SHREDDED BLISS; Ratings war means soap weddings will always end in tears.
FORGET wedding bells, it will be alarm bells ringing when soap's latest newly-weds say "I do". You can forget about Steve Owen and Melanie Healy living happily ever after when they get hitched this week in EastEnders.
Instead of love and marital bliss, soap marriages are a recipe for disaster, sprinkled with spite, murder, deceit and adultery.
Those who walk down the aisle on Britain's long-running TV series are bigamists, killers, fraudsters and love cheats.
The Albert Square couple are certain to become the latest casualties of a ratings war between the nation's favourite soaps.
As Queen Vic barmaid Melanie exchanges vows with club boss Steve on Thursday, she knows the chances of she and her new man celebrating even their first anniversary together are slim.
She's wearing lilac for the occasion, but the day is soon a blood-splattering crimson - their reverie shattered when her ex-lover Phil is shot down moments after the confetti has fallen.
Tamzin Outhwaite, as feisty barmaid Melanie, is only too aware of the chaos awaiting her big day as she takes her vows for the second time in just over a year.
Melanie walked out on Ian Beale hours after their millennium wedding when she discovered he'd been lying about his daughter's illness.
And she knows her romance with Steve is part of a tried-and-tested formula in soaps, aimed at ensuring the ratings soar.
She said: "You never know if it's going to run smoothly. But you do know that it is never, from beginning to end, going to be a wonderful day.
"There will be a fight or somebody sleeps with someone behind someone else's back. Or there's a big secret waiting to come out."
In this case, we only need to look at Melanie's night of passion with EastEnders hardman Phil Mitchell, bringing a turbulent end to a traumatic year which began with her farcical marriage to Ian.
Melanie hopes this time around she will be allowed to be happy with Steve for a while.
Tamzin said: "But they won't stay happy for too long. There has to be some drama and there will be as long as there are other men around giving her attention."
One-time Spandau Ballet heart-throb Martin Kemp plays the unsuspecting groom Steve, whose illusions about his blushing wife-to-be are about to shattered. And when Phil's bullet-ridden body is left lying on the Square, Steve emerges as the No.1 suspect.
Martin says: "Melanie's been his great love all the time he has been in Albert Square and I think it's only because of her that he's stayed in Walford for so long."
Of course, EastEnders isn't the only soap to put its newly-weds through hell. Of 51 Coronation Street weddings, 17 have ended in divorce, 16 in death, one in bigamy with nine brides and grooms fleeing at the altar.
Corrie's dithering shop assistant Mavis Riley married salesman suitor Derek Wilton, in 1988 - four years after neither turned up at the church for their first date in front of the altar. Mavis realised she was only going ahead with the original wedding because she felt sorry for Derek. She was furious when she discovered he'd jilted her, too.
The pair eventually married after Derek proposed through Mavis' letterbox.
Businessman and womaniser Mike Baldwin has always managed to inflict pain and anguish on his other halves. His first marriage to Susan Barlow in 1986 incensed the bride's father - arch-enemy Ken Barlow, who tried in vain to get Susan to change her mind. In 1992, Mike married Alma Sedgwick, a former girlfriend of Ken's.
Mike then married factory worker Linda Sykes last summer - hours before his son Mark's wedding reception confession that he had been sleeping with Linda for months.
Serial brides and grooms include Mike, Ken, Rita Sullivan and Deirdre Barlow, with 13 marriages between them.
The only ones to benefit from the disastrous love lives of soap couples are the producers and scriptwriters ready to help their characters pick up the pieces.
Mal Young, the BBC's controller of drama, says: "Has there ever been a successful marriage in any long-running show in which the couple live happily ever after? It just wouldn't be dramatic. I love characters who have a load of emotional baggage."
The last thing on Mal's mind is whether Steve and Melanie are compatible.
He says: "He's a murderer and she was married to Ian Beale. I mean, what's going on in her mind?"
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY
TIFFANY & GRANT: 2 YEARS
The Queen Vic's landlord and his head barmaid had a surprise wedding in 1996, but Grant didn't love Tiffany the way he loved Sharon. In the end, Grant's fling with Tiff's mum sealed their fate. Well, that and Tiff being mowed down by Grant's stepdad Frank on Hogmanay 1998.
SHARON & GRANT: 31/2 YEARS
Back when Grant had a lot more hair, he married Sharon, who had fantastic role models in marital bliss with parents Den and Angie - not. They married on Boxing Day 1991. But it all went pear-shaped when she had an affair with Grant's brother Phil. They divorced in 1995.
SUSAN & MIKE: 4 YEARS
Ken Barlow was furious when he heard his daughter was dating arch-rival Mike Baldwin. After all, Mike had bedded Ken's wife Deirdre not long before. But wedding bells chimed in 1986 for Mike and Susan, though their marriage didn't last long. They divorced in 1990.
CINDY & IAN: 81/2 YEARS
What a love tangle this was. Cindy was expecting Simon Wicks' baby when she married his step-brother Ian in 1989. They were reconciled, then she cheated again with his other step-brother David. Finally, she hired a hitman to kill Ian - well, who wouldn't? They divorced in 1998.
KIM & FRANK: 9 YEARS
And you thought farming folk were quiet living.Kim loved tycoon Frank - but not as much as she loved his bank balance. Her wedding vows in 1986 meant nothing. She bedded stablelad Dave Glover and had his baby. They split in 1993, but remarried in 1994. Poor deluded Frank died in 1997.
DEIRDRE & KEN: 10 YEARS
Married in 1981, both had affairs before divorcing in 1992. But they're still together, Ken even proposing again last week, the idiot.
ANGIE & DEN: 16 YEARS
The epitome of a doomed soap marriage, EastEnders' Den and Angie had been childhood sweethearts, but their marriage had gone sour long before he started playing around.
Angie faked a terminal illness and attempted suicide in an effort to keep him while Den had affairs right, left and centre. On Christmas Day 1986, Den saved Angie's Christmas present until last.