Bachelor Nation knows a thing or two about a wedding special. They’ve been able to pull it off effortlessly through the years — from Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter’s 2003 nuptials to the most recent “I do” between Kenny Braasch and Mari Pepin, which aired as a part of this season’s “Bachelor in Paradise.”
However, the last time a wedding special aired live was when Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici married in 2014. Ten years later, “The Golden Bachelor” couple Gerry Turner and Theresa Nist did just that — with all the above individuals in attendance — at the La Quinta Resort and Club just outside Palm Springs, Calif.
Variety, along with a select few other reporters, attended the ceremony and the reception. The special aired on ABC from 8-10 p.m. ET, but guests began arriving (and actually checking in at an event table) about an hour beforehand. To be fair, the massive amount of Bachelor Nation guests — everyone from former leads Ben Higgins, Kaitlyn Bristowe, Michelle Young, Rachel Recchia and Tayshia Adams to upcoming Bachelor Joey Graziadei and nearly the whole cast of women of “The Golden Bachelor” — were put up at the resort. So, they just had to walk across the lawn.
From there, guests waited for the live show to begin before entering the carpet — ushered in in various groups, as shown on the broadcast. Some were asked to walk again, encouraged to stop and take photos or mingle on the carpet while Charity Lawson and Kathy Swarts hosted. Meanwhile, cameras swirled from every direction for the live show while a drone flew overhead to capture a unique angle and the gorgeous set up.
Some guests, especially those not in Bachelor Nation, therefore not needed on the carpet, went straight in to enjoy a drink at a pre-reception from the perfectly curated drink menu. “Turner Into a Mrs.” sure makes for a good cocktail name.
At said pre-reception, while some guests were pulled for quick interviews with the select press in attendance, most mingled and snacked on meatballs and chicken wings. And of course, as shown on the live show, one pair — “Bachelorette” alum Brayden Bowers and Christina Mandrell — got engaged. Select producers knew about the proposal, but not everyone. Multiple people working the event were completely caught off guard as the secret was kept mostly under wraps.
After the hour of mingling, guests were taken into another section of grass, set up for the actual wedding ceremony — and yes, there were assigned seats. Neil Lane, for example, was seated up front while the rest of Bachelor Nation guests and “Golden Bachelor” cast members were scattered throughout. The chairs and very comfortable couches were decorated with thin white scarves and blankets for guests, all of which were used and shared as the temperature drastically dropped.
No phones were allowed during the ceremony and guests were instructed to put their drinks under their seats if they chose to bring them. Those seated in specific areas — about halfway back on each side — were warned by a security guard during a commercial break that a confetti canon would go off near them. (They weren’t yet there earlier in the night when producers rehearsed the canon going off, so they didn’t know it actually wasn’t that loud at all.)
In the back were the reporters and the publicity team, seated directly next to the violinists and in front of multiple crew members who gave everyone a 45-second warning, followed by a 10-second warning ahead of the live show and in between commercial breaks.
When walking down the aisle, Turner was shown on TV laughing and mouthing to some guests that this time, he was doing it “for real.” What you didn’t see was that moments before that walk to the altar, he’d already done it. While the guests thought it was the real thing the first time, he had actually been told to walk down earlier for the producers to clock it. When he arrived at the altar the second time and awaited Nist’s arrival, he was already getting choked up and pulling out his handkerchief to wipe his eyes. The tears continued when Nist appeared with her son. (This was not the first time he’d seen her in her dress, however, as they’d done their photos earlier in the day.)
During the ceremony — as shown on TV — both Nist’s daughter, Jen, and Turner’s daughters, Angie and Jen, made speeches, making both of their parents cry. As the cameras cut to a commercial, Turner’s son-in-law Rob, who served as his best man, also gave a speech.
At the end of the wedding, Turner and Nist walked down the aisle, waving to guests — including Faith Martin, who cried a few times during the ceremony and blew the happy couple a kiss as they walked by.
The reception-ish that took place after the vows consisted of a dance floor, the comedy group The Dan Band on stage and some cheese and crackers, set out mostly to be captured for the cameras.
Ben Higgins and Leslie Fhima were two of the first on the dance floor (as producers did their best to fill it before the show came back from commercial break) and had fun dancing, despite no one else doing so. Chippendales dancer Shyllon Melatti, who escorted Sandra Mason to the wedding, was a top choice for many of the women in attendance as well, and many “Golden Bachelor” cast members took turns spinning around on the dance floor with him.
Another interesting tidbit about the wedding’s location was that the resort was not closed to the public. This was obvious during both the ceremony and the reception, as a dozen or so guests — maybe very excited Bachelor Nation fans! — found a short wall to watch over as the night went on. (Maybe they didn’t know they’d probably get a better view by watching live on ABC.)
After the newlyweds entered the “reception,” they danced a bit to their song — Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” — and said their hellos to friends, family and Bachelor Nation. Before long, the reception (for TV) came to a pretty swift end. Guests began making their way inside to the real reception by 10:05 p.m. PT — the reception and full sit-down dinner that members of the press were (understandably!) not invited to.