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Priest brands TV show

PUBLISHED: 06:01 13 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:17 24 February 2010

A PRIEST has branded the reality television show Surprise Wedding as “totally tasteless”, and accused it of exploiting the sacredness of marriage.

It was first screened on Tuesday night when girls asked their partners to marry them in front of four million viewers nationwide.

A PRIEST has branded the reality television show Surprise Wedding as “totally tasteless”, and accused it of exploiting the sacredness of marriage.

It was first screened on Tuesday night when girls asked their partners to marry them in front of four million viewers nationwide. It is shown again tonight when the men who say yes tie the knot.

The show is based on an American format and the producers admit it is an emotional rollercoaster for the six couples taking part.

But the Rev Fr Philip Gray, vicar at Mendlesham near Stowmarket, said he found the whole idea totally tasteless.

He said: “Marriage is one of the sacraments of the Church, I do not like the idea of it being a gimmick on television.

“We try to prepare couples for marriage at my church, like all churches we have a proportion of failure, but the more preparation they have the better for a lifelong commitment. I would be worried about the stability of the family too when there are break-ups.

“We are conservative, but I do find this totally tasteless. Personally I would not like a great, garish show in front of the television cameras. I would have been furious if my wife had proposed to me like that.''

Surprise Wedding, a two-part special for ITV1, is presented by Mark Durden-Smith and Amanda Lamb and based on a successful American format owned by Fox US.

Six wannabe brides proposed to their unsuspecting boyfriends in front of reception guests and an ITV audience on Tuesday night, including three couples from Essex: Sonia Barker and Mick Phillips from Nazeing and Jodie Holland and Jody Erics from Loughton, near Harlow; and Toria Adams and James Preston from Leigh-on-Sea.

With the help of video clips, the brides each explained how they had been preparing for their big day, secretly shopping for the dress, choosing the rings and planning how to get their partners to the altar without raising suspicion.

A spokeswoman for Carlton Television, which makes the programme for the ITV network, said the programme had been produced with a lot of sensitivity.

She said: “The boys have plenty of time to think about it, can speak to their parents, friends after the proposal on Tuesday night's show. These are not just girls who want to be on television, they want to marry their partners.

“They are not people who have just met and we are throwing them together. A lot of people can't afford to marry, this is one of the main reasons, once they have bought a flat and have a child.

“We have the support of the Church of England. It's not tasteless. These couples who say yes have a honeymoon in Barbados, and a legally binding wedding on a beach.''

Nick Bullen, controller of factual entertainment at Carlton, said: “We are breaking new ground on British television and we wanted to make this a night that our couples will never forget. Our selection process is thorough and sensitive, as these are life altering decisions.”

It is on ITV tonight, from 9pm to 10pm, when couples exchange vows and rings and are blessed by a priest. Under UK law the wedding will not be binding and the couples will re-marry on a beach in Barbados.

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