Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Married on Air

In the 1920s there were a handful of radio weddings. Some fo these were on air entirely, others relied on the radio to provide the music. In once conformed instance, in 1926 in Belleville, NJ one couple marched down the aisle to the sound of the wedding march on WAAM. It was possibly inevitable that it woudl become something as ridiculous as a game show on ABC.

The year was 1945 and John Nelson the host, his co-host was Roberta Roberts. Jack McElroy was the singing announcer. The program Bride and Groom, ran from 1945 to 1950. The couples literally got married on air in a neat 30 minute program. The nuptials weren't tinkered with but immediately following the "I do" portion of the program, the couple was interviewed. It had a human interest angle to it. In 5 years they burned through about 1,000 couples. On the ABC scheduel it was sandwitched between soap operas if that tells you about the target demo. Sponsor Sterling Drug stuck with the series for the whole 5 year run.

The weddings were held at a chapel in the Chapman Park Hotel in Los Angeles, CA but in the last year of the program they were held taht the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. Producer John Reddy went through thousands of letters from hopeful couples. Couples were selected on who made the best story, blind couples, cute couples, young couples, old couples.. It didnt' matter. It was radio, they needed a story.

Winning couples won not just wedding rings, but also some appliances and a honeymoon. In 1949 they gave away $104,000 of prizes. It dosent sound like much now, but at the time it was one of the best deals in game show land. It did well enough that Mutual Broadcasting made their own series "Married for Life" focused on interviews with engaged couples.