Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reality Weddings: WE Do

Weddings have become big business as even in a recession brides continue going over the top to plan their one perfect day. However, now instead of their shenanigans amounting to some entertaining family gossip and ending there, the television and film industry has decided to capitalize on the blessed events as well.

Films for the most part have been of the romantic comedy variety in which the hapless heroine must plan the wedding of her dreams for her bad friend or sister, in the case of 27 Dresses, all the while we know that it should really be her day. Often they are terribly formulaic affairs with so little heart that you wonder at how a wedding could be the central plot point.

Of course reality TV, soul-sucking form of "entertainment" that it often is, is even more opportunistic, ready to exploit women's wedding fantasies for ratings. Loving moments and smooth sailing don't really make for popular programming, so instead they serve up drama in the form of cat fights, blown budgets and comparison shows.

WEtv that's Women's Entertainment for anyone who may not have paused long to see the nuptial fest it has become, recognized that no one was really capitalizing on happily ever after so they now offer six different programs on the subject. Their most famous show, Bridezillas, let's you in on the craziness that happens when women invest too much emotion in making their day perfection. I'm sure many of the featured brides will wonder if participating was such a good idea when their children come across their freak outs in the inevitable "best of" show that will air somewhere down the line.

WE also airs Platinum Weddings and Rich Bride, Poor Bride. Do I even have to tell you these shows are all about money? The former shows you just how much money you can blow all at once while the latter shows you what happens when "costs meet expectations."

My Fair Wedding is what I like to call the home makeover-style wedding show, where a team of experts come in and put it all together for you. At least they don't let your neighbors plan the day as they do in Trading Spaces.

The last two shows, Amazing Wedding Cakes and Wedding Central, are more about the business of weddings. You see the people behind-the-scenes who help put it all together.

Surprisingly, makeover channel extraordinaire, TLC only has one wedding show, Say Yes to the Dress. Here, prospective brides go dress shopping at New York bridal atelier, Kleinfeld. While some of the women do spend so much more than they should on a dress they will wear once, there are some touching stories about how the staff help those with lower budgets feel special too.

Style Network has Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?, while Lifetime offers Get Married. These shows are also about uber costly nuptials featuring world-renowned planners and celeb events. Aspirational programming indeed.

Each network also offers online companion pieces on their websites from wedding trends, quizzes, relationship advice, dieting advice and a virtual bridal boutique that allows you to build a model of yourself and try on gowns (very cool, TLC). WE has a dedicated bridal page, while the other channels host their content on their show pages.

As a woman planning my wedding, you would think the amazing amount of content out there would be a great resource, but actually I have been avoiding these shows as much as possible, simply because they make me crazy. I probably can't afford half of what they are suggesting and I don't want my wedding to be a circus. Also, as an already indecisive person, I don't need to watch something that will make me second guess my choices even more.

One person whose advice I probably would take is Suze Orman (it must seem like I am working for her at this point, I reference her so much). Last week on a couple asking her for advice about the budget for their wedding got some Suze straight-talk. She told them that with their financial situation, they should elope. While it was probably not what they wanted to hear, it is definitely the most realistic advice for their current situation. While the perfect wedding might seem right out of a fairytale, the real "reality program" should be NOT starting your life together with a mountain of debt from day one. Now that's a show I would watch.