Picture this: You return home from college to your parents’ San Marino California home, you’ve grown up, graduated and fallen in love.
You have a new sense of sophistication, you’ve tamed those curls and your overall style does not impede your sense of fun in sliding down the bannister or shooting hoops in the back yard with your pop. Did I also mention that your parents are Steve Martin and Diane Keaton? That’s right, you’re living your best Nancy Meyers life and you are in fact Annie Banks in Father of the Bride.
I promised that I would return to this film in my very first post and I figured, why not now? I watch it at least once a year without fail, and I continue to be entranced by it after all these years.
It’s mystique when I was younger was not that obvious to me at the time, but I knew that I loved this family home. It’s picket fence, the winding path to the front door, the veranda out the back for family meals and every detail of it’s interior. The beautiful family kitchen space where Martin’s George gifts Annie a cappuccino machine as a wedding present, Annie’s childhood bedroom, so feminine and ever-so-slightly French with her wrought-iron bed and delicate, free-standing mirror. This house is a treasure trove of interior gems.
From the loft to the lounge, the Banks family home is awash in that soft golden hour glow, all day long. Even the open credits, with that classic music, is bejewelled by champagne bubbles floating in a glass, filing our screens with a lux gold filter that carries through the movie (there’s a lot of champagne quaffed).
Released in 1991, a remake of the 1950 original starring Elizabeth Taylor and Vincent Minnelli, this film is charming with a capital C. It also informed my every idea on what a wedding should be right up until, I’d say about 10 years ago when my own group of friends started to get married and I learned that American weddings, particularly those movie weddings, are a beast, entirely of their own.
According to Befrugal.com which has broken down wedding costs for movie weddings including Bridesmaids and Sex and the City, the Father of the Bride wedding cost an eye-watering $249,323 – and that’s with the ‘free’ venue.
George and Nina Banks live an idyllic life in California, their home a statement of comfort and middle class success. It is their sanctuary, it’s where they raised their children and we find them, enjoying the pace of everyday life when daughter Annie returns home a newly qualified architect and engaged!
What ensues is an all-American feast of wedding wonder, with Steve Martin chopping it up as the eye-rolling FOTB whose every penny saving move is thwarted by Franck Eggelhoffer (Martin Short), the wedding planner.
The family home plays a crucial, central role in this film and I think that’s why I love it. It transforms from lived-in luxury family home, with memories of games in the yard and noisy dinners round the kitchen table, to a bridal backdrop, festooned in florals, over-run with swans and strangers from catering and consequently torn up by vehicles after a car permit issue on the street.
George Banks opens and closes the film, sat amid fallen confetti and half-drunk glasses of champagne, in an armchair fitted with a loose cover chintzy rose jacquard motif. Very Laura Ashley if you’re reading from the UK. We return to this style time and time again. It is the essence of the home, from the multitude of scatter cushions in the informal lounge where Nina and George finally meet Bryan McKenzie, to the bedrooms and the wedding day itself.
Let’s start on the street and that frontage shot. The white cladding, sash windows, contrasting forest green shutters and creeping vines up to the first floor. It is the stuff of rom com dreams, the picket fence a statement necklace around the neck of this stunning property. When you see George Banks pull up on the drive, you know he is as happy as a clam to come home to his family and to this beautiful Colonial style home. In fact, he even narrates as much – “I love this house. I love that I taught my kids to ride their bikes on the drive way, I love that I slept with them in tents in the back yard, I love that we carved our initials in the tree out front. This house is warm in the winter, cool in the summer and looks spectacular with Christmas lights. It’s a great house and I never want to move. But the thing I think I like most about this house, are the voices I here when I walk through the door.” Oh George, you softy.
The staircase from which Annie emerges, a woman and a bride is so classic in its form. The half clad walls, super 90s artwork climbing the stairs with every step you take (florals of course) and the beautiful detailed glass window midway up the stairs.
