During his wedding ceremony at a picturesque resort in the Southern California desert, Gerry Turner made his way down an aisle lined with roses.
Then he turned around and walked back.
The crowd murmured. Cold feet? No, the redo was for the cameras broadcasting the wedding on ABC. “For real this time!” Mr. Turner mouthed to guests when walked by again a few moments later.
If both versions had aired, viewers might not have minded: Mr. Turner has just about nominated himself as the face of second chances. On Thursday night, the 72-year-old widower and star of “The Golden Bachelor,” ABC’s dating spinoff featuring older cast members, married Theresa Nist, 70, whom he had met on the show.
The couple’s love story may have been aided by a casting team and the otherwise opaque machinations of reality TV. It may have been parsed by tabloids, evaluated in franchise ratings and subjected to debate over whether the show fought or perpetuated television’s uneasiness about aging. But Mr. Turner and Ms. Nist say that at its core lies something real.
“It’s not a shell wedding,” Mr. Turner said as the couple sat shoulder to shoulder through an interview with The New York Times earlier in the week. It’s an “actual, honest-to-gosh” commitment, he said, complete with a marriage certificate.
The ceremony was held before 150 guests and far more TV viewers at La Quinta Resort and Club, a Mission-style estate where cameras dangled from palm trees and a faux grass carpet had been rolled over an outdoor patio. Guests sitting on white couches draped themselves in pashminas as the sun set over Joshua Tree National Park.
An outdoor fireplace crackled; a camera drone buzzed overhead.
The wedding also aired as a live two-hour special on ABC — perhaps a risky bet given the number of Mr. Turner’s ex-girlfriends in attendance. Among them was the wedding’s officiant, Susan Noles, who is ordained through the Universal Life Church and owns Nuptials by Noles. Leslie Fhima, whose breakup with Mr. Turner comprised much of the season finale, was also among a handful of other guests who had been contestants on the season.
Ms. Nist descended the aisle on the arm of her son, Tommy Nist. “We have so much fun together,” she told Mr. Turner during her vows. “We laugh until we cry.”
She hoped they would continue to do so “for the rest of the days we have left on this earth — which could be another hour.”
The pair met five months before their wedding day, when Ms. Nist and 21 other women had emerged from limousines to vie for some combination of screen time and Mr. Turner’s heart.
Mr. Turner, a retiree from Indiana, said he had signed on as the show’s lead in part to show that people his age can still experience desire and transformation. Ms. Nist, a financial services professional from Shrewsbury, N.J., said her daughter had encouraged her to apply.
They soon bonded over their romantic histories. Both had gotten married young to spouses they adored, and had both lived through their partners’ deaths. On camera, they split a milkshake, discussed grief and met each other’s grandchildren. Less than a month after they had met, Mr. Turner proposed.
“I think as you get older, you also realize you’re more confident in your choices,” Mr. Turner said.
Still, when producers began discussing the idea of a televised wedding shortly after filming wrapped, the couple waffled. Mr. Turner said he worried Ms. Nist would have to speed through preparations like she had for her first wedding, held during a brief break in her husband’s deployment in the Vietnam War. Only once she had agreed to the compressed timeline did they move forward, he said.
Ms. Nist found time to try on Badgley Mischka dresses with her daughter and maid of honor, Jen Woolston, and Mr. Turner’s daughters, Angie Warner and Jenny Young. Her bachelorette party was held at a mansion in the hills of Hollywood.
“There were beautiful gifts, Chippendale dancers,” Ms. Nist said. “Maybe some bar shots.” (Mr. Turner passed on having a bachelor party, describing his first one as “brutal.”)
One of those dancers was present — although his shirt was not — on the dance floor at a wedding reception held 20 yards or so from the ceremony. A group of uninvited onlookers had gathered outside the venue walls, hoping to glimpse cast members from the “Bachelor” franchise.
Kerry Leffel, a member of Mr. Turner’s pickleball league in Indiana, posed for a picture with Faith Martin, a front-runner whom Mr. Turner had sent home late in the season. Since he had not yet met Ms. Nist, he reserved judgment on her pickleball skills.
Mr. Leffel said his friend had come across fairly on TV, adding, “He wears his heart on his sleeve.”
Other viewers were more critical after a Hollywood Reporter article published in November claimed Mr. Turner had misrepresented his romantic past. Mr. Turner first said he was not focused on the article’s accuracy; this week he called it “fully fictitious.”
Ms. Nist said that both of them were learning about the hazards of being in the public eye. “At first I used to be upset about it, that people were saying things that were so wrong about you,” she said. Now, she said, “I almost find it amusing.”
The newlyweds are still working out the details of their lives together. Mr. Turner has warmed to New Jersey, Ms. Nist said, but they are also considering a move to South Carolina near her son. They hope to explore both areas after their honeymoon in Italy.
And they plan to take a step back from life onscreen, starting on their wedding night. After a raucous performance of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” had signaled the end of the live telecast, the couple retreated to a second, more intimate reception. Family and friends were welcome; TV cameras were not.
On This Day
When Jan. 4, 2024
Where La Quinta Resort and Club, La Quinta, Calif.
A Prime Time Proposal During a cocktail hour before the ceremony, Brayden Bowers, a contestant on the most recent season of “The Bachelorette,” proposed to Christina Mandrell, a former contestant on “The Bachelor.” “This is why we got our nails done?” she asked, after accepting.
Don’t Forget the Grandkids The couple’s grandchildren figured into the wedding. Mr. Turner’s two granddaughters, Payton and Charlee, were junior bridesmaids. Five of Ms. Nist’s grandsons — Dempsey, Leo, Brandon, Brody and Braxton — were junior groomsmen. The youngest of the bunch, 6-year-old Henry, was ring bearer.
Music Lessons Ms. Nist took the lead on choosing the day’s music, which included “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne and “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. “She’s been very good at telling me what I like about these songs,” Mr. Turner said.
Cocktails Galore Guests could choose from various signature drinks, including a spicy margarita titled “Birthday Suit,” a nod to Ms. Nist’s entrance to the Bachelor Mansion on her 70th birthday. She introduced herself to Mr. Turner by unraveling a black robe to reveal a tan bodysuit beneath.