Only rarely does one of ABC’s Bachelor franchises result in a bona fide couple-hitching, and yet, the pick-a-mate reality competition continues to find a substantial audience on the network. ABC officially announced this morning that on Sunday, January 26, it will reward those viewers who keep watching in the face of all fact, with the franchise’s very first live wedding. Sean Lowe and Catherine Guidici are only the fourth couple in the history of the franchise — now more than a decade old — to actually tie the knot. They join Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter, Jason Mesnick and Molly Malaney, and Ashley Hebert and J.P. Rosenberg.

Naturally the happy couple announced the news this morning, on ABC’s No. 1-rated morning infotainment program, Good Morning America. “We have set a wedding date,” Sean revealed, with his fiancee by his side. Sadly, ABC could not accommodate the happy couple with a February sweep wedding date — the sweep starts on January 30. Maybe that’s because Bachelor franchise weddings have taken a rose-petaled nosedive in the ratings over the years.

Back in ’03, an average of 17.1 million watched in fascination/horror as Trista married Ryan, which was actually a three-parter that opened with 12.1 million tuned in on Night 1. The  vow exchanging of Jason and Molly, about seven years later, failed to grip — only 9.3 million watched. And, by the time Ashley and J.P. took the plunge, in ’12, the TV-viewing crowd was down to just 4 million. ABC no doubt hopes to goose viewer interest by staging its first live Bachelor-franchise wedding. And, the network insists, this wedding brings “full circle” the Sean and Catherine love story. And, by that, ABC means:  Sean began by being one of the favorites to capture Emily Maynard’s heart on the eighth edition of ‘The Bachelorette’ in spring 2012. He narrowly missed his goal to find his soulmate when Emily – who all season long called him the “perfect man” — made him the last bachelor eliminated before the finale. It completely blindsided Sean, who finally had been able to admit to Emily that he was in love with her. But when it was his chance to hand out the roses, Sean became smitten with Catherine and proposed.