The Golden Bachelor's Gerry Turner Promises His Wedding to Theresa Nist Will Be 'a Day Filled with Joy' (Exclusive)

The 'Golden Bachelor' couple tell PEOPLE what to expect from the televised wedding (airing tonight) they planned in a matter of weeks — with plenty of help from their loved ones: “It's been a family event!”

Four just might be Theresa Nist’s lucky number. Her Golden Bachelor journey started on Aug. 4 (which also happened to be her birthday) and will come to its grand conclusion on Jan. 4, when she and retired restaurateur Gerry Turner tie the knot in a live, televised wedding special on ABC. The date also happens to be the birthday of Theresa’s daughter Jen. 

“​​I can't believe it's on her birthday, because it started on my birthday,” Theresa, 70, says. “We're both on the fourth of the month; what are the chances?”

Probably about the same odds of finding love on reality TV. 

Theresa, a financial services professional, stepped out of the limo at Bachelor Mansion on that August evening and showed Gerry, 72, her "birthday suit" — in actuality, a nude bodysuit. Later that night they shared a cupcake for her birthday. Theresa nabbed Gerry’s first one-on-one date, and weeks later he proposed with a 3.15-carat, princess-cut diamond ring from Neil Lane .

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Talking to PEOPLE four days before their wedding, Gerry and Theresa are cuddled up in their New Year’s Eve best in a New York City hotel room, preparing to ring in 2024 with Ryan Seacrest in Times Square. The couple — both parents of two who embarked on their Golden Bachelor journeys following the deaths of their spouses — went public with news of their engagement during The Golden Bachelor’s Nov. 30 finale. They've only had a matter of weeks to plan their wedding while also enjoying their first holiday season together, but they’ve received plenty of help from their families, especially Theresa’s daughter Jen, 39.

“I can't say enough about how wonderful she's been,” Theresa gushes. “There are so many decisions to be made, and many, many times we weren't available to give an answer, and she's provided it. And then his daughters are involved, and my daughter's talking to his daughters — it's been a family event.”

Many of Theresa and Gerry’s loved ones “want to say something, and we warmly welcome them saying things,” she says of the anticipated wedding speeches. “They all have something prepared. Some of it you will see, some of it you won't see, but every single person is really involved.”

Golden Bachelor, Gerry Turner & Theresa Nist

Jim Wright

Shockingly, Gerry and Theresa haven’t vetted the speeches to make sure they won’t be embarrassed on live TV.  

“Both of us are looking forward to some of the element of surprise,” he says. “If we get too involved and overplan, I don't think there'll be as much joy for us. We trust our children and their good judgment and the things that they've done in the past that reinforce their humor, their judgment, their sensitivity to our situation. To me, they have free rein. I'm really looking forward to when we see things unfold. I think that'll be the greatest fun.”

Theresa even told her youngest grandson, 6-year-old Henry, “say whatever you want,” she reveals.

The Ceremony

Gerry describes the wedding, which will take place in Southern California, as “very elegant but not stuffy.”  Theresa says she picked “all pale colors of pinks and peaches” — with some gold flowers as accents — to achieve a “very light and airy look.”

The ceremony — which will be officiated by former Golden Bachelor contestant Susan Noles, who runs wedding officiating company Nuptials by Noles and was eliminated in week 5 — will feature a four-piece string orchestra playing selections handpicked by Theresa. “I actually listened to 138 different pieces [to decide on] the ones that I like,” she shares. “And I said, ‘Wow, I learned a lot about classical music.’ It was really the music and the flowers that were the most important elements, and family.”

For Gerry, the handwritten vows will serve as his special touch for the ceremony. “That's very personal for me,” he says.

Theresa simply wants them to come out right. “We just hope that we say the vows correctly!” she says.

Golden Bachelor, Gerry Turner & Theresa Nist

Jim Wright

Gerry anticipates getting misty-eyed well before it comes time to read the vows.

