In Style

February 1999

LHJ 1994 cover with Streisand

A wedding planned with a director's eye by Barbra Streisand

When Barbra Streisand and James Brolin decided to marry, their Malibu home was the only possible location. The bride planned every detail with the care that goes into a major production.

By Barbra Streisand

Photographed by Deborah Wald

Barbra and Jim after their wedding

The Dress. I thought since I had been married before that I would get married this time in a taffeta apple-green gown to match a beautiful peridot necklace I own, so I faxed Donna Karan my sketches. We couldn't find the right fabrics, so Donna showed me some off-white, hand-beaded crystal tulle from India, which was really beautiful. But the question was how to get the dress made in two weeks. The fabric had to be beaded, sent, draped and fitted—almost impossible. Donna wouldn't show me a sketch but she said, “Trust me, I have to drape it on you.” So she flew out to L.A. and draped it in chiffon muslin—it looked like hell. I had to have Plan B. Jim got on the internet looking for dresses and I got out an antique lace dress from 1910 that I've had for years as a possibility. But when Donna came back the second time, with a tulle dress draped on a mannequin, I was sold. She was right. It was extraordinary.

Streisand, Buser, and Karan

Streisand called on close friend Donna Karan (above, right, with Donna's pattern-makers Anna Fronda, Nelly Bidon, and personal assistant Renata Buser, center) to design her wedding dress, and sent Karan a few of her own sketches (below). Karan flew to California for a fitting of two dresses, which were created in just two days back in Manhattan. Karan returned the day before the wedding, and the bride made her choice. “It took my breath away,” says Streisand, who also wore a tulle veil dusted with sparkles attached to a crown of antique was flowers. “I realized later that I looked familiar to myself—like my character in Funny Girl.”

Streisand's wedding gown sketches

Streisand poses in wedding dress

The Setting. All the preparations were done in just two and a half weeks. My assistant Kim Skalecki somehow succeeded in inviting all the guests without letting the secret out to all the press. The day of the wedding I felt like I was having a heart attack. You know, pains in the chest and my left arm. I was out there with the gardeners—deadheading the flowers, patching up trampled spots, making the gardens perfect. I've looked at houses on the ocean for 25 years. I found this one four years ago—it's my dream house. I wanted to be married here surrounded by the things and people I love. I had to make quick decisions; I couldn't ponder for months. Choices about guests and food had to be instinctive and from the heart. There is a saying: “What comes from the heart goes to the heart.” And I wanted the wedding to be intimate and emotional for everyone attending.

Violinists at Streisand's home

“I asked the violinists not to play my music. I didn't want to hear ‘People’ at my wedding.”

Music was integral to the evening. Uilleann pipe music the couple had first heard in Ireland was played during pre-wedding cocktails. Guests then moved into the house serenaded by strolling violinists (above), which Streisand had first seen at the White House. She worked closely with composer Marvin Hamlisch to plan the music for the ceremony, the post-wedding cocktails at the pool (below), and the dinner in the 2,800-square-foot tent. Of Hamlisch—whom she's known since she was 21, when he was her rehearsal pianist—Streisand says, “I've never seen a more accommodating, brilliant musician. Only Marvin could do this on such short notice.”

cocktails at the pool

The Flowers. The flowers in the living room could only be shades of pink, burgundy, apple-green and ivory to bring the exterior plantings into the interior. Those colors are woven into an 18th-century Aubusson rug that I have in the room. I do this a lot to extend the interior out to the exterior—I plant flowers outside rooms with the same colors that are inside. I'm a gardenia person, so my bouquet was mostly gardenias and lilies of the valley, my birth flower. I showed David [Mark, the floral designer] a black-and-white picture in a book, and gave him a piece of fabric to match the ribbons. I had to make two bouquets in case I wore the lace dress after the ceremony. I wanted a monochromatic bouquet that would be the same tone as the antique lace. I grow these flowers in my garden—beige, coffee-colored, dusty-rose roses. I ended up wearing the same white dress at the party. But I took both bouquets on our honeymoon.

flower girl's baskets

Streisand placed flowers throughout the house, and had them worked into the flower-girls' baskets (above) and head wreaths to match their dresses. For the bridal dinner, on each of the nine tables the colors of the floral arrangements—reds, lavenders and shades of burgundy—echoed those in the china service. “I love different flowers in the same color range,” says Streisand of the lavender roses, hydrangeas and peonies. Small bouquets (below) were clustered around hurricane lamps and grouped with gardenias and roses.

small bouquets

Barbra Streisand in wedding gown with bouquet

In the End. That day was so nerve-racking, I can't tell you. The morning of the event, the flowers weren't right yet. The music wasn't rehearsed, I didn't have a track to sing to, and my dress wasn't quite finished. With my heart beating a mile a minute, I went into the shower, put on the steam, and said, “There is nothing more I can do—so let go and let God.” All my tensions dissolved ... it was as if they flowed down the drain—it was amazing. I realized again that you can't have perfection ... perfection is imperfection—and at your own wedding you can't really make a mistake. Jim and I chose these special people to share our joy because they've touched us in some way. They didn't really care about the flowers or the food. They only cared about our happiness.

Streisand kisses Brolin after singing

Streisand collected ideas and photographs in a wedding book for about a year, and used it when planning her cake design with Mary Micucci of Along Came Mary. Streisand and Brolin had exchanged wedding gifts. But the bride (who is now recording an album that will be a collection of songs inspired by this period of her life) unveiled the best present of all—two new songs she performed for her husband: “I've Dreamed of You” and “Just One Lifetime.”

Streisand and guests at table

Streisand's cake, Streisand with flower girls, and Streisand's veil


Page credits: Many thanks to Tessie for contributing the magazine!