A Brief History of TV Weddings


My Fair Wedding, Say Yes to the Dress, Get Married — there is no shortage of wedding-related TV programming. Now it seems unremarkable for nearly forgotten celebrities to broadcast their wedding to strangers across the nation, sharing their fairytale ceremony with audiences who are betting on how soon the divorce papers will be filed. Here at Flavorwire, we wondered how a private milestone became such a public phenomenon, how the highly-anticipated and romantic TV unions of yesteryear became the Bridezillas of today. After the jump, check out our compressed timeline of TV weddings, from Carol and Mike Brady’s blended family to TLC’s gypsy nuptials.

Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki (The Tonight Show, 1969)

Televising real-life marriages is hardly a new phenomenon — in 1969, Victoria Mae Budinger, aka “Miss Vicki,” married novelty singer Tiny Tim on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The marriage was widely recognized as a publicity stunt — Tiny Tim was more than twice his wife’s age — yet the wedding attracted more than 40 million viewers, making the episode one of the most successful in late-night history. After eight years of matrimony and the birth of daughter Tulip Victoria, the couple divorced.

Carol Martin and Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch, 1969)

While The Brady Bunch may seem tame to today’s audience, in the late 1960s, the marriage between Carol Martin and Mike Brady was fairly scandalous — never before had television seen a relationship between two people who were previously married. In fact, Carol’s backstory had to be changed when ABC refused to allow her to be described as divorced. Throughout the series’s run, all allusions to Carol’s previous marriage are purposefully vague.

Prince Charles of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer (1981)

This year’s Prince William-Kate Middleton wedding was a sensation — the ceremony aired on 11 networks and streamed live to 400 million people on YouTube alone — yet the marriage of William’s parents remains one of the most historic television events ever. On July 29th, 1981, Diana Spencer married Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral in front of a global audience of over 750 million people. The wedding caused a stir when Diana did not pledge to “obey” her husband, a traditional vow that the couple requested to leave out. While the union was billed as a “fairytale wedding,” the marriage famously ended in divorce in 1996.

Luke Spencer and Laura Webber (General Hospital, 1981)

1981 was the year of highly-anticipated weddings — after overcoming seemingly insurmountable hurdles and a few postponements, General Hospital‘s Luke and Laura finally became man and wife. While they were an unlikely pair, to say the least (Laura was raped by a drunken Luke before falling in love with him), the two become a super-couple, gracing magazine covers and even gaining the attention of movie icon Elizabeth Taylor, who made an appearance at the wedding event. Thirty million viewers watched the special episode, making it the highest-rated hour in soap opera history.

Donna Martin and David Silver (Beverly Hill, 90210, 2000)

While today’s teenagers have Gossip Girl, the 1990s was the age of Beverly Hills, 90210, a teen drama equipped with its very own on-again, off-again couple, Donna Martin and David Silver. Teenagers across the nation rooted for the couple, yet with Donna’s abstinence and David’s singing career in the way, it seemed the two would never end up together. But in 2000, on the series’ two-hour finale, Donna and David announced their engagement. In front of the entire original cast, the wedding went on without a hitch, proving to 25 million TV viewers that true love does exist.

Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger (Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millioniare? 2000)

If the union between 90210‘s Donna and David reaffirmed audiences’ belief in love and destiny, the Fox reality show Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? worked to dispel all those romantic notions. The show saw 50 women competing to wed multi-millionaire Rick Rockwell without ever having met or seen him. At the end of the two-hour broadcast, Rockwell chose Darva Conger, an emergency room nurse, to be his wife. Following a number of controversies, including the revelation of a restraining order against Rockwell for domestic violence, Conger annulled the marriage after two months.

Carmen Electra and Dave Navarro (2003)

After MTV filmed a documentary following their courtship, Carmen Electra and Dave Navarro allowed a film crew to record the preparations for their upcoming nuptials. The result was ‘Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen & Dave, a seven-episode reality series that featured scenes from the bachelor and bachelorette parties, the wedding ceremony, and the reception. The wedding was certainly unforgettable, combining talking parrots, stumbling Playboy Playmates, and a ton of leather. Unfortunately, the couple wasn’t able to avoid the “MTV romance curse” — Carmen and Dave divorced after three years of marriage.

Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter (The Bachelorette, 2003)

The first season of The Bachelor introduced America to Trista Rehn, an Indiana-born professional dancer who seemed to be sincere in her search for love. She may have lost the competition for the bachelor’s heart, yet her charm and sweet demeanor won over the audience and led ABC to create the spin-off series The Bachelorette. This time Rehn was more successful in her search — her ultimate selection, firefighter Ryan Sutter, proposed to her on the series’ finale. The couple’s wedding ceremony was televised in an ABC special and became one of the most widely viewed reality shows ever. They remain married in Colorado, making them the series’ most successful pair.

Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly (The Office, 2009)

After five years of a sweet and awkward courtship, America’s favorite Dundler Mifflin lovebirds were married. The Office had been toying with audiences for seasons — the tenuousness of Jim and Pam’s relationship generated many of the series’ story lines — so the Niagara Falls nuptials were truly a victory for fans who had fallen for the unconventional TV couple since the very start. With a last-minute breakdown and a sentimental half-elopement, the wedding retained the realism and complexity that made the couple so beloved.

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (2010)

As demonstrated, reality television and weddings are certainly not a new pair but no series is quite as ridiculous or hilarious as TLC’s My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. The show centers around Britain’s gypsy and traveller community, each episode documenting the wedding of a different gypsy girl. The ceremonies are lavish and extravagant — you could measure the dress trains in stories, tiaras are several feet high, and bridesmaids are clad in hot pink taffeta.