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Pledging their love during the live ‘Golden Wedding,’ Theresa Nist and Gerry Turner are married

By Greg Braxton and Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times
Published: January 7, 2024, 6:00am

LOS ANGELES — The first major TV event of 2024 revolves around the live televised wedding of the “royal couple.”

In this case, it’s not members of British royalty who are in the spotlight. The stars are reality TV royalty — Gerry Turner, aka “The Golden Bachelor,” who married financial services professional Theresa Nist during a two-hour special Thursday. The ceremony was broadcast live Thursday on the East Coast and aired two hours later on the West Coast. It is now available to stream on Hulu.

The network pulled out all the stops for the live ceremony, which took place at the lavish La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs. The nuptials were the culmination of a hugely successful season for the popular “The Bachelor” franchise, as the spinoff centered on Turner, a 72-year-old widower, looking for a new life partner.

Turner proposed to Nist in the finale, selecting her over 21 other contestants who competed for his affections. One of the contestants, Susan Noles, officiated over the ceremony, and another, Kathy Swarts, interviewed arrivals on the “gold carpet.” Almost half of the other women who were featured on the show were in attendance.

Among them was Leslie Fhima, one of the finalists, whose heartbroken response to Turner when he informed her he was choosing Nist as his bride-to-be instead of her nearly overshadowed the upbeat ending of the season.

Rob Young, Turner’s son-in-law, was best man, while Jen Woolston, Nist’s daughter, was maid of honor.

L.A. Times writers Greg Braxton and Meredith Blake discussed the wedding in real time, so if you can’t wait to see who shows up or what happens, you can get caught up on the big moments of “The Golden Wedding.”

Greg Braxton: So cool to be sharing the big day with you, Meredith. But I have to ask how you’re feeling about Leslie looking on as Gerry gets married to Theresa. You were not a big fan of how he handled that situation. I certainly wouldn’t want to watch an ex who had broken my heart getting married.

Meredith Blake: Greg, the pleasure is all mine! I have dusted off my finest cocktail attire (read: sweat pants) and gotten a sparkling new manicure (OK, it’s three weeks old and chipped) and am ready for the big night. Despite the downer of a finale, I personally can’t wait to watch Gerry and Theresa become husband and wife as God and Bob Iger intended — live on the American Broadcasting Company!

I am sure it will be a hard night for Leslie — who, in the interest of full disclosure, was my favorite — but it probably would have been even harder to get labeled a sore loser on social media. It’s also a smart move for Leslie to show up and keep her head held high if she wants to become the first Golden Bachelorette, as many have speculated. And if Hillary Clinton could attend Donald Trump’s inauguration, then surely Leslie can show up for Gerry and Theresa — and maybe lead a round or two of the Electric Slide. (We know she’s got the dance skills.)

Greg, what will you be looking out for this evening? We’ve seen plenty of reality TV wedding specials over the years, but the live nature of this event feels pretty unprecedented.

Braxton: Unless Leslie decides to stand up and object to them getting married, I don’t expect any kind of major drama taking place. Knowing how the production of the franchise is so heavily managed and produced, I’m sure things will be timed down to the minute. The last thing that Disney needs at the beginning of 2024 is another unexpected mess to deal with.

Blake: So I guess this means Dustin Hoffman won’t show up at the last minute and race off with Theresa in a city bus? Sigh. Still — it’s live TV. I’m sure there will be some hiccups. But, really, I’m here for the same thing I would be with any wedding — the dresses, the decor, the public declarations of love that melt my cold, icy heart. And, of course, the open bar. Please tell me it’s not a cash bar. I know times are tough in Hollywood, but hopefully the bubbly is on the network. Greg, any predictions about the song choice for Gerry and Theresa’s first dance?

Braxton: If it’s “My Heart Will Go On,” I’m flipping to “Inside Edition.”

Blake: A pretaped package shows Gerry and Theresa’s family hanging out over the holidays, sharing cherished cinnamon ball recipes and oh-so-casually mentioning their Amazon wedding registry. It took about nine whole minutes for a blatant product placement. How many more can we expect this evening?

Braxton: Leslie, who just arrived, is being very gracious on the golden carpet. She says we all have to be supportive for love. She is beyond being a good sport.

Blake: With all due respect to Gerry, I have always maintained that the real stars of “The Golden Bachelor” were the ladies. And the producers seem to know that, bringing back several fan favorites in the opening red carpet portion of the evening, including pickleball enthusiast Ellen Goltzer and Kathy “Zip It!” Swarts, who is a correspondent on the golden carpet for the evening, which I endorse as an ASKN fan.

Braxton: Jesse Palmer, host of “The Bachelor” and “Bachelorette,” already deserves to be the MVP of the night. He is hosting the wedding instead of being home with his wife, who is about to give birth.

Blake: Back on the red carpet (that isn’t a red carpet) we get interviews with “Bachelor” super couples Jason and Molly Mesnick and Trista and Ryan Sutter. The most eventful part is when Ryan steps on the train of Trista’s dress. Live TV, folks!

Braxton: Looking at the settings on the table, the cake and the whole atmosphere, it’s clear that expense was not an object. This wedding may have cost more than the Disney’s last few Marvel movies.

Blake: Natascha Hardee, aka the lady who gave a hilarious speech about how producers needed to give the show’s contestants chairs to sit in during the rose ceremonies, is at the ceremony wearing — what else? — chair earrings. She takes her moment on camera to give a pep talk to the folks at home, sitting on the couch to get out there and find love. “Make yourself No. 1 because you are No. 1!” Someone get this woman a talk show, stat!

