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Generally speaking I am not a great fan of reality television and go to great lengths to avoid programmes like “Big Brother” and “I’m a Celebrity” but “Don’t Tell the Bride” is one I can tolerate and sometimes even enjoy. This is an offering from Renegade Pictures, a production company based in North London, which purports to specialise in “high quality factual programmes including feature documentaries, broadcast documentaries, factual formats and series”. However, as none of its other products ring any bells with me, I will move swiftly on! At present in its third series, “Don’t Tell the Bride” is screened each week on BBC 3, with the initial broadcast on a Tuesday evening and repeats playing throughout the week. The last three episodes can also currently be viewed on BBC iPlayer.
Each one hour episode is devoted to one couple and the recipe is simplicity itself. Take one loving, cash-strapped couple, give them £12,000, mix together in a haphazard fashion and serve up one perfect wedding. But of course there must be a catch and indeed there are several. The preparation time is just three weeks, the couple must have no contact in that time, horror of horror, the bridegroom must organize every last detail even his partner’s wedding gown and they must sign a contract to this effect in front of a lawyer. Despite everything the end result is usually a gourmet offering but it’s one which often seems to owe more to luck than to judgement.
Quite how the couples are selected is open to speculation but I notice the credits include a fair sized casting crew which presumably seeks out couples of a certain predisposition because the brides are usually the controllers in the relationship with very definite ideas of what they want whilst the grooms are laid back types who, whilst not exactly useless, generally somewhat lack in drive and organizational skills.
The formula is inevitably the same in each episode as we follow the groom and his accomplices getting in the beers and playing their computer games whilst the brides and their cronies fret, worry and mull over all that can go wrong and how their dreams might be trashed! Tension is built up by the juxtaposition of scenes such as the bride visiting her ideal location and the groom booking one which bears no similarity. In one episode the bride dreams of a picturesque country retreat whilst the groom is enquiring about the Aston Villa ground. He eventually settled for a second rate hotel by Manchester airport plus a claret and blue colour scheme but his beloved was happy enough! Often the dress is a problem and, as the bride tries on wedding dresses, she will declare her distaste for a certain style whilst the groom is seen handing over the cash for just such an abhorrent creation! The viewer is inevitably left wondering if the bride will walk away in disgust on her big day but knowing that inevitably there will be a happy ever after ending.
Often the families will feel it necessary to get involved. The Mum who is fretting that four days before the wedding no invitations have gone out, the Dad who is worried there will not be enough liquid refreshment, collars his son-in- law to be and saves the day with a cash contribution. My favourite was in a recent episode when a formidable Grandma (a dead ringer for Blanche in Corrie) cornered her grandson, the groom, berating him for causing her sleepless nights and aggravating her arthritis and issuing an ultimatum that all arrangements must be finalized before he touched another drop of alcohol. Needless to say, her grandson, suitably chastened, obeyed her dictates with some alacrity!
Considering all has to be accomplished in a nail biting three weeks, it’s a miracle that it all comes together and everything turns out pretty perfectly. I am sure that the various traders will be swayed and go that extra mile knowing they will get some TV publicity and it’s obvious that the production team will be heavily involved in the behind the scenes arrangements but it’s remarkable nevertheless.
It’s a programme that will probably be of more appeal to the ladies who, let’s face it, have more of an interest in such ceremonies and are generally of a more romantic disposition. The men’s discomfort will be the cause of great mirth borne of female superiority as they indulge in bouts of amused tut-tutting at the weaker sex’s lack of organizational ability. They will also find immense pleasure getting through the tissues during the ceremonial grand finale. But the gents will surely also find something to please. If nothing else there is usually a scantily clad female at the stag do! My apologies for the unashamed sexism here but it’s a fact of life!
The greatest strength of the show for me is that participants are all very natural. There is no posing for the camera and no presenter interviews or interference, just a true fly on the wall perspective as events unfold. Unfortunately I am not too impressed with the narration. The script lacks sparkle and the narrator, Rebekah Stanton, has a somewhat breathy voice and flat delivery which can become monotonous. It needs a more humourous script with a generous sprinkling of tongue in cheek sarcasm here and there and a narrator with much more panache in the delivery. Somebody of the calibre of Dave Lamb and his brand a cutting wit as demonstrated in the series “Come Dine with Me” springs to mind and a substitution of this order would really add to the programme’s appeal.
Apart from this the production’s greatest weakness is the lack of variety. All the couples fall into the same late twenties to early thirties age group, all are heterosexual couplings and all opt for very traditional white wedding. Why not give a chance to older couples, to same sex partnerships and to less traditional participants who might opt for more unusual ceremonial options? This would certainly widen the appeal.
Nevertheless I quite enjoy my weekly dose of tirades, tantrums, tears, tribulations and triumphs in its easily digestible, bite-sized format but then I am a typical romantic female. If, like me, you enjoy a good cry over a confetti shower then don your best bib and tucker, pour yourself a glass of bubbly, grab you tissues and join me.