“The Wedding Hustler,” a feature film inspired by the real struggles of a Filipino American couple in their journey to get married during the COVID-19 pandemic, hopes to inspire burdened couples planning an affordable, budget-conscious wedding.
The romantic comedy, which will be released in select Regal theaters on Friday, was written and directed by Chris Soriano, who also stars as himself in the lead role.
The film follows Soriano as he puts on a surprise wedding for his fiancée Hillary Manalac, now Hillary Soriano, who also plays herself in the movie, while under pressure from her parents.
After having to cancel their wedding date twice during the pandemic, the San Diego couple decided to turn their experience into a romantic comedy and included their actual wedding in the feature film.
“The experience of getting married was really special because we were saying our vows and simultaneously creating history,” Chris tells NextShark. “The movie is very close to the reality that we lived as a couple because it’s a struggle to plan a wedding in a pandemic and I really wanted to show how hard it is but also how possible it is when you are resourceful.”
Hillary adds that the first day of filming was their actual wedding.
“We made sure our friends and family were there and enjoying and being able to remember every moment,” she recalls. “Personally, even though we were filming, I didn’t even notice the camera being there. The wedding moments were all authentic, and we were so excited to share with our future kids that our wedding was an actual movie.”
With the help of “wedding hustler” Christine Chang, who was the couple’s actual wedding planner in real-life, the movie showcases how couples can plan a glamorous but affordable wedding even when all the odds are stacked against them.
“I’m really happy to play this character because there’s so many people out there that struggle to put on the wedding,” Chris says. “I just wanted them to be able to empathize and relate to my character and all the struggles that he has to go through to put on a wedding. I want people to be inspired that if this groom who knows nothing about a wedding could put on a wedding, maybe they can do it, too.”
Hillary notes that the film has some helpful tips on how couples can save money, such as purchasing a cake from the supermarket, buying fake flowers for floral decorations or hiring a DJ in place of a live band.
“The Wedding Hustler” also stars Kane Lim from Netflix’s “Bling Empire,” who plays Chang’s assistant.
Lim also acted as the film’s executive producer. He connected the Sorianos with Filipino actor and socialite Heart Evangelista, who makes a cameo appearance in the film as Lim’s friend.
“It was really special working with Kane because he was very down to earth and wanted to actively do more to adapt to his role in the movie,” Chris shares. “He was always reviewing his lines on set and always asking me questions about his character and his character’s motives. When I first met him on set, it felt like he had been doing this for years because he resembled a great theater actor that really knew his work.”
Distributed by Sony company 1090 Pictures, the film is slated to be released on Amazon Prime and Apple TV on Feb. 7.
“I am most excited for people to see this groom put together a wedding without having a clue on how to do it,” Chris says. “It’s like an analogy for life, sometimes you go through it not knowing how to do something, and it may be the most memorable thing, in this case, it’s a wedding. But through being resourceful, meeting the right people and just figuring out a way, the hardest obstacle can seem possible.”
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