Big Gay Wedding with Tom Allen, review: more sober than its title suggests – but only just

Tom Allen holds a glass of bubbly on the set of Big Gay Wedding with Tom Allen
Cheers! Tom Allen is proving to be an entertaining presenter - BBC/Adam Hobbs

Big Gay Wedding with Tom Allen (BBC One) is two programmes in one. It’s a documentary marking the 10th anniversary of the Equal Marriages Act in England and Wales, and it’s a reality show in which a gay couple plan their wedding with a little celebrity help (Bake Off’s John Whaite making the cake! Sophie Ellis-Bextor providing the entertainment!).

Really, it should have committed to one or the other of these, but it just about works because it’s held together by comedian and presenter Tom Allen, who has sufficient seriousness to interview David Cameron – albeit by opening with, “Ooh, I feel like Emily Maitlis” – while also looking very much at home practising a dance routine with Oti Mabuse. (I confess to being a big fan of Allen: in my line of work, I attend plenty of awards ceremonies and he is by far the best and funniest host.)

David Cameron was here because he legalised same-sex marriage in 2014, and admitted that his wife played a big part in it. Cameron thought that civil partnerships were enough, but Samantha told him he was missing the point and that gay couples wanted to be married. “And that was a lightbulb that went off for me,” Cameron said.

Sandi Toksvig put gay marriage in its historical context – they were happening in Mesopotamia 4,350 years ago, she said – and Peter Tatchell recalled storming the pulpit at Canterbury Cathedral to disrupt an Easter sermon by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. Tatchell explained that he and fellow campaigners wanted to shift the narrative onto love and commitment and away from sex “and the way our critics were obsessed with our genitals”.

On to the wedding prep, which involved moodboards, pastel suits and a pug in a bow tie. “Who’s going to throw the bouquet? Everyone knows gays can’t catch,” said Allen. He had fun with the couple, Adam and Dan, and the tone of the whole programme was one of celebration. Discussing cake plans with Whaite and the two grooms, Allen summed it up how far we’ve come: “Isn’t it fantastic how four gays can go on television, standing in a kitchen joking about a 10-tier wedding cake. Because it’s been one hell of a struggle to get to this point.”

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