'Downton Abbey' recap: The wedding of the (last) century is here!

Romance has always been an essential part of "Downton Abbey," but the show never truly felt like a rom-com until Sunday night, when Elsie Hughes and Charles Carson finally got hitched in what may be the most Pinterest-worthy wedding ever seen on the small screen. (Did you get a load of that bunting? Or those rustic place settings?)

As in any good rom-com, Carson and Hughes had a few obstacles to overcome before they walked down the aisle. First and foremost was the issue of venue. Carson, who is clearly the bridezilla in this relationship -- I mean, did you see his reaction to that fern? -- wants to get married like a posh person. That is, in the great hall at Downton Abbey, where everyone will stand about eating nibbly bits. 

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Mrs. Hughes, on the other hand, would like "a solid meal served at proper tables" followed by "a bit of hooley," as she admits when put on the spot by Cora. Like the sensible Scottish lass she is, all Mrs. Hughes wants is a simple wedding at the schoolhouse that will also be the envy of every hipster bride from Portland to Bushwick. 

The venue issue solved, Mrs. Hughes has one other major problem: She hasn't bought a new dress and instead plans to wear a drab brown frock she had Anna freshen up. "You’re not wasting money, that’s for sure," says Mrs. Patmore, the master of the back-handed compliment, when she catches a glimpse of the sad garment. What follows is something akin to an episode of "Say Yes to the Dress" as imagined by Julian Fellowes. Mrs. Patmore secretly buys a dress from a catalog, but it too turns out to be a dud, and then things get even worse when, thanks to a communication lapse, a grumpy Cora walks in on Mrs. Hughes trying on one of her embroidered evening coats. 

On the eve of her wedding, it looks like poor Mrs. Hughes will be stuck wearing her sad brown dress down the aisle. I was anticipating a last-minute sewing montage, a la "Pretty in Pink," but happily Cora realizes the error of her ways and gives Mrs. Hughes the coat, and all is right with the world. The ceremony goes off without a hitch and a hooley is had by all. 

In a perfect rom-com ending, Branson even makes a surprise appearance at the wedding, explaining that he's come back to stay for good. "I had to go all the way to Boston to figure something out," he says. "I learned that Downton is my home and you are my family." Everyone welcomes the news, but I have to wonder if Mary will continue in her role as the estate agent now that Branson has returned. I hope so, if only to hear her talk about livestock as much as possible.

Meanwhile, after a series of romantic heartbreaks that would make Bridget Jones weep, Lady Edith finally seems to be catching a break. After firing her editor mere hours before the magazine goes to print, she pulls an all-nighter to make deadline. Happily assisting her is Bertie, the adorable estate agent she met at Lord Sinderby's grouse hunt. With the magazine safely on its way to the printer, Edith, buzzing from caffeine and the satisfaction that follows a long day spent on fulfilling, stimulating work, tells Bertie, "I know now I need a purpose." Luckily, he seems just fine with that. Edith, whatever you do, just don't let him go to Germany! 

As "Downton Abbey" nears its end, it's clear that Fellowes is setting up happy endings for his longest-suffering characters. Even Anna and Bates seem headed for a bright future, as Anna finds herself (likely) pregnant once again. A miscarriage at this point would be just cruel. But there are a few gray clouds on the horizon, most obviously for Thomas, whose ongoing job hunt leads him to "a very prominent household" that turns out to be a borderline-derelict mansion that looks like something out of "Grey Gardens." Thomas is learning the hard way that, while he may feel like a misfit at Downton Abbey, it's one of the only places left where he truly belongs.

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