Wedding bells chime (with a break for ads) on TV's 'Today'

Everything was in place for the perfect wedding: the rings, the flowers, the cake, the tickets for the honeymoon - and about 6 million television viewers.

Peter Ginsberg and Melanie Nelson exchanged vows live on NBC's "Today" show Wednesday, concluding a three-month feature in which viewers chose everything about the wedding, including Nelson's hairstyle.

The wedding planning drew some arched eyebrows from "Today" hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, with the memory of Fox's "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire" fiasco still fresh. To be safe, NBC hired an outside firm to conduct a background check on the four couples who were finalists for the wedding. There were 1,000 applicants.

"This is not like the last [TV] wedding.... This time the bride and groom know each other," Ms. Couric said.

Viewers cast more than 220,000 votes to choose Hawaii for the honeymoon. The traditional Jewish ceremony was held outside on the plaza at Rockefeller Center. And before the couple finished their walk down the aisle, there was a commercial break.

Mr. Ginsberg, a lawyer, and Ms. Nelson, who's studying to become a psychologist, met in college. They were engaged in January and decided on a whim to apply for the "Today" wedding.

"It's been really fun," Nelson said. "We're not really control-freak kind of people." NBC footed the bill.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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