"Every bride wants her wedding to be perfect, but what if she has to share the spotlight with 2,000 other brides in one of the most bizarre weddings on the planet?"
That's the question producers of TLC propose in a new one-hour special airing 10 p.m. Eastern time Sunday about the Unification Church, whose members are best known for their mass weddings.
According to a press release, the network's "Mass Moon Wedding" documentary "follows three young couples as they travel thousands of miles to South Korea to be blessed by their messiah, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, at one of the movement's controversial mass weddings. The three undertake a condensed courtship -- meeting and making plans for the future with a person they hardly know."
The couples include 21-year-old youth pastor Toby, who met 20-year-old Sunny of Ohio two years ago, and decided to get married three months before the blessing. There's also 21-year-old Réamonn from England, who has been matched with a woman from Argentina that he has never met. The third couple includes 20-year-old Naomi of London who is set up with her future husband -- a Korean who speaks minimal English -- a few days before the mass wedding ceremony.
Moon, 92, founded the Unification Church, formally known as Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, in 1954 in South Korea. Now estimated to have between five and seven million members in the world -- most in South Korea and Japan -- the church grew via aggressive missionary work and several large stadium events that Moon hosted in cities including New York and Washington, D.C.
Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, are considered by followers to be the "true parents of all humankind." The church follows many Biblical teachings, but it also follows its own book, the Divine Principle, which notably says Jesus was unable to restore humans as God's "perfect children" because he was crucified before he could get married.
Moon, who was born in what's now North Korea, says Jesus appeared to him while he prayed on a mountaintop at age 15 and asked Moon to complete his life's work. The church's mass weddings reflect Moon's mission to complete Jesus's work via connecting couples and families to God through him.
The church's members, often accused of being cult members, have been nicknamed "the Moonies." Though more popular than the church's actual name the, term is considered derogatory by many church members.
The TLC special highlights children who were born into the religion. Their parents, also matched by the church and married in mass weddings, were supposed to give birth to a "new race of sinless children," according to the network's filmmakers. Now in their twenties, the new generation is getting prepared to marry in a mass wedding of its own.