It's the moment in time most little girls dream of: The day she walks down the aisle. Weddings are big business and for those taking the plunge, resources have tripled, prices have skyrocketed and one-upmanship - as laughingly portrayed in the film Bride Wars
- has become the standard. No better place does the booming bridal business - due to generate $60 million in 2009 - meet mass consumption than in the info-tainment genre of reality wedding programming. The genre first waltzed onto the small screen with TLC's now defunct "A Wedding Story" and was soon followed by shows about fiancées looking to lose weight ("Bulging Brides", "Fat Free Fiancée"), commission cakes (WEtv's "Amazing Cakes") and scrimp for each big day buck ("Rich Bride, Poor Bride").
Let's examine the current crop of shows that take us from "Will You?" to "I Do" and determine which series will stand the test of time and which should simply call the whole thing off.
Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? (Style Network)
Forget diamonds: Wedding planners are a girl's best friend! There's a lot to be done between betrothal and breaking the glass; these planners take center stage as they navigate their clients through selection of a venue, flower arrangements, cake-tasting, dress fittings and chaotic rehearsals. The show features a planner to fit any taste, from colorful Dallas boy Donnie Brown and fuzzy purse-toting Samantha Goldberg to spontaneous creative Jenny Orsini, take-no-prisoners planner Linyette Richardson-Hall and many others. There are hiccups along the way - an expensive ice sculpture is clumsily reduced to ice chips, a bride requests photos in a cemetery and one groom faces angry, unpaid vendors on wedding day - but most of the quick-thinking planners show us why they deserve their commissions. The path of true love never runs smooth, but the right help can pave the way to a near-perfect day.
Our Vow: Save the date.
Viewers get to peek behind the veil and it ain't pretty! Weddings can often bring out the worst in overzealous brides and these demanding diva-wannabes are no exception. As if your average bride going bananas doesn't provide enough train-wreck fascination, the producers behind "Bridezillas" seem to have scoured our country for the tackiest, trashiest, low-class pains-in-the-ass they could scrape up. Determined to be princesses (when they're closer to ball-and-chains), the show's 'heroines' bully, betray and banish anyone who stands in their way. From the portly bride who berated her fiancée into working out while she snacked on donuts to another publicly dressing down her speechless father before ripping up her veil, the show brings "entertainment" to new lows. Producers should be spanked and the braying brides should indeed be committed -- to psychiatric facilities! As for their hapless grooms: 'Til death' is an awfully long time. They should scram before the violinist plays the first strains of Bach.
Our Vow: Just call us runaway viewers.
Platinum Weddings (WEtv)
The average cost of today's wedding is around $25,000. Quadruple that sum and you have one of the more understated weddings featured on an episode of "Platinum Weddings." Forget the recession, folks: Indulgence meets excess in the extravagant weddings featured on this shameless show. The mantra 'Spare No Expense' is put to the test in the face of custom silk linens, chiavari chairs and florals flown in from Holland. One lesson: Money doesn't buy taste. Watch with wide-eyed wonder as spoiled, shallow couples squander mummy and daddy's hard-earned dollars on miniature pony ring bearers (we kid you not), live human table displays, acrobatic performers and whatever else tickles their foolish fancy. If you're into watching unrepentant materialism, astounding waste and greedy guests consume $16k in caviar and $4 grand in sweets from a candy 'bar' then make this appointment TV. If you'd rather seven figure sums be spent feeding the hungry, rebuilding the lives of disaster victims or funding life-saving medical research rather than blown on one-day's narcissistic nuptials, skip "Platinum Weddings" (and alleviate the need for a barf bag).
Our Vow: We object.
Wedding SOS (Fine Living)
A Canadian show, a British event planner (Jane Dayus Hinch) and a universal problem: Weddings gone amuck. Couples stressed about disappearing DJ's, feuding families and cash flow conundrums are gifted fairy godmother Jane, who steps in to grant three wishes. It's often aggravating how some couples choose to use wishes (wishing your fiancé could go fishing when you have no food for the reception?) but Jane's dignified exasperation and pert remarks more than make up for the lapses in judgment. Prim in her morning suits and often with her pup Oscar in tow, Jane doesn't break a sweat and she certainly never minces words. She advises her clients to forget the fairy tale and save the ceremony; utilizing her contacts - and sometimes a bit of elbow grease, Jane is posh problem-solving at its finest. So, some of the show's setups are a bit contrived (a doggie birthday party to raise money?) and even the most disastrous wedding is wrapped tidily and finished off with a bow (hey, it's only a half-hour program). We still say watching the delightfully expressive and charming Dayus Hinch save the day is having our cake and eating it too.
Our Vow: One commitment we don't mind making.
Say Yes to the Dress (TLC)
Cake and buttercream, bouquet and garter... Tantrums and taffeta? That last pairing makes for engrossing entertainment on this series on the behind-the-seams workings of New York's famous Kleinfeld Bridal salon. Whether following indecisive and hard-to-please brides, chronicling the pressures of being a busy bridal consultant or simply documenting the myriad challenges behind the search for the "perfect dress," there is no shortage of stories at Kleinfeld. If you think selecting a wedding gown is without drama, then you've never been a bridal consultant. From one controlling groom who nixes every frock fitted on his bride to a momzilla who physically attacks Kleinfeld's seamstress, the show is never short on intrigue. Although we dig flying fists, we'd like the show even more provided profiles of the brides dug deeper beneath the surface and the attitude towards clients was more 'be sure' and less 'buy now'.
Our Vow: The honeymoon is over, but we'll stick it out... Until something better comes along.
Do you take my opinions for better or worse? Let me know here in comments!
Story by Shannon Peace
Starpulse contributing writer