How The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Inspired Hallmark Channel's Wedding Veil Trilogy

Lacey Chabert, Autumn Reeser and Alison Sweeney come together for Hallmark Channel's epic crossover trilogy, a project years in the making. Here's how they made it happen and what to expect next.

By Tierney Bricker Feb 19, 2022 11:00 AMTags
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Three movies. Two countries. One veil of a tale. 

A trio of the Hallmark Channel's most beloved leading ladies—Lacey Chabert, Autumn Reeser and Alison Sweeney—have come together for The Wedding Veil, the crossover trilogy that comes to an end on Feb. 19 with The Wedding Veil Legacy. The first two installments helped to attract the network's highest ratings for non-holiday movies in over a decade. 

Playing three college friends who discover a mysterious, antique veil fabled to unite its bearer with her true love, Chabert, Reeser and Sweeney each lead one film and play a supporting role in the other two.  It is basically the comfort TV equivalent of—spoiler alert!—all three Peter Parkers uniting on-screen in Spider-Man: No Way Home and it serves as the first time the network has staged an event this ambitious.

For Hallmark's senior vice president Elizabeth Yost, this moment has been years in the making, calling The Wedding Veil trilogy her "passion project."

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"The background is, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is one of my favorite movies and I had been looking for a way to co-mingle our talent in a movie," Yost told E! News. "So when this concept came to me, it was the perfect candidate."

Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Sven Boecker

In a Hallmarkian twist of fate, the right vehicle was presented to Yost by Chabert, one of the network's most popular leads since making her debut in 2010's Elevator Girl

After working together on the All of My Heart franchise, Chabert's producing partner Beth Grossbard brought the idea for The Wedding Veil series to her three years ago, along with producer Lisa Demberg and sister writing duo Sandra Berg and Judith Berg.

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"I have been trying to find a project for years where I could collaborate with some of the other women from the network," Chabert, who also executive produced the series, explained. "It was a real dream of mine to be in a film with some of the other ladies. And it was always the number one fan question: Will you guys ever have some sort of crossover? Will we ever get to see some of you together? This was the perfect vehicle for that."

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With Chabert already attached to star, the hunt was on to find the other two leads among Hallmark's stacked roster of talent. 

"It was painstaking and the most important thing to us was that each character had a unique and distinctive voice, so we looked at our fan favorites and looked at how to create an environment where you would believe they are friends who have that camaraderie," Yost said of the process. "We looked at every little detail to make sure that everything about them felt unique and distinctive and Autumn and Ali are two of our fan favorites, and we thought the three of them would be the perfect blend."

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But finding the right trio would prove to be far from the trilogy's only challenge, with production on the first film initially slated to begin just as the coronavirus pandemic halted production. The years-in-the-making project, filming three movies in two countries with three of the network's most in-demand stars, would have to wait a little longer.

"That was very, very challenging," Yost reflected of the scramble to make the movies happen. "But Lacey, Autumn and Ali were so flexible and because the films that they were doing were all for Hallmark, we were able to coordinate internally with everybody's schedule to make it work."

Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Elena Nenkova

While pre-production planning may have proved exhausting, the actual experience of filming the trilogy was anything but for its stars, who were the TV equivalent of work friends, casually catching up at events over the years. 

"But after filming these three movies together, we have gotten so much closer and I feel bonded for life with both of them," Chabert said. "I really respect both of them and they were so supportive of me. We really bonded over trying to balance it all, working and being mothers, and it was also really unique to understand their process and see how much we have in common in the way we approach these movies. We all understand the responsibility we feel to the fans to try and raise the bar and make each one better than the last."

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Because each woman had their own movie, it gave the other two time to bond while serving in supporting roles. For once, always the bridesmaid, never the bride didn't seem like such a bad thing. 

"Ali and I actually traveled to Bulgaria and it was so nice to be on a long journey with a friend," Chabert said of filming The Wedding Veil Unveiled, which centers on Reeser's character. "After work it would be like, 'Oh, let's get together so we can run some lines,' and we didn't end up actually getting any work done, we ended up talking and ordering room service. It felt like we were having girls' night and it was so nice to have that on and off the set. It was so much fun."

In fact, the three women may have bonded a little too much, even—gasp!—actually eating the prop cheesecake in a scene because they were genuinely connecting in the way you only can with friends over coffee and pastries. 

"A lot of times when they yell 'cut,' everyone kind of goes to their chairs or trailers and has alone time, but we never did that," Chabert revealed. "We always stayed on set to the point where they would have to ask, 'Could you guys leave, so we could actually light the scene and do our work?' We just enjoyed each other's company so much."

Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Vance Beaupre

That feeling of friendship is what Hallmark was hoping to capture in the trilogy. Sure, each woman had a love interest, but the most interesting and engaging scenes were always meant to focus on the trio. 

"Love comes in a lot of different kinds of relationships and this sisterhood and this friendship and the love of friends is an area that we are really interested in exploring in the movies," Yost said. "That's a thing you will start to see a little more of...the idea of the love story may not be the A-story, it may be the B-story. It may be love between friends or love between families, so that's probably a little bit of a change, but always aspirational, always a happy ending, always hopeful, but just showing that there are other kinds of relationships."

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Yes, it's a subtle shift, but for Hallmark, choosing to shift its focus away from the love story is a big risk when its loyal viewers have always shown up for the chaste final act kiss between an unlucky-in-love party planner and a sad single dad. 

But the ratings for The Wedding Veil so far have proved its audience is willing to adapt with the network as it continues to evolve its storytelling. After its debut on Jan. 8, the first movie garnered 3.4 million viewers, making it the network's most-watched non-holiday original movie premiere in over a decade. (Never underestimate the power of Chabert!) The Wedding Veil Unveiled also received a lot of RSVPs despite going up against the Olympics, becoming the highest rated non-sports cable program on Feb. 12 with 2.59 million viewers. 

"Thrilled" with the trilogy's performance, Yost explained that The Wedding Veil also gave the network a chance to experiment with its scheduling. 

"We're just so accustomed to streaming and binge-watching, so the scheduling for these three movies back-to-back-to-back was Hallmark's way of binge-watching," she said. "A lot of times when you do a sequel, you have to wait a long time. But with these airing back-to-back, everyone wants to know the legend of the veil, what happens to Tracy [Sweeney], is the veil going to work for her, too?"

Given the response to The Wedding Veil series as well as the rabid reaction from viewers after stars Tyler Hynes and Andrew Walker made surprise cameos in each other's "Countdown to Christmas" movies—"I loved that," Chabert said. "I was actually surprised by that watching, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, there he is!'"—fans can expect to see the Hallmark Cinematic Universe (HCU) continue to stage crossover events. 

"That has all been very strategic," Yost said. "We looked at every opportunity and we tried to find the best places to do that. Some of it just comes down to schedule and who is where and when, but that is definitely strategic on our part. We know that the fans absolutely love those kind of stunts and we're going to continue to keep doing those and it just creates so much engagement on the part of the audience."

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Though she's starred in almost 30 Hallmark movies, there are still "so many" actors Chabert is hoping to work with, but there is one lead in particular she wants to collaborate with in the near future. 

"Holly Robinson Peete, I just adore," Chabert said. "We have tried to put some stuff together and I hope we get the chance to work together soon."

Hey, we hear a veil might be available for a fitting. 

The Wedding Veil Unveiled premieres Saturday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. ET on Hallmark Channel.