ATLANTA - Several years ago, while attending my umpteenth wedding of a friend who'd approached her nuptials with all the humorless intensity of a D-Day planner, I experienced an epiphany. Should I ever get married, I vowed between bites of the same somethin'-and-goat cheese hors d'oeuvres and designer chicken breast entree served at virtually every wedding reception, mine will be different. It'll either be a quickie City Hall affair for me, or a weeklong blowout at Versailles, complete with Dom Perignon cupholders in every pew and the pope on the altar.
Suddenly, City Hall's looking awfully good.
What's prompted this change-of-cold-heart is Trista and Ryan's Wedding, a two-hour extravaganza that ABC will air tonight at 9, having already accomplished the seemingly impossible: They've managed to make me miss those understated love bunnies J. Lo and Ben.
I'm not sure when Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter's march to the altar began to feel like the longest, most outrageously overdone "I do" since the 30-minute wedding scene in The Godfather. Maybe it was when the duo, who met and became engaged on ABC's The Bachelorette last winter, showed up on Larry King Live last week.
Between all the gushy talk and gooey clips of Ryan reciting his very own love poems to Trista ("She is to me the rainbow through the rain/ She is to me the laughter through the pain"), the Don Corleone of talk shows somehow got to the bottom line.
"Were you paid for the show?" King barked.
"We were paid to do the wedding on television, but we were not paid to get married," the bride-to-be said primly, her virtue apparently still intact.
Or maybe I'd really, finally, had enough last Wednesday, when hunky Colorado fireman Ryan had a meltdown during the one-hour special, Trista and Ryan's Wedding, Part 2. On Part 1 a week earlier, cameras had tagged along as the couple and their hug-happy wedding coordinator, Mindy Weiss, visited some of the one dozen "gifted artisans" who, ABC said, were designing everything from the bride's shoes to the flower girl's dress.
There were no numbers to be crunched (ABC's footing the entire bill) and lots of delighted squeals from Trista, who loves pink, and couldn't believe she could have it everywhere from the centerpieces to the groomsmen's cummerbunds!
It's understandable that the perennially underachieving network would go to extremes here. At some 30 million viewers, last February's Bachelorette finale was the 13th most-watched show of the season. More than 12 million people saw Trista and Ryan's Wedding - Part 1, making it the 10th-ranked show overall in the coveted 18-49 age demographic in the final week of sweeps. Part 2 did even better, drawing 13.1 million viewers.
Some of those millions may be thrilled and a little relieved to finally have a "made in reality TV heaven" couple whose vows don't read "Till the director's `Cut!' do us part."
Me, I just want them to get married. No more specials about sampling wedding cake frosting or scenes of Trista parading poolside in St. Maarten with "Ryan's Babe" spelled out in what look like rhinestones across the fanny of her bikini.
Someone needs to end this madness and restore some measure of decorum and respectability to the institution of marriage.
Ben, J. Lo, please come back. All is forgiven.