Nearly two decades ago, Trista Sutter was the runner-up on the first season of “The Bachelor,” a new reality show that would go on to become one of the most successful franchises in television history.
Little did Sutter — then, Trista Rehn — know, she would become the very first star of “The Bachelorette,” ABC’s first spinoff of the mega franchise. And little did she know, she would also meet her husband on a reality dating show.
“The Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” ends each season with a proposal and engagement, but more often than not, the TV couples call it quits a few years, or months, later. And yet, the original “Bachelorette” couple is still together. Ryan Sutter was one of Rehn’s 25 contestants who fought to win her heart, and 17 years later, the couple is happily married with two children.
“Who would’ve thunk it?” Sutters says. “From Midwest tomboy to someone coined as the Fairy Godmother of one of the longest-running and most-watched reality shows on the planet, I honestly still don’t understand how I got so lucky.”
Nowadays, when many reality star contestants go onto social media fame and seem to seek lucrative Instagram opportunities more than finding love on television, the Sutters, who live a normal non-televised life with their family in Colorado, symbolize the genuine innocence of early reality television fame.
When the couple tied the knot, ABC broadcast their nuptials over a multi-part miniseries that drew in over 20 million viewers. At the time, the network said the special drew the largest U.S. audience for a TV wedding since Prince Charles and Lady Diana wed.
Tonight, millions of fans — by the standards of 2020 viewership — will tune into Sutter’s love story and see where it all began, as “The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons – Ever!” re-airs the best parts from Sutter’s season of “The Bachelorette,” which originally aired in 2003.
To celebrate the trip down memory lane, Sutter — who says she has watched every single episode in the franchise ever — writes, in her own words, about her all-time favorite “Bachelor” moments in history for Variety…
Chris Harrison Gets The Ball Rolling (“The Bachelor,” Season 1)
I’ll never forget watching. It was a moment that would change my life and the lives of thousands (yes, thousands, including the casts and crews from not only the shows that air in America, but all others around the world). Chris was standing in the backyard of the very first “Bachelor” mansion, introducing us to what would become a part of pop culture. “Hi, I’m Chris Harrison, and no, I’m not ‘The Bachelor.’” Not “The Bachelor,” but better. He was our friend, confidant, and now, family.
Mama Bear Emily Maynard (“The Bachelorette,” Season 8)
When she got word that Kalon had referred to her sweet daughter Ricki as baggage, she went off — and it was amazing. I had been a mother for five years at that point, and in that moment, she was my hero. In fact, she kinda still is!
Jason Mesnick Pulls a Mesnick (“The Bachelor,” Season 13)
After getting down on one knee and asking Melissa to marry him, Jason couldn’t get Molly out of his mind or his heart (and if you’ve met her, you know why. She’s the best). On national television, he pulled a “Mesnick” and flipped the script — please don’t get literal, people; it truly is not scripted — ditching Melissa and asking Molly if they could move forward. Move forward they sure did with one of the most memorable (and rainy!) weddings in Bachelor Nation history, and a beautiful family to boot.
Kaitlyn Bristowe finally gets the chance to boogie (“The Bachelorette,” Season 11)
She’s waited…and waited…and waited…and when they recently re-aired her season during “The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons – Ever!,” she got the surprise of a lifetime when Chris asked her if she’d be on the next season of “Dancing with the Stars.” Her reaction was priceless, and I can’t wait to have an excuse to get back on the set and cheer her on.
Jake Pavelka’s Bitter Battle With His Chosen One (“The Bachelor,” Season 14)
This one isn’t a favorite for its feel good factor, but like anyone watching that night, I couldn’t turn away. Jake and Vienna clearly weren’t a match made in “Bachelor” heaven, and as a self-proclaimed lover of love stories, you would think this moment wouldn’t necessarily stand out, but I was glued to the TV to tune into what was most likely (yes, I’m going to steal Chris’ famous line) the most dramatic breakup ever!
Carly Waddell and Evan Bass Fall In Love (“Bachelor in Paradise,” Season 3)
How can you not love this quirky “Bachelor in Paradise” love story? Carly basically put Evan in the friend zone and kept pushing him away, but he persisted until he won her heart and proved that you can’t judge a relationship by the first impression — or even the second or third. And knowing how happy their sweet family is now just makes me love them even more.
Wells Adams (“Bachelor in Paradise”)
From retelling Alexis’ story about Christen’s stinky scallop fingers to impersonating John Paul Jones and his goooood dates, he is the perfect bartender for the island and the best comic relief. I’m just sad I haven’t gotten the chance to meet him yet — not that he has any clue who I am!
Epic travel locations (in every season except mine!)
Without the budget that they have now, my season left a little something to be desired when it came to traveling the world. I’ve come to grips that I have to live vicariously through my Bachelor Nation family when they stamp their passports on the way to gorgeous far-away places like Belize, New Zealand, Japan, Switzerland, South Africa and Vietnam, but a girl can still dream that one of these days, they’ll hire me to highlight “Bachelor” travel locales in a modern-day version of Brooke Burke’s “Wild On” — or just join them from my couch.
Clare Putting Juan Pablo In His Place (“The Bachelor,” Season 18)
You. Go. Girl. After disrespectfully muttering his goodbye to Clare, along with telling her the day or two before that he loved “f-ing” her but didn’t know her, she lit him up. Without fear or holding back, she let him have it, and I remember hearing the rest of America join me in screaming “YES” at the television. It’s been a while, but I cannot wait to see Clare’s strength, beauty and courage on our screens again, come fall.
The BEST. Surprise. EVER. (Trista and Ryan’s Wedding)
It is not lost on me that I have been given a rare gift through “The Bachelor.” I met the man of my dreams, was given a dream wedding along with a beautiful vow renewal, and can play back each of these moments with the help of a DVR or VCR (yes, I’m that old). Of all these special moments, though, my absolute favorite was shown in the credits of the last episode of our wedding. Ryan had taken the words he wrote in the poem “Something About Her” that he gave me on our date to SeaWorld, turned them into the lyrics of a song, put them to music thanks to our friend Rick Cowling, then had Brad Paisley record it (for those of you who will ask…it’s still on iTunes!)! But, to top it off, he surprised me at our reception (surprises are my favorite!) by having Brad serenade us for our first dance. Talk about pulling at my heart strings and creating a memory that is still, to this day, one of my all-time most cherished.