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Wedding March: An Advance Review of BBC America's "Don't Tell the Bride"

With my one year wedding anniversary just around the corner (quite literally: it's less than a month away), it's hard not to think back to last summer and full year that my wife and I spent planning our wedding: the stresses, the joys, and the little problems that cropped up out of nowhere.

Planning any event is a demanding endeavor but when it's a wedding--especially your own--there's a heightened sense that everything has to be absolutely perfect.

So imagine then if the bride had absolutely no say over her wedding day and the planning and execution of the entire event fell to the groom. That's just the premise of BBC America's new reality series, Don't Tell the Bride, which kicks off tonight.

Each episode, narrated by Gavin & Stacey's Ruth Jones and No Heroics' Rebekah Staton, features a different bride and groom who are about to get married. They receive roughly $20,000 (or £12,000) to plan the wedding of their dreams but there are quite a few strings attached. For one, the bride has no say over what the groom is doing and can't contact her fiance to influence his decisions. Second, the two will live apart during the wedding planning stage, which is the four weeks leading up to the blissful day. And third, the bride will turn up on her wedding day with no clue about just what her groom has been up to... and will have to live with the results.

Sound like a dream? Or a hellish nightmare? It's a little bit of both in fact.

I had the opportunity, thanks to the good folks at BBC America, to watch the first three episodes of Don't Tell the Bride and quickly fell under its dizzying spell. Perhaps it's because I recently underwent a similar process myself (planning a wedding though thankfully hand-in-hand with my wife) but I was completely captivated by the proceedings. It's a situation that could quickly turn into an utter trainwreck (and, believe me, it often does) but it's also a fascinating glimpse into couples' relationships.

Just how well do these two people know each other? Was the groom really listening to his fiancee when she expressed the details of the "dream" wedding she's been planning all of these years? Did the bride ever express her distaste for the color red or her love for all things Rococo? Do these people know each other inside and out or are they really strangers when it comes to their personal preferences?

Each episode captures the stress, panic, and jittery nerves of a couple standing on the brink of their nuptials. And, yes, the gift of £12,000 is a huge thing but the pressure to go it alone and plan an entire wedding--including the bride's dress and accessories, venues, invitations, catering, cake, flowers, and every little detail that go into pulling off a wedding--are often too much to bear for the poor groom. Some will rise to the occasion, others will make catastrophically wrong decisions... and it's not always the ones you think.

As for the brides, some are more than willing to place the happiness of their wedding day into the hands of their beloved, excited by the prospect of being utterly surprised on the day. While others, such as Episode Three's Katy, are so controlling and have such a precise picture of their perfect wedding day in their heads that it's mind-boggling to think why they even went on this reality series in the first place. (One can only hope that the marriages themselves turned out better than the weddings.)

And that's perhaps the beauty of the series itself: the ability to live vicariously through these individuals. If, like me, you've been through the process, you can sincerely appreciate the groom's situation and dilemma with the sort of sympathy reserved for those who have been through the fire themselves. And if you haven't been married, you can thank your lucky stars that you'll be planning the fateful day with your partner and not on your own... or with television cameras trailing your every move. Either way, Don't Tell the Bride is the perfect summer reality series: fun, frothy, and at times painfully funny.

Don't Tell the Bride premieres tonight with two back-to-back episodes at 8 pm ET/PT on BBC America.


Hadley said…
Oooh. This sounds like the perfect summer guilty pleasure! I'm looking forward to it!
Tamara said…
I can't wait to see this, especially after reading your great review. Having been recently married, it will be nice to watch someone else do all the work. Although I do pity those poor grooms!!!
susie que said…
The groom planning the whole wedding on his own? These guys are either really brave or really stupid. Either way, it should be fun to watch.
Anonymous said…
Wasn't there a show just like this a few years ago on the Style Network? I don't remember what it was called, but it took place in the US and I think the groom only had 2 weeks (or was it 2 days?) to plan everything and could only ask the advice of the bride's best friend and her mom. I remember a really lovely wedding in a forest, which the bride's best friend was SURE she would hate. And that many of the grooms ended up picking out dresses that looked very much like lingerie. It would sort of suck you in, for exactly the reasons you say.
FormerBBCAViewer said…
Yet more reality crap from BBC America.

Until a few weeks ago, Season 3 of Hotel Babylon was scheduled to premiere tonight at 9pm. No wonder BBC America's ratings are so horrible -- anyone who wants to watch current, high-quality UK comedies and dramas are being forced to buy/rent DVDs or download UK broadcasts online.

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