“Theresa will not have even made it to the platform where we're going to exchange our vows, and that moment I see her walking down the aisle is going to get me,” he says. “I know it is because when I gave both of my daughters away at their weddings, I cried like a baby getting them down the aisle. And I know it'll be the same.”

Theresa’s son Tommy, 46, will walk her down the aisle and her son-in-law Matt will be one of Gerry’s groomsmen. Her grandsons Brandon, Braxton, Brody, Dempsey and Leo will all be junior groomsmen and Theresa’s youngest grandson Henry will have the responsibility of being the ceremony’s ring bearer. Gerry’s son-in-law Rob, 44, will serve as his best man, and his two daughters, Angie Warner, 43, and Jenny Young, 49, and Young’s two daughters, Charlee, 16, and Payton, 22, join the wedding party as bridesmaids and junior bridesmaids, respectively. Theresa’s daughter-in-law Amanda will be a bridesmaid as well.

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Other Bachelor Nation attendees will include Wells Adams, Ben Higgins, Jason and Molly Mesnick, Desiree and Chris Siegfried, and Trista and Ryan Sutter.

As for the bridal look that will likely bring Gerry to tears, Theresa refers to it as “traditional and modern,” but admits “it's really not what I envisioned I would wear.”

Theresa’s daughter, daughter-in-law and fellow Golden Bachelor contestants Susan, 66, and Kathy Swarts, 70, helped her pick the gown she’ll wear down the aisle. 

“I was presented with these incredibly gorgeous gowns from Badgley Mischka, and I was overwhelmed,” Theresa says. “I asked each one of these beautiful women to go pick their favorite. And then I picked three of mine, and I walked down the stairs with them. And when it was the dress, they unanimously thought this was the good gown. I think Susan was so proud because that's the one I picked out!”

Though Gerry originally thought about wearing a blue suit for the wedding, “we talked one night, and we came to the conclusion that a black tux would look a little more formal,” he says. “And that's where I'm going, the black tux.”

Golden Bachelor, Gerry Turner & Theresa Nist

Jim Wright

The Reception

As a gardener, Theresa paid particular attention to the flower choices. “I love any type of flower, and that's what we're incorporating into this,” the New Jersey resident says. “The bouquet will be a wide array of flowers. Mostly roses but all different beautiful flowers.”

Theresa previously told PEOPLE she wanted to choreograph a first dance; now, she says, “we do have a dance plan, so hopefully it goes off the way we envision it.”

Gerry chimes in, “You've seen me dance. It's not exactly pretty. So I'm going to do the best I can.” 

Accordingly, Theresa had Gerry take dance lessons. “I'm a little sore and tired right now from a long morning of rehearsals,” says Gerry, who left choosing the song for their first dance to his fiancée. “You have to remember, I was married 43 years. I came into this relationship well-trained, so when she tells me there's a song that I like, there's a song that I like.”

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Theresa appreciates the autonomy, particularly because a potential playlist Gerry shared on Instagram in early December included tracks from Doja Cat, Dua Lipa and Pitbull. “Gerry said, ‘You're the person who loves music the most, so I'll let you pick out the song, but I didn't pick out just one song…’ ” she teases.

Gerry and his known sweet tooth made the evening’s food choices — especially the cake — his priority. He and Theresa will serve five appetizers at the cocktail hour and will offer a steak, halibut and vegetarian option for the main course. “We were completely in lockstep on the choices,” Gerry says. “I think there's something for everyone. I'll just be in a hurry to get through dinner to get to the cake!” 

The pair will actually have two cakes, one picked out by each of them. Gerry’s larger cake will be vanilla with chocolate mousse and cappuccino cream frosting, while Theresa’s smaller one will feature raspberry and lemon flavors.

Since Gerry’s dad, 92-year-old Everett, won’t be able to travel from Indiana to California for the wedding because of his health, Gerry came up with a backup plan. “I made arrangements with a baker in Fort Wayne to take a small replica of the wedding cake to his home address the night of the wedding,” Gerry shares. “He has had watch parties every Thursday, and so we'll take a little bit of the wedding to him.”