Braxton: Conducting interviews by the open bar, Kathy laments, “I’m here without a drink, and that’s never a good thing.” She really does need her own show.

Blake: In another taped segment, Theresa tries on wedding gowns designed by Badgley Mischka. Former contestant Susan Noles — who will be the evening’s officiant — is there to crack jokes while Theresa’s one-time nemesis Kathy is also there to help her get into the elaborate dresses. “It my my joy to zip it for Theresa,” she says. I see what you did there, Kathy.

Braxton: Worth pointing out that with the rise of COVID-19 and the flu, no one is wearing a mask at this wedding. I guess that really wouldn’t fit in well with the fairy-tale feeling.

Braxton: So of course we have some breaking news at the wedding because the nuptials aren’t enough. Brayden Bowers, who was kind of a villain on Season 20 of “The Bachelorette,” proposed to his girlfriend Christina Mandrell, who he met on “Bachelor in Paradise.” Not surprising that he would try to get attention on the big day!

Blake: As if to stave off criticism about the limelight-stealing, Jesse Palmer comes back after the break and explains that Brayden asked Gerry and Theresa permission to propose on the air. Mmmkay.

Braxton: Yeah. Whatever.

Blake: Theresa’s bachelorette party features more plugs for Amazon’s wedding registry, a boudoir photo shoot and a gaggle of male strippers. Gasp!

Braxton: They didn’t strip down to their skivvies. The men kept their pants on. How can a stripper keep his pants on? It’s still Disney.

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Blake: Back at the wedding, Kathy asks finalist Faith Martin the question we’ve all had on our minds since she was eliminated after her hometown date: Would she be willing to leave the dead horse buried in her backyard if the right guy came along? (The answer is yes.)

Blake: The ceremony is finally here! Gerry walks down the aisle to “Ave Maria” — a classic, and probably cheaper to license than Journey. With Theresa waiting at the top of the aisle, it’s time for … a commercial break!

Braxton: Gerry does not look like a nervous groom at all. He’s ready.

Braxton: And of course, we just can’t have an uninterrupted ceremony without commercial breaks. It kind of takes a lot of the emotion out of the ceremony if we have to sell bladder protection stuff and diabetes medicine. It would be funny if they had bladder protection pads in the gift bag as guests leave.

Blake: We can at least be grateful we haven’t gotten any of those toe fungus ads yet. Talk about a buzzkill.

Blake: With the prescription drug commercials out of the way, Theresa finally gets to walk down the aisle. She looks beautiful, and Gerry, of course, is bawling.

Blake: Susan is representing southeastern Pennsylvania with her Delco accent and I am here for it like cheese on a Wawa hoagie.

Braxton: Susan: “You have both given us all so much. Hope that it is never ever too late to find love. That’s because of you two.”

Blake: Oh, baby! In case you weren’t already in the mood for romance, now we get a shingles vaccine commercial.

Braxton: It’s all almost exactly like that scene in “The King of Comedy” when the obsessed fan Rupert Pupkin, played by Robert De Niro, gets married on a late-night show, and the officiant says, “We’ll be back to marry them after this commercial break.”

Braxton: Theresa: “I love you with all my heart, and I cannot wait to be your wife.”

Blake: Very sweet vows by Theresa — without a single mention of Amazon. Love is real!

Blake: Gerry to Theresa: “You were the love that came silently and without warning.” The man has a way with words.

Braxton: Gerry: “I promise to choose you every day, to love and never take your heart for granted, I promise to shout I love you by day and whisper them softly at night. I promise to keep you safe. I promise to make you feel comforted at difficult times, and abundantly joyful in great times … we have a trust that cannot be broken.”

Braxton: Leslie behaved herself. No wedding tantrum. No last-minute drama. Very un-”Bachelor.”

Blake: And she looked fabulous while doing it. Even better.

Blake: As I (sort of) predicted, Leslie helps kick off the dance party. Alas, she does not do the Electric Slide (boogie-woogie-woogie.)

Blake: Gerry and Theresa come out while the Emotions’ “Best of My Love” plays, or to be more precise, as the same five-second lyric-free loop of the song plays on repeat. And a dreadful cover version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” which — sorry, Gerry and Theresa — will always make me think of Tony Soprano.

Blake: That conclusion was awfully rushed, and you’d think they could have maybe cut back on some of the blatant plugs for Amazon — hey, did you hear they have a wedding registry? — to leave room for more of the celebration in the broadcast. But maybe it’s for the best if the happy couple gets to dance and party in private after so many moments on camera. All in all, the first “Golden Bachelor” wedding was a night full of product placements and corporate synergy, punctuated by some moments of genuine emotion. And that’s good enough for me. Now, please, can we get a Golden Bachelorette already?

Braxton: As expected, there was a lot of emotion and tears throughout the ceremony, and it does appear that Gerry and Theresa truly love each other and should have a very bright and fun future ahead of them. But I also wonder if they would have preferred a more intimate and private event since their ceremony was continually sideswiped by product placement and an endless stream of commercials which really robbed the most important day of their new life of momentum. It’s almost a surprise that Mickey Mouse didn’t show up. Brie Larson and the rest of the cast from the recent box office disaster “The Marvels” could have dropped in to tell viewers, “Our movie will be on Disney+ soon. Give us another chance.” I guess that’s the price you pay for getting married on live television.