Based on the Dutch reality series Gift Ved Første Blikk, Married at First Sight takes the concept of a dating show to the next level. Couples are paired using numerous tests, interviews, and other scientific evaluations to be matched up with a potential mate, and all couples agreed to meet for the first time on their wedding day. From there, they take a honeymoon together and then begin to get to know one another in hopes of making the marriage work. Along with the assistance of several experts on the show, they work through any issues or problems they may face, and after eight weeks together, couples must decide if they want to stay married or file for divorce. The series became an instant hit with audiences due to the show catching people’s attention with its surprising premise, but it retained its viewership thanks to the individual stories. Despite being a reality show, the series does try its best to help the couples foster meaningful relationships together. Although many of the couples don’t end up being successful, there are a few that do seem to have found happiness together. Since its debut in 2014, the series continued to be renewed and is set to premiere its season in 2019, with season nine already confirmed.
Behind the tension-filled first meetings and overdramatized situations, these couples want to believe that their “leap of faith” will truly pay off. Even the process of just getting on the show involves many hours of questionnaires, psych evaluations, tests, and interviews. It is quite a long road from an interested party to (hopefully) a happy spouse. Let’s look at 22 Wild Details Behind The Making Of Married At First Sight.
22 Executive Producer Chris Coelen Met His Own Wife on a Blind Date
Married at First Sight began as a U.S. version of the Dutch tv series Gift Ved Første Blikk. Though the concept proved to be successful, there was still some hesitance to get involved with the show. Sexologist Dr. Logan Levkoff didn’t believe in the series until she watched the original program. She recalled, “I could not put it down. It was provocative. It was thoughtful. You rooted for the people who were part of this, and it was unlike anything that I had ever seen before.”
However, for executive producer Chris Coelen, his interest in the show tied directly to his own romantic experiences. He actually met his wife on a blind date, so he already had a sense of how to try and find love with a complete stranger.
21 Someone Claimed The Show Idea Was Stolen
The popularity of the original Dutch series triggered international spinoffs across the globe. Although the series has always been credited with being the inspiration for Married at First Sight, one woman claimed the series idea had been stolen from her as TMZ reported that Yaina Williