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BBC asks children to organise their parents’ weddings
Children are being asked to organise weddings for their parents as part of a BBC drive to reflect modern Britain.
Traditionally, it was the parents of the bride who worried about planning their daughter’s big day.
Now it is the children who are being asked to organise their parents’ wedding, in a BBC “reality” show.
In Marrying Mum & Dad, children as young as seven will be allowed to spend up to £10,000 on each wedding, picking out bridal gowns and dreaming up surprise themes.
The corporation says that it wants to see parents who are cohabiting, those remarrying after divorce, and even homosexual couples taking part, to “reflect modern Britain”.
But critics claim that it risks trivialising marriage and gives children a huge amount of responsibility which they may not be able to handle.
The series for CBBC, the corporation’s digital channel for primary school age children, will ask children aged between seven and 12 to arrange the character and style of the wedding or civil partnership.
They will be asked to oversee as many aspects of the day as they want, from the transport and entertainment to the dress and cake – though they will not be allowed to arrange hen nights or stag parties.
Parents on the show will have to be prepared to adapt to youthful tastes. Producers said they were anticipating unconventional ideas, which could see parents walking down the aisle dressed as animated characters, such as Shrek and Princess Fiona.
The format will loosely follow that of a successful BBC Three show, Don’t Tell the Bride, in which bridegrooms are given £12,000 to spend on a wedding, on condition that all the plans are kept secret from the bride until the day.
In the programme, now in its fifth series, the couples must spend three weeks apart without contact while the groom organises every aspect of the event.
Ninder Billing, the executive producer of Marrying Mum & Dad, said: “Marriages are increasingly taking place where children are already in the picture and this is something we can be celebratory about.
“Long gone are the days where people are ashamed to be having a second marriage or having children out of wedlock.
“We still respect the institution of marriage, but it’s our responsibility to find ways of reflecting modern Britain.
“Ideally we would like to feature a couple of civil partnerships because we want to reflect all kinds of family life rather than just be about white, middle-class, heterosexual couples.”
In 2010, 46.8 per cent of all babies in the UK were born out of wedlock – the highest level for two centuries, according to a report by the Centre for Social Justice think tank.
Experts believe the figure is likely to be even higher among British-born parents, as immigrant couples are more likely to be married.
Justine Roberts, co-founder of parenting website Mumsnet, said she welcomed programming which reflected modern families, but expressed concern about the amount of responsibility being heaped on children.
The mother of four said: “Organising a wedding is difficult enough for adults. My 13 year-old organised his own birthday party – with pretty disastrous consequences. I’m sure this will make for great TV, but it’s an awful lot of pressure to put on a child.”
The Reverend Rod Thomas, chairman of conservative evangelical group Reform accused the BBC of betraying bias against traditional family values.
“There is clear evidence that children who are born to married parents fare better than others, whether it is in terms of health, wealth or education,” said Rev Thomas.
“It is a great shame that the BBC has chosen to examine marriage from a standpoint which is so biased against traditional marriage.”