After planning and coordinating another successful wedding ceremony, San Francisco wedding planner Mary (Jennifer Lopez) is re-introduced to childhood acquaintance Massimo (Justin Chambers) by her father (Alex Rocco) who wants the two of them to marry. Mary, however, is not impressed and instead remains focused on her ambition to become a partner at the wedding company she works for. As a way to persuade her boss, Geri (Kathy Najimy), to accept her as a partner, Mary pursues and is hired by catering heiress, Fran Donolly (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras) to plan her society wedding to long term boyfriend 'Eddie.' While on the phone reporting her success Mary's shoe heel gets stuck in a manhole cover. While she attempts to free herself a taxi collides with a dumpster and it comes hurtling towards her. A man standing nearby rushes in and pulls her away just before the dumpster crashes. Mary manages to thank the man before fainting.
She later wakes up in hospital and the man who saved her is revealed to be the local pediatrician, Steve Edison (Matthew McConaughey). When Mary's friend and colleague Penny (Judy Greer) arrives, she persuades Steve to attend an outdoor movie screening with them at the park, only to make up an excuse to leave the pair alone. At the movie, Mary and Steve dance but as they are about to kiss a heavy downpour forces them to run for cover.
A few days later Mary and Fran are at another of Mary’s weddings and Fran teases her for her dreamy look before Mary tells her about her movie date. Later on Mary is attending a dance lesson with another of her clients. Fran is also attending and introduces Mary to her fiancé 'Eddie' who turns out to be Steve. When Fran leaves the pair to dance together Mary angrily rebukes him for leading her on and going behind Fran’s back.
Mary is left wondering whether she should continue to plan Fran and Steve's wedding, while Steve is left wondering whether his chemistry with Mary is a sign that he shouldn’t be marrying Fran. Penny persuades Mary that her career is more important than whatever attraction she might have felt for Steve and Steve's colleague persuades him that the connection he had with Mary was just the result of pre-wedding nerves.
When they arrive at a potential wedding venue in Napa Valley, Massimo appears and, to Mary's confusion and horror, introduces himself as her fiancé. Later when the four of them, along with Fran’s parents, are riding on horseback through the estate, Mrs Donolly’s singing frightens Mary's horse and it rushes off with a terrified Mary clinging on. Steve instantly gallops after Mary and rescues her from the out of control horse. When the pair are alone he bitterly rebukes her for condemning his actions when she was also engaged.
At home, Mary’s father excitedly talks about her upcoming wedding, only for her to reveal that she and Massimo are not engaged before scolding her father for trying to arrange her marriage. Her father then reveals that his wedding with her mother, which Mary had always seen as the perfect marriage, was actually arranged and only became a loving relationship months later, leaving Mary feeling very confused.
Mary, Fran and Steve visit another potential wedding venue. Differences in opinion between the couple begin to emerge but Steve agrees with whatever makes Fran happy. Fran reveals she is going on a week-long business trip, and leaves Mary and Steve to continue with the wedding preparations. The two apologize to each other for their angry words, and soon start becoming friends. While looking for flowers, however, they run into a couple, Keith and Wendy, both whom Mary knows from her past. When Steve asks how they all know each other, Mary reveals that Keith used to be her fiancé. But Wendy was his secret high-school girlfriend, and she caught him cheating after seeing them making out in her car on the night of their rehearsal dinner.
That night, Mary ends up getting so drunk that she winds up going in the middle of the road, and then struggles to get back in her apartment building. She then breaks down and laments over Keith being married and expecting a baby while she is still alone and miserable. Steve finally manages to get them in Mary's apartment when another tenant opens the door for them. Mary sobers and Steve decides to stay with her for a while. During that time, he comforts her and insists that Keith was a fool to pick Wendy over her. He then leaves but quickly returns and confesses that he has feelings for Mary. She sadly replies that she respects Fran too much to let anything happen between them and sends Steve away.
