Along with the old, here’s something relatively new: having your wedding filmed for a reality television show.
For Tyler Dikeman, who married Bobby Kunkel in August 2013, signing up for TLC’s “Four Weddings” was a lark.
“I was subscribed to [popular online wedding site] The Knot, and they send you these email blasts. They sent one saying ‘Four Weddings’ was going to be in the area ... I actually forwarded it to my fiance — now my husband — and said ‘hahahaha,’ then deleted it,” she said. Eventually, they changed their minds.
The show’s concept: Four prospective brides who have just met attend each other’s weddings and rate them on the dress, the venue, the food and overall experience. They are encouraged to be nit-picky — this is entertainment TV, after all — but the tone generally is more nice than nasty.
There is no financial compensation, but the top vote-getter receives a free, “breathtaking honeymoon” to an exotic locale.
TLC filmed shows in the Pittsburgh area last year. One already aired as the season six premiere Aug. 15 and the Dikeman/Kunkle wedding is among the Western Pennsylvania weddings that will be featured 9 p.m. Friday.
“Four Weddings” is based on a British show of the same name, and other international versions include Germany, Finland, Australia and Canada. Apparently, snark plays well in almost any language.
“Some of these interviews might be taking place at 2 in the morning and you’ve been at that venue since maybe 2 p.m.,” Mrs. Kunkle said. “Maybe you’re going to [appear] a little more snarky than if you had a fresh brain.”
After each wedding reception, the three visiting brides have to list what they liked, or not, ultimately assigning a points score. One visitor might cite how much they enjoyed this kind of cake, or that dress’s train, yet in the editing, the only comment to make it on air, Mrs. Kunkle said, was “ ‘Well, maybe I didn’t like this one flower in her bouquet.’ ”
“You have to remember that these [other brides] have put in as much work and care and importance into their own weddings as you,” said Shari Zatman, event planner and owner of Perfectly Planned By Shari in Fox Chapel. “I’ve never had anyone on a reality show but the No. 1 advice would be ‘Don’t be a Bridezilla sort of person,’ ” referring to a former reality show that captured and encouraged the absolute worst diva behavior of women and their weddings.
The show “gave some sort of importance to that aspect of weddings and that behavior is absolutely atrocious. So, again, keep your composure, don’t come off as a Bridezilla.”
Micah Graham married Andrew Southwood last summer. When she received the same e-mail from The Knot, she immediately responded to it with a top 10 list of why TLC should have her on the show.
For months, nothing. Then she got a reply in the spring of 2013 and eventually a Skype interview that July and “boom, boom, boom ... and I had a wedding to go to the following week,” Mrs. Southwood said.
That wedding was Mrs. Kunkle’s, at PNC Park. Due to legal complications — TLC filming at a Major League Baseball venue required cutting through red tape — her wedding almost didn’t make it into the TLC package.
“They have a back-up [wedding] when things like that happen,” Mrs. Kunkle said.
Two other couples had their weddings in the running: Brie Berkopec and Patrick Lee, who had their wedding and reception at the Mayernick Center in Kilbuck, and Angi Moser and Matt Westhead, who were married at St. James Meeting House in Boardman, Ohio, and greeted guests at Avion on the Water, in nearby Canfield.
TLC isn’t looking for run-of-the-mill weddings; one from an earlier season was literally a circus. Themes are a big attraction, such as the Moser-Westhead “Friday the 13th” event. They had a traditional ceremony, but the reception was a horror show.
Fake rats, eyeballs in the champagne fountain and a man in a “Jason” mask punctuated the eclectic reception. The Berkopec-Lee affair was held outdoors at a community center, a nod to the couple’s love of sports.
Mrs. Kunkle said she wasn’t a big sports fan but she did love the view of Pittsburgh’s skyline from PNC Park.
“It’s so beautiful,” she said. “I’m from Oklahoma — that’s where Bobby and I met — and we wanted to show all of our Oklahoma friends and family the City of Pittsburgh and we thought PNC was THE best place to get that experience.”
Mrs. Southwood and her husband met while working at Dick’s Sporting Goods corporate headquarters in Findlay. They endured a long-distance relationship during the early part of their dating. When it came time to pick a wedding theme, they went with “Travel.”
After their ceremony at First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, they held their reception at the Pennsylvanian, Downtown. Guests’ name tags were printed as train tickets, with old suitcases incorporated into the decor.
She said she was pleased that the TLC crew of producers and cameramen was relatively small and unobtrusive: “I forgot they were there.”
The toughest part seems to be the episode finale, when the four brides are re-united — in this case, at Hartwood Acres’ mansion — to see who wins the grand prize. A limousine arrives, bearing the groom of the highest-scoring couple.
Judging from the brides’ comments from previous episodes (and a press screener where Mrs. Westhead notes “I actually threw up twice when we got here”), the experience is more nerve-wracking than anything else.
“That was just crazy,” Mrs. Southwood said, adding “I would totally do it again. It was a cool experience, and not many people can say they had their wedding on national television. Ten years from now, I can say, ‘I was on a reality show and I didn’t have to eat bugs or do anything crazy.
“I just had to marry my husband.’ ”
Maria Sciullo: email@example.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.