Tell me something; when is a wedding show not a wedding show? When it’s also a travel programme and incredibly low-stakes competition, that’s when! Whoever came up with the concept for My Big Day: Home or Away? has surely been referencing a highly complicated computer generated algorithm, to pinpoint the bits of Sunday evening programmes that people like the most in order to shove them together to create this strange, but not not entertaining Frankenshow.
Take an adorable couple, add competing wedding planners, make sure there’s a wedding dress showdown and you’re on to a winner. Alice and Chris have been together for thirteen years and are now ready to tie the knot after years of friends’ weddings have convinced them they want to throw a big bash of their own. But where to start? Armed with a budget of €20,000 they have turned to Tara Fay and Bruce Russell; each wedding planner extraordinaire will compete to deliver the wedding of their dreams, either in an idyllic country manor in Kilkenny or a stylish city wedding in Valletta, Malta.
Bruce has the enviable task of whisking the couple away to Malta to show them how far their buck will go there (spoiler alert: very), and Tara is blessed with beautiful weather to showcase the admittedly gorgeous Mount Juliet Estate in Kilkenny. The couple does not have an easy task deciding, compromises will have to be made and they will both have to listen to what their heart of hearts has to say. Can they count on the weather in Ireland? Could they sacrifice 40 or so of the guest list to jet off to the Med? Would they be okay with a mid-week date? Dilemma doesn’t even begin to cover it!
Continuing with the tradition of reality style shows, the preserve of Sunday afternoons spent resting delicate heads on squishy sofas, My Big Day: Home and Away? contains about half an hour of repetition and filler out of the full hour, with commercial breaks, ideal for those heads that are not at 100 per cent capacity for holding on to any new information. Scenes spent agonising over whether a traditional wedding close-by is for them, or if a destination wedding would suit them better go on so long you wish they would just flip a coin. They come in many iterations; discussions between the couple, between the couple and the co-ordinators, between the couple, their parents and a heap of friends assembled to discuss the very conundrum at an engagement party hastily put together to add on another 15 minutes of head-scratching to the run-time.
The wedding planners get their allocated screen time too, and plenty of it. The weirdest part of it all is when each planner picks out a wedding dress for the bride, who must choose between just the two and be done with it. Alice does this with the help of her parents, a dad-of-few-words, whose utterances are all the more wise and valuable for it, and a no-nonsense mum who went against tradition herself, wearing a blue suit and hat to her nuptials. The parents are a nice addition, with a truly lovely scene between them and their daughter, in which they poured delightedly over the mother’s notebook containing lists and budgets from her wedding, kept all these years later.
But back to the dress, the most important facet involved in any bridal based TV show; Alice is taken with the one presented to her by Bruce, a long sleeved lace number that he envisages as perfect in front of a Maltese background. Tara is glum in defeat, but hopes it will look just as good nestled in the grounds of Mount Juliet. The couple doesn’t think so; in the end they gather the two planners together for what is definitely the most anti-climactic reveal on television – there is really no tense or otherwise competition between the two wedding planners and Tara even gets a nice hollier out of it when she goes to help out Bruce with the planning in Valletta. For that is the choice that has been made, a destination wedding for 80 guests in Malta, and at least we get to see how it all turns out. Wonderfully of course, but doesn’t it always? Maybe next week the stakes will be higher; tune in to RTE2 on Monday at 21.30 to find out – or wait for the repeat on Sunday, when you’ll get the most of the slightly muddled but ultimately harmless bit of popcorn TV.
- First published in The Tuam Herald on 02.10.19