Wedding reality shows might be dismissed as ‘fairy-floss’ or ‘train-wreck’ TV, but the ratings don’t lie – many, many people enjoy watching programs like “Married at First Sight”, “Say Yes to the Dress” or “Four Weddings”.
What is it about wedding shows that viewers find hard to resist? There are the typical attractions of reality TV – entertaining predicaments, indulging in a little schadenfreude from your sofa, an easy escape from your brain-frying work day, or the fodder for bonding water-cooler conversations about the worst bridezilla the next morning. But do these programs also offer an opportunity to educate viewers?
Certainly if you are planning your own wedding these reality programs give you a ringside seat to the preparations and pitfalls, and a wide range of formal wear and venue options, from the tacky to the divine. But another motivation to watch is the opportunity to learn about courtship and dating, especially for younger people who are yet to experience the world of adult dating.
Romantic love can be very powerful; some would even argue that it is the most powerful force in this world. It’s fun, exciting, daring, joyful and gratifying. So does the chance to potentially witness real romantic love unfolding keep us coming back to the screen? In 2015, Veronica Hefner, from Chapman University conducted two studies trying to understand what people get out of watching wedding-based reality TV shows.
In Veronica’s first study she found that viewers’ romantic beliefs were associated with the desire to watch the royal wedding (Kate and William’s). Is it possible that we really want to see the fairytales of our childhood come true? Marriage may still represent that ultimate goal of forever-after happiness.
The second study showed that the programs endorse idealistic beliefs, especially the belief that love conquers all. Hefner argues further that if we identify ourselves strongly with characters in wedding TV shows we are more likely to endorse the belief in romance in our own lives.
Her findings indicate that watching wedding-based reality shows can be beneficial. Hefner mentions that watching such shows may “provide a way for viewers to believe that ‘reality’ can be translated into the ideal”. She and others believe that this can increase relationship durability, satisfaction and commitment.
So it looks like reality TV weddings can be not only good for you but for your relationship as well. If you believe that your romance can last forever, you might be willing to take steps towards making your relationship work, making the effort to repair your relationship after an argument and finding new ways to keep your love alive.