Gerry and Theresa look forward to celebrating with everyone who can make it on Thursday and want to stay in the moment on their special day. “We don't want it to go pass us by,” she says. “Especially at this age, we've learned the lesson: You just live in the moment and don't wish for tomorrow to come. I envision it as such a fun, warm, wonderful day, a day filled with joy and laughter and positive energy and everyone being happy to be there.”

Simply put, “we want it to be a party,” Gerry says.

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The Honeymoon — and Beyond

Once the festivities wrap, Gerry and Theresa plan to pause and consider what this next chapter of their lives will look like. 

They may take a mini-moon, “but I don't want to let that out,” Gerry says. “Then all of a sudden people will be looking for that and asking questions and so forth. There's a little bit of anonymity that I'm looking forward to when things settle down, and we can just enjoy each other's company without some of the glitz and glamor that's been thrown our way lately.”

During the Golden Bachelor finale’s After the Final Rose portion, ABC gave Gerry and Theresa a trip to Italy, a country she’s always wanted to visit. Arranging that trip falls on the post-wedding to-do list. 

“There's been so much going on since the show ended,” Theresa says. “After the wedding, we're going to be able to sit together and really decide, because it's been a whirlwind. There will be plans for trips and looking for homes and going to Italy, so there'll be so much to look forward to.”

Gerry and Theresa previously considered relocating to Charleston, S.C., together; however, since being able to spend time at Theresa’s home in New Jersey, they might have another option.

“I like that area, and Theresa's home is 15 minutes from the ocean, and that is so attractive to me,” the Indiana resident says. “So we have more than one option to explore. We'll find the spot that we're both happy with.”

Theresa says she and Gerry “communicate really well, and we resolve issues very well,” so they should be able to amiably decide where to call home. 

“At our age, we've probably made our fair share of blunders,” Gerry says. “We've learned those lessons, and we've brought them forward with us. We can only focus on the things that are fun ahead of us. The commitment is critical. That's the most fundamental part of this, and building the trust in each other and the ability to find the right way to communicate all the time. But it's easy.”

Even when the Internet speculates about their relationship. “We read some of the things online, and it's really a source of good entertainment for us,” Gerry says. “But talking constantly about things that come up, whether it's wedding-related or relationship-related or whatever the case may be, has really helped us so much.” 

Theresa calls it “really interesting to read about yourself online when people really don't know.”

She adds, “But we also don't really have that much time to read things like this. There's so many good messages that we get from very lovely people who say such wonderful things, so I tend to not even see the other stuff.”

While getting married in their 70s in such a public way is different for both Gerry and Theresa than it did years ago when they married their first spouses, the core tenet of saying “I do” remains the same.

“It still means making a commitment to one person and saying that you were the person I choose to be with and to spend the rest of my life with and to have every adventure and make part of every adventure that I have,” Theresa says. “It's making a statement and a public statement to the world that this is the person I choose.” 

Gerry feels confident in their choice. “I look at Theresa, and I see the most unselfish person I've ever met, a person that I can trust with literally anything,” he says. “And that's going to make her a wonderful partner.”

The Golden Wedding airs Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Golden Bachelor, Gerry Turner & Theresa Nist

Jim Wright


Photographer Jim Wright

Cinematographer Ryan Mitchel

Hair Corey Tuttle / Exclusive Artists

Makeup Evy Drew / Exclusive Artists

Stylist Chelsea Volpe / Honey Artists

Prop Stylist Montana Pugh / MHS ARTISTS


Cover Look
Gerry - Suit: Hugo Boss Black Label, Shirt: Eton, Tie: David Donahue, Shoes: Boss Hugo Boss
Theresa - Dress: Adriana Papell, Bracelet: Ben-Amun

White/Gold Backdrop 
Gerry - Shirt: Hugo Boss Red Label, Pants: AYR, Belt: Cole Haan, Shoes: Henderson Baracco
Theresa - Dress: Sandro, Shoes: Zara, Earrings & Bracelet: Ben-Amun, Necklaces: Grown Brilliance

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