‘Today’ EP on allowing same-sex wedding applicants: ‘We’re producers, not politicians. All we want is a good wedding’

By Gail Shister 

It could be “Here Come the Brides” for the winning couple of “Today’s” “Modern Day Wedding Contest.”

Same-sex couples will now be allowed to apply, “Today” announced tonight in a statement posted on its website. The deadline for applications, originally tomorrow, will be extended to Monday.

“Today” boss Jim Bell, who met today with representatives of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), says he didn’t need much convincing to reverse NBC’s earlier policy.


“We came to the conclusion that this is the right thing to do,” Bell says in an interview with TVNewser. “I think we would have gotten there on our own, but it might have taken longer.

“We want to be inclusive. We want to be open. We want to be fair. I’m glad we’re doing the right thing.”

The contest rules had limited couples’ eligibility to those able to be legally married in New York City, where the wedding will be broadcast live on Oct. 6. Since New York State does not recognize same-sex marriage, those couples were not invited to the party.

“Our intent was not to be exclusionary,” Bell says. “It was about following the law.”

After receiving more than 3,000 letters and emails in protest, Bell set up today’s meeting with GLAAD. (Bell and GLAAD president Jarrett T. Barrios, a former State Senator from Massachusetts, attended Harvard together.)

Bell describes the gathering as “friendly. We didn’t feel pressure. We had a good dialogue with a group we consider a friend. They made a good case.”

New York State recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages from states in which such unions are legal — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. If a same-same-sex couple from, say, Massachusetts, has a marriage license from that state, they can legally marry in New York State.

Bell estimates that the total “Today” wedding package, which includes honeymoon and clothing, is worth between $300,000 and $500,000.

Working with Facebook, “Today” has received more than 1,000 videos for the contest — up 500 percent over last year, according to Bell. Producers will select five to seven couples as finalists, with viewers voting for the winner.

Future “Today” wedding contests will be inclusive, Bell promises.

“We’re producers, not politicians,” he says. “All we want is a good wedding.”