The Meme-ification of the TV Wedding

Fictional ceremonies, like real ones, are going for viral moments rather than fairy-tale opulence.

fallon_lemonwedding_post.jpg
NBC

In a twist as jarring in the world of 30 Rock as, say, a revelation that it all took place in a snow globe, or that everybody was already dead, Tina Fey's tragically unlucky-in-love heroine is actually getting married, to James Marsden's dimpled and endearingly goofy Criss Chros.

Over its seven seasons, 30 Rock has made a running joke out of the hapless attempts of Liz Lemon, a single, head writer of a national sketch TV show, to "have it all": a good job, a healthy love life, and a family. Whether she's foiling a rom-com-ready moment by wolfing down a sandwich in the security line on her way to chase down her beau at the airport or entering into a relationship with a little person she met when she mistook him for a child and patted his head, Lemon's failures in pursuit of the perfect work-life balance have spawned viral videos, memorable dialogue, and thrust the character to the status of modern feminist icon.

30 Rock fans will have to wait until tonight to see how the Lemon-Chros nuptials unfurl—or if this is going to be a Brandon-and-Kelly-style fakeout. But given Lemon's 30 Rock history and Fey's sense of humor, it's a safe bet that this isn't going to be a fairy-tale wedding. In fact, it very well could be the starkest example yet of the evolution of how weddings play out on network TV. Gone are the days, it seems, of ceremonies so opulent and sweepingly romantic that Jane Austen would swoon. Here are the days when Liz Lemon—she of blergh and night cheese—has a 30 Rock-style wedding.

For much of TV history, weddings on TV shows reflected all the extravagance wide-eyed young girls dream of. An astonishing 30 million viewers tuned in to see Luke and Laura's grand affair on General Hospital in 1981, perhaps the most sun-kissed, teased-hair, poofy-dressed TV wedding up to that point. The weddings of Amanda and Prince Paul on Dynasty, David and Donna on Beverly Hills: 90210, and even ones on more blue-collar series like Rhoda and Happy Days were exorbitantly styled as if taken directly from the pages of a bridal magazine. Moving towards the new millennium, the weddings of Monica and Chandler on Friends or Robby and Amy on Everybody Loves Raymond resembled the societal norm of a "nice wedding": expensive reception hall, impeccably tailored dress, live music, and so on.

But this is 2012, and that societal norm is, at least through my anecdotal research, changing. Dreams have been downsized, and so have the weddings. Designer gowns and picturesque halls booked years in advance bear less importance to newlyweds. Thanks to Facebook, YouTube, and the age of social media, memories aren't bought with money anymore, they're made with creativity—and then made viral. Adorable musical theater-style proposals are captured on tape, posted online, and quickly elicit the awws of millions of web users, not just the few of those who happened to be in attendance. Choreographed wedding dances and bridal party flash mobs continue to drum up YouTube clicks. The memory has gone the way of the meme.

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at TheWeek.com and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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