Nothing says "Thank you!" to the fans of a TV show like a wedding between two of their favorite, most sympathetic characters.

Like, say, Rayna James (Connie Britton) and Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) of Nashville, who tie their complicated knot Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC

Conversely, not to dampen the happiest day of their lives, it's also often true that a TV wedding means the creators suspect the show may be coming to an end.

Nashville right now is cruising through its fourth season, with no indication from ABC yet on whether it will get a fifth.


Source: prom dress

Its ratings are slightly below the median for ABC prime-time shows and the network just got a new entertainment chief, who may have her own programming ideas.

On the other hand, Nashville has been on the ratings bubble before and survived. It's a good-natured show, an unapologetic soap with lots of quality original music. Its fan base, if modest, is loyal.

We will learn its fate soon, in any case, so the wedding itself only requires us to shrug, smile and throw some rice at the TV set.

Rayna's wedding has been almost as long in the incubation as TV's last big wedding, Lady Edith earlier this month on Downton Abbey.

Rayna and Deacon have known each other for 20 years. They have a 16-year-old daughter, Maddie (Lennon Stella, above with Judith Hoag), who for a long time assumed her father was Rayna's husband Teddy (Eric Close), and yes, that has caused some complications.

Soap, people. It's a soap.

Rayna and Deacon should have gotten married way back when. But there were issues with her controlling father and Deacon's uncontrolled drinking, and then the drinking caused Deacon's liver to fail and he got a transplant from his sister Beverly (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), only she died after the operation, which sent him spiraling out of control again and, well, no point in getting too micro here.

Rayna has also been sparring for the whole show with Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panetierre), a young star who wants to replace Rayna as the queen of country music. Except where Rayna is focused, Juliette is kind of schizophrenic.

Juliette skips the wedding because she's trying to put herself back together after she walked out on her husband Avery (Jonathan Jackson) and their baby and tried to throw herself off a roof, only she was saved by the oily Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson), who fell off the roof himself.

Oops. Hate when that happens.

Avery goes to the wedding anyhow, where he gets bombarded with questions about Juliette, which requires him to spend the night lying. He finally summons a panic attack that enables him to flee.

If it's any consolation, Avery isn't the only one whose wedding experience has positive and negative moments. That's true for pretty much everyone else involved, with the single exception of Rayna, who seems confident that exchanging vows will make it all good.

We viewers may not know much, but we know that's not true. The question for the remaining episodes this season may be whether Nashville starts to tie up some of its other ragged ends so it can leave us feeling that more good things than bad things will happen to these people we like.

For starters, we want good things for Will Lexington (Chris Carmack), who has to deal with the external fallout from being openly gay. And Scarlett (Clare Bowen, above), who has been like the Lady Edith of Nashville. Every time an emotional bank safe falls out a window, Scarlett seems to be walking under it.

Nashville has been compared to classic prime-time TV soaps like Dallas, but it's really been a little different, and not just because of the music.

Where traditional soaps usually play up the nasty side of their characters, Nashvilletakes it easier on most of them. There's almost always something good, or at least well-intended, even in characters who make us boo and hiss.

So the wedding provides the kind of warm moment Nashville fans keep wanting - and they deserve it, by gosh, even if "ever after" only means the 10 or 11 episodes left this season.