Fran returns early from her trip and comes to speak with Mary. Mary fears that Steve has revealed his feelings for her but instead Fran reveals she doesn't know if she is in love with Steve anymore. Ignoring her heart, Mary persuades Fran to go ahead with the wedding. At a birthday party they are both attending, Massimo offers Mary a heartfelt proposal and after a little hesitation she finally agreed to marry him. The two couples prepare for their weddings. When the day arrives Mary leaves Penny to coordinate the Donolly wedding before she goes to the town hall to marry Massimo. Before the wedding starts, Steve takes Fran for a walk and asks her if they’re doing the right thing. Fran eventually admits that she doesn't want to get married. The pair part as friends and Fran leaves to go on their honeymoon alone. Penny, surprised at seeing this, comes over to Steve. When asking her where Mary is, Penny then reveals her marriage plans to Steve and he rushes off to stop her.
At the town hall, Massimo and Mary prepare to marry but her father stops the ceremony, realizing that the wedding is what he wants for her and not what she wants. Mary, who has given up on true love, insists that life isn’t a fairytale and marrying Massimo is the right thing to do. But later, she realizes that he is not the one and ends up leaving the ceremony after all.
Steve arrives to find Mary's father and Massimo outside. Massimo reveals that he couldn't go ahead with the wedding knowing that Mary was not in love with him and actually in love with Steve. Steve reveals his feelings to Mary’s father, who tells him to go and get her. Steve and Massimo ride off on Massimo's scooter to the park where another outdoor movie is starting. Steve finds Mary, asks her to dance and they kiss.Jennifer Lopez as Mary Fiore
Matthew McConaughey as Dr. Steven James 'Steve/Eddie' Edison
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras as Fran Donolly
Justin Chambers as Massimo Bulut Lenzetti
Judy Greer as Penny Nicholson
Alex Rocco as Salvatore Fiore
Joanna Gleason as Mrs. John Robert Donolly
Charles Kimbrough as Mr. John Robert Donolly
Fred Willard as Basil St. Mosely
Lou Myers as Burt Weinberg
Frances Bay as Dottie
Greg Lauren as Keith
Magali Amadei as Wendy
The original actors set to play Mary and Steve were Jennifer Love Hewitt and Brendan Fraser, respectively. They were replaced with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. Both couples eventually dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, leaving Lopez and McConaughey to be the eventual stars.
Many of the scenes were shot in Golden Gate Park, specifically at the Music Concourse (between the old De Young Museum and the old California Academy of Sciences), the Japanese Tea Garden and The Huntington Library and Gardens.
The Wedding Planner was released on January 26, 2001.
The Wedding Planner was screened at 2,785 theaters and grossed $13,510,293 on its opening weekend (the Super Bowl weekend), opening at number one at the Box Office. It grossed $60,400,856 domestically and earned a worldwide tally of $94,728,529.
The Wedding Planner received generally negative reviews from critics. Based on 104 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a "Rotten" rating from critics, with 16% positive reviews and an average rating of 3.9 out of 10. Metacritic gave the film an average score of 33 out of 100, based on 29 reviews from mainstream critics.
Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum critically compared the film to My Best Friend's Wedding, writing that: "Where Julia Roberts turned the world on with her huggability, Lopez's vibe is that of someone afraid to get mussed. And where Rupert Everett was divine as a sidekick, McConaughey is mortally ordinary as a main dish who spends most of his time smiling like a party guest." Kimberly Jones of The Austin Chronicle noted that the two leading characters being mistreated was the biggest disappointment from The Wedding Planner, feeling that while Lopez and McConaughey have "enormous charisma" (referencing Lopez's work on Out of Sight (1998) as an example) the "blandness of The Wedding Planner burlap-sacks their appeal in an altogether dowdy outing for two stars who deserve much snazzier threads." A writer from The New York Times said that the charisma of the movie's stars along with their goofiness makes "The Wedding Planner more painless than it has a right to be." Variety's Robert Koehler described The Wedding Planner as: "an attractive bridesmaid but hardly a gorgeous bride among romantic comedies." Michael Thomson from the BBC wrote that: "Unfortunately, after the two leads become less wired in each other's presence, and the sexual tension begins to droop, everyone seems to be reading an autocue." The film was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Actress for Lopez.