikely couple met while working on the 2001 concert and TV special Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration. Gest produced the show and Minnelli performed.

As portrayed in the 2002 VH1 special Liza and David’s Wedding, Gest was “smitten” and Minnelli immediately admired the producer. Fast forward a few short months and the two celebrities were at the centre of what can be regarded as the most over-the-top showbiz wedding ever, with their superstar bestie MJ right by their side.

David Gest, Liza Minnelli, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor pose for an official photo as part of OK! Magazine’s exclusive coverage of the 2022 wedding. Photo: OK!

So what else made the Minnelli-Gest wedding ceremony so outrageous? Let’s take a look.

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The celebrity wedding party

Legendary Cleopatra actress Elizabeth Taylor and singer Michael Jackson stand together at the wedding of Liza Minnelli and David Gest in 2002. Photo: Getty Images

Besides their star-studded guest list, both bride and groom had their famous friends as part of the respective wedding retinues.

During the VH1 special, Minnelli said, “If a coal miner got married a lot of coal miners would come to the wedding. I’m not a coal miner; I’m in show business so all of my friends are in show business.”

Tito Jackson was one of David Gest’s best men alongside his brother Michael Jackson, at Liza Minnelli’s wedding. Photo: Getty Images

The bride had two maids of honour: her Cabaret co-star and long-time friend Marisa Berenson, and Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor.

As for the groom, the best men were brothers Michael and Tito Jackson. Gest had met the Jacksons as an adolescent, and had been friends with them ever since.

Diana Ross, Altovise Davis, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson all arriving at the wedding of Liza Minnelli and David Gest. Photo: Getty Images

Never ones not to make an entrance, Jackson and Taylor were in fact the last to arrive. As the famous friends stepped out of the limo with none other than international superstar Diana Ross, the crowds outside erupted in cheers.

Singer Natalie Cole and her husband arriving for Liza Minnelli and David Gest’s wedding – she was among dozens of celebrity musicians and actors present. Photo: Corbis via Getty Images

A final noteworthy appearance was when Natalie Cole (who actually replaced a last-minute no show Whitney Houston, according to reports) serenaded the bride and groom and their guests with a rendition of the classic “Unforgettable”, made famous by her crooner dad Nat King Cole.

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The guest list was massive

Liza Minnelli and David Gest were paid what was then around US$700,000 by OK! Magazine for exclusive coverage of the wedding. Photo: Getty Images

One of the most impressive aspects of the affair was the list of wedding invitees. Over 800 guests flocked to the New York Church to witness what VH1 dubbed the “celebrity wedding of the millennium”.

From pop stars to dignitaries, the guest list read like a Who’s Who of Hollywood royalty. Some of the high-profile personalities present on the day included Luther Vandross, Kirk Douglas, Janet Leigh, Joan Collins, Liam Neeson, Sporty Spice Mel C, Anthony Hopkins, Mia Farrow, Michael Douglas and Donald Trump.

So many famous people attended, some of the celebrity guests commented accordingly.

On the VH1 special, one of Minnelli’s bridesmaids, the singer Mya, recalled that it “felt like I was at an awards show”, while a visibly impressed David Hasselhoff remarked on the frenzy surrounding the guests’ arrival, saying, “Who else could do this?! I mean look at this!”

The crazy costs including security, outfits and flowers

Liza Minnelli and David Gest’s wedding is still considered one of the most OTT of all time. Photo: YouTube

According to British media, the wedding cost US$3.5 million, which adjusted for inflation would be almost US$6 million today. Requiring a full production team to organise and execute, the highly publicised marriage took place on a Saturday in March 2002 at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York.

On the morning of the big day, the streets surrounding the venue were barricaded off and overflowed with paparazzi, journalists and masses of adoring fans hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite celebrities. Reports said people had been camping out since the early hours of the morning. There was also, to be expected for an event of this magnitude, significant security present.

When Liza Minnelli and David Gest got married, it was Minnelli’s fourth marriage and Gest’s first. Photo: Reuters

Ensuring the wedding party looked the part for the once-in-a-lifetime ceremony, teams of make-up artists, hairdressers and stylists were present. For the venue decor, an abundance of orchids were strewn exquisitely around the church altar. Floral designer Preston Bailey explained the massive arrangement was intended to look like the bride and groom were “married under a weeping willow tree”.

David Gest and Liza Minnelli leave the Marble Collegiate Church in New York after their wedding and “that kiss”. Photo: AP Photo

For the highly anticipated wedding gown, the 56-year-old bride wore a custom, off-the-shoulder Bob Mackie dress made of ivory satin and a bodice featuring elaborate pearl and teardrop beading, and princess and marquise cut crystals. According to Mercury News, OK! Magazine even paid the couple upwards of US$700,000 to cover the event.

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That infamous kiss

Sure, the guests were stars and the ceremony opulent, but what was perhaps the most memorable thing about the entire day was the newlyweds’ post-vow-exchange kiss.

No restrained peck, the now notorious smooch was an over-the-top and impassioned locking of the lips.

Wedding guest and future American president Donald Trump was quoted as saying, “I have been to many weddings. And I have never seen a kiss like that before,” whereas The View host, Joy Behar quipped, “He sucked her lips right out of her face!”

The end of the fairy tale

After their divorce, David Gest sued his former wife Liza Minnelli, accusing her of beating him in alcohol-induced rages. Photo: AP

Unfortunately and perhaps not unexpectedly, the fairy tale Hollywood romance didn’t last. Although, the official divorce was reportedly finalised in 2007, the marriage was over 16 months after it began.

What started as a glitzy and extravagant display of love ended as an acrimonious battle between the exes. Both parties accused each other of various wrongdoings, including abuse. Back-and-forth million-dollar lawsuits were filed, but ultimately the cases were dropped when the divorce settlement was reached.

Sadly, Gest died in 2016 and Minnelli, 76, has never remarried.

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  • When singer Liza Minnelli wed producer David Gest, one man was important to them both – Michael Jackson – who stood by their side throughout as best man
  • The couple’s OTT post-vows kiss shocked even Donald Trump, who attended the event alongside Michael Douglas, Mel C and hundreds more