Was the Maroon 5 “Sugar” Music Video Staged or Real?

There’s an old saying that goes “the truth is stranger than fiction.”  In the case of the ever-evolving saga of the story behind Maroon 5’s music video for their song “Sugar,” the lines between truth and fiction seem extremely blurred.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video in question:

As a quick caveat before I dive full-on into this article: I’m not out to bash or “hate on” Maroon 5 or anything like that.  Regardless of whether you like or dislike the band for whatever reason (and the right to your opinion is certainly your own), it’s the story behind this uniquely-styled video that has captured a lot of attention.

In the opening sequence of the music video, lead singer Adam Levine is ready to hop into a few cars with his fellow band members and a few roadie-type folks, and he stops to look into the camera and say “It’s December 6, 2014; we’re going to drive across LA and hit every wedding we possibly can.”  Obviously the inference here is that what the viewer is about to see is indeed the band going and “crashing” multiple weddings without the prior knowledge of anyone involved.  By my count, the video shows seven different weddings: different couples, different venues, and different stage set-ups for the band themselves.  Every single person at the weddings seems not only extremely surprised, but they seem extremely well-timed with their surprise on camera; can you really be that surprised with multiple cameramen coming in and swarming everywhere around the party?  The situation begs the question: are all seven weddings actual events with real-life people tying the knot?  This is where the truth-versus-fiction aspect starts to get fuzzy.

Credit: BridalGuide.com & DukeImages.com
Credit: BridalGuide.com & DukeImages.com

A PR representative for the band made this statement to Entertainment Tonight: “Only the grooms knew in each case.  However they disclosed it to their bride and the wedding party, we’re not sure, but they all wanted it to be as equally a surprise as we did. They had stages set up for their actual wedding band already. All we did was some simple continuity changes to match each one as best we could.”  This statement seems to present the “official” word is that the band did indeed go to several weddings, all of which had wedding bands performing and all of which had only one person – the groom – that was “in the know” prior to the band’s arrival.

Through some digging, reaching out, and fact-checking, I can confirm that at least two of the seven weddings featured in the music video were, in fact, real-life weddings.  I had a chance to ask a few questions of Liesl Kadile, who owns Liesl Diesel Photo and was one of two photographers shooting for a couple at a reception on 12/6/14, a reception at which Maroon 5 did indeed do a surprise performance.

Credit: Liesl Diesel Photo
Credit: Liesl Diesel Photo

Liesl was able to confirm for me that the performance was an unknown part of the wedding for most of the people there; the groom, the DJ, and the venue manager were aware, but other than that, “no one else knew,” she told me.  She went on to explain that “[Maroon 5] did build a stage, and a huge white curtain was surrounding it. Considering what they were doing, it was shockingly minimal. I think that’s part of what made it so successful.”

Liesl told me that the band did two takes of “Sugar,” then they asked that the dance floor be cleared of everyone except the bride and groom; the band then serenaded the newlyweds with an acoustic version of their song “She Will Be Loved” before congratulating the couple and leaving the reception.  Oh, and what about those cameramen everywhere?  “There were several cameramen at every angle,” Liesl recalled.  “We all shot side by side with no problem.”

Duke Khodaverdian of Duke Photography in Los Angeles also photographed a different wedding (on the same weekend) that Maroon 5 did “crash.”  He described to BridalGuide.com a similar experience that Liesl had at the wedding she worked, saying that “it was a surprise of a lifetime for the couple and for their wedding guests, one that no one will ever forget.”  Featured on Duke Photography’s website and Facebook page, images they captured of the day show a comparable type of encounter: the band playing while the video is shot as guests dance, capped by an acoustic performance and thank-you hugs.

Other than these two weddings, however, the reality of the other five events shown in the video cannot be verified; in fact, intrepid internet users have found many signs that these other weddings were likely staged.  Some of the most prominent examples:

Credit: YouTube / Getty Images
Credit: YouTube / Getty Images

—One of the brides shown being “completely shocked” appears to be model/actress Raina Hein, best known as the runner-up on the 2010 season of “America’s Next Top Model.”  Pictures from Instagram and paparazzi show that Hein’s long-term boyfriend is not the groom featured in the video, and no public plans or announcements of Hein having an actual wedding seem to exist.

Credit: Twitter user @katiedays
Credit: Twitter user @katiedays

—A groom at a different featured wedding appears to be actor Nico Evers-Swindell, whose most prominent role to date was as the male lead in Lifetime’s 2011 TV movie about Prince William & Kate Middleton. According to past media announcements, he married actress Megan Ferguson in 2011 and they are still together.

Credit: Twitter user @weedandglitter
Credit: Twitter user @weedandglitter

—A groomsman shown giving the “ohmigawd, it’s famous people!” finger point appears to be actor Eric Satterburg.  Although I can’t say much about Satterburg or his acting credits (other than nailing this scene, I guess!),  it is conceivable that he was simply a guest at a wedding that weekend.  A very prominently-displayed, amazing-reaction-caught-at-the-most-convenient-moment guest.

—The most damning bit of evidence: the parents of the Asian couple featured in the video are, in reality, an acting husband-wife duo known as the 2Woos; they actually came forth on their Facebook page and admitted that the wedding they were featured in was a fake.  The original post (via screen captures) read: “We played the parents of the Asian bride and yes, everything was staged.  In fact, all of the wedding [was] filmed at the same location over a three day period.  Sorry for the buzz kill.”  The post has since been deleted and replaced with a generic “who really cares if it is real or not … it’s a great music video and we are proud to have been a part of it.”

Credit: TheSixThirty.com
Credit: TheSixThirty.com

While it’s awesome any time weddings can get a little national attention, and more importantly, a few very special couples get an amazing experience on their big day like few others will ever have, it certainly seems like a convoluted and muddled affair to discern what parts of the video were reality versus what parts were purely for show.  Whether this story’s “truth” is stranger than fiction or not, is up to you to decide.

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