Then there is Nina, carrying a vase of flowers into the living room, further accentuating that floral motif. This house allows the film to unfold in that cosy, family friendly way you just love to see. Dinner all together around the dining table; the mahogany, or is it cherry wood, table lit by a six shade chandelier (that’s a mouthful) and again with that chintzy fabric creeping in with the drapes, the soft golden light ever-present.
I love that this is a home of many things. It isn’t stuffy and pretentious, despite its size, but it is warm and inviting, filled with family memories, books and basketballs, a fave pastime of the Banks family.
The hardwood flooring flows throughout the ground floor, from dining the lounge space, and each living pod is adorned with a rug to bring the room in and centre it around the conversations that flow.
In the lounge/living space those beautiful arched, recessed book shelves, flank the carved wooden, colonial revival fireplace. Magnolia washes over the walls because it’s the 90s and magnolia was a big deal. Loose cover sofas also add to that softness and femininity in the lounge, a safe and comfortable space for post-dinner coffees.
Out to the back of the house we have the amazing rear porch, where balmy summer evenings are enjoyed dining alfresco. Before that we see Annie sat on rattan outdoor furniture, which first came over to America through colonists who brought wicker chairs and baskets with them. Paul Frankl is noted as being one of the first major designers to use rattan in modern design and the set decorator, Cynthia McCormac hasn’t missed an opportunity to use it here.
Back inside the house and into that glorious kitchen, festooned with appliances, pots, pans, pepper mills and percolators. The wooden shutters lined with cream tape and that tile border around the worktop, acting as a low level splash back, are all so indicative of the era and yet somehow feel kind of timeless in this classic shaker style kitchen. A central island with pans suspended above it is how I believed all kitchens should look based solely on this film. Little did I know that any appliance that hangs uncovered in the kitchen means weeks dusting/cleaning (urgh).
The kitchen is the setting for the cappuccino maker scene, one of my favourite moments in the film. Annie loves the present but George feels totally upstaged by the in-law’s gift of a sporty red convertible. The MacKenzie’s home is another key visual in the film and ties in with the theme of keeping up with the Joneses. Their house a sprawling Mediterranean style pile (is it Tuscan or more Spanish Colonial?), opening up to a world of bathrooms and cringe-worthy comedy set ups, as George goes snooping. The house setting here is something altogether more worldly and opulent with a lot of its architecture exposed, vast spaces and tall ceilings and rough textures. It is beautiful and a thorn in George’s side.
Back at the Banks residence and Annie’s bedroom ties in perfectly with that girl grown up charm. The wrought-iron bedstead and ornate fence antique style mirror accenting the room. Her bedding a subtle throwback to the not-so-long-ago 80s and the cute bureau desk, a nod to her studious characteristic.
From the hallway with it’s traditional Persian style runner, making its way around the first floor of the house, the ceramic sconces that light the path to the family bathroom, complete with free-standing tub and additional swans come the wedding day, this house was made for hosting Annie Banks’ wedding. It’s every detail an opportunity to wrap a garland of florals around or drape another string of lights from.
I love that the floral motif starts off quite small with Nina carrying a simple vase of flowers into the living room, the loose covered arm chair revealing a subtle rose pattern, and ends with a wedding co-ordinator hair drying tulips in the front garden.
Florals play a big part in this film; they are with the design of their home, they are a focal point of the wedding (natch) and are symbolic of Annie’s rite of passage, as she prepares to get married and leave the family home. It’s all too much for her devoted dad and honestly, it’s all a bit much for me too.
I’ll leave you with the wise words of Franck Eggelhoffer, whose unique accent and panache for wedding preparations (based on a famous Hollywood wedding planner) perfectly juxtapose George’s eye-rolling and scoffing of the very spectacle of weddings at the time. Franck’s commentary encapsulates everything that is good and true about this film.
“Well, welcome to the nineties, Mr. Banks!” Father of the Bride has me hankering for that 90s American wedding theme, which I satisfy with a yearly rewatching of this classic.
Design Facts and Credits:
Name: Father of the Bride
Director: Charles Shyer
Writer(s): Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer
Production Design: Sandy Veneziano
Art Director: Erin M. Cummins
Set Decorator: Cynthia McCormac