Co-founder of Napster, Sean Parker, defends $4.5m fantasy-themed wedding

Man responsible for making the web what it is today publishes 9,500-word response to critics

As the co-founder of Napster, former president of Facebook and a member of Spotify’s board of directors, Sean Parker is more responsible than most for making the web what it is today. But now the 33-year-old billionaire tech entrepreneur has grown troubled by his creation, following a widespread online backlash over his $4.5m (£3m) fantasy-themed wedding, which took place at a California beauty spot on 1 June.

Parker, portrayed by Justin Timberlake in the 2010 movie The Social Network, this week published an epic, 9,500-word response to his critics on Techcrunch.com, in which he laments, “The mediums I dedicated my life to building have … become the very weapon by which my own character and reputation has been mercilessly attacked in public… Users of these mediums are happy to attack me publicly, in plain view, using their real names and identities.”

The passionate essay, entitled “Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Internet Journalism,” is equivalent in length to a 20-page, single-spaced Microsoft Word document, or approximately 20 per cent of The Great Gatsby. In it, Parker recounts the meticulous planning of his wedding to singer-songwriter Alexandria Lenas, rebuts media claims that the ceremony damaged a delicate local ecosystem, and rails against online gossip.

He begins by explaining his and his wife’s shared love of fantasy fiction, specifically the works of JRR Tolkein. After falling in love, Parker writes, the couple “began fantasising about our wedding day, which, we both agreed, should take place deep within an enchanted forest.” For two years, they hiked through many of California’s magnificent redwood forests in search of the ideal wedding location, which they hoped might resemble “Lothlorien, the mythical home of [royal elf] Galadriel in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings”. Finally, they found the perfect spot: a coastal campsite beside the exclusive Ventana Inn at Big Sur.

Parker, whose foundation frequently donates to conservation charities, says they chose the site partly because it was already developed, which would limit the environmental impact of their plans. The couple even, he writes, “asked the Save the Redwoods League to send their Director of Science, Emily Burns, down to the site to advise our landscape architect”.

That landscape architect then decked out the forested grounds around the resort with fake ruins, waterfalls, bridges, ponds and a cottage. Meanwhile, Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings costume designer Ngila Dickson was hired to design “elaborate fantasy-inspired costumes” for each of the 364 guests. An iron entrance gate was erected at a cost of $250,000. The staff required to make Parker and Lenas’s dreams reality numbered 450, including 24 tailors and 100 artisans. The wedding was also attended by 10 rabbits, five goats and a pony.

Though their guests assured the couple the nuptials were “beautiful”, “tasteful” and “epic”, the newlyweds nonetheless awoke the next morning, Parker claims, “to a media backlash of epic proportions, a firestorm of press attacking our wedding with the most vitriolic language we’d ever seen in print. At the same time, a mob of Internet trolls, eco-zealots, and other angry folk from every corner of the Internet unleashed a fury of vulgar insults, flooding our email and Facebook pages.”

Lenas was attacked as a “gold digger” and a “whore”, while her tech mogul husband faced such insults as “jackwagon” and “douche canoe”. Almost as wounding was the fine they unexpectedly received from the California Coastal Commission, for alleged environmental infractions. Parker says he paid £1m in penalties and legal costs simply to avoid a court battle, and even donated an extra $1.5m to the Commission. But above all, he claims, “The biggest mistake we made in wedding planning was forgetting about the media: that silent, invisible dragon breathing down our necks all along.”

In an email to reporters a fortnight ago, Parker insisted coverage of the wedding had been grossly unfair. “My wife and I should be happy right now, elated to have been married,” he said. “Instead we are being spat upon by complete strangers while walking together on the street.”

His lengthy diatribe comes in a week when at least two other celebrities have taken to social media to hit back at critical or inaccurate media reports. Singer Rihanna responded to a disparaging piece by Liz Jones of the Daily Mail by posting an unflattering image of the columnist on Instagram, describing her as “a sad sloppy menopausal mess”. Actor Alec Baldwin attacked a Mail showbiz reporter on Twitter, for a story claiming his wife had tweeted from a funeral.

“It’s easier to generate traffic with snarky stories than hard news,” Parker complains, “and there’s no downside for getting the facts of a story wrong, or even making it up entirely.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003