I never thought my father would feature in Don’t Tell the Bride but whilst he wasn’t actually named by the voiceover his determination to not bend to the will of the unseen producer had a profound impact on last night’s episode. He was (and is) “The Archdeacon” whose refusal to allow a church in Tenby to modify its minimum requirement of couples wishing to be married (three weeks to call Banns and get the folks into talk about God and marriage) caused Harry to have to rethink his plans and instead choose a pub and a tent in a car park for the big day. The bride was happy enough with the day as it panned out to offer to kiss Harry’s willy at the end. Which is what Jane Austen would have written if she’d thought of it. But what of the rest of the programme?
Well, without the tip off from Dad that the BBC were stalking Pembrokeshire I’d never have seen it. I’m moving gracefully from BBC Three into Radio 3 territory, more likely to have an opinion on Night Waves than Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum. But, heh ho, I thought having heard about it and being mildly intrigued, I’ll give it a go. And I’m glad I did.
Given three weeks and £12,000 the groom organises a wedding. It’s nearly always a civil ceremony because churches go with “The Archdeacon”‘s view. It’s also always a compromise because, frankly, there’s no alternative. And nearly always two key things happen: the Groom is revealed to be the kind of feckless youth that gives the Daily Mail a raging semi but that, secondly, it doesn’t matter because the bride has an awesome day anyway. Even when they are forced to skydive to the venue. Having already done their hair. There’s always a bit where the bride tells us which dress she will absolutely never wear (which the groom then, by sheer and non-producer-prodded coincidence chooses) and there’s always a bit where the bride cries about the stress and female companions (bridesmaids, her mother or sister) stare concernedly at the camera in defiant support.
In last night’s Harry the Fisherman and Mellissa his be-bosomed bride-to-be parted and endured 21 nights without sexual congress. This may explain where Harry found the energy to clean the fishing boat which carried his wife from pub to a tent on the other side of the bay. His organisation skills left a lot to be desired (which surprisingly isn’t always true) and, unlike some other weeks’, it was impossible to see where he’d blown the 12k he was given, especially as he wound up with no wedding rings and invitation cards he had to cut in half. Still, they got a nice blessing the church as well (“The Archdeacon” wasn’t thanked for agreeing to this, poor man) and a massive fish supper. To allow for the tide the wedding was at 10am which means there was a fair amount of sunlight left when the Best Man was fundamentally unable to speak without slurring when delivering his speech.
It’s easy to sneer. It’s also wrong. The majority of the couples I’ve seen have been together a fair while and their marriage always seems to reveal that whilst there are surface differences there is a strong bond between them (although I’ve yet to check the divorce/separation stats). The BBC hamstrings them from the start with the short time-frame and just-too-little money to do it completely right which obviously exaggerates things still further. But ultimately whatever their motivations and however naff their ceremonies, this is folk getting married and believing that doing so is the ultimate statement of their commitment.
That said, if someone handed me a pair of bright yellow wellies and a Haribo ring I’d be having second thoughts however appetising the prospect of kissing my groom’s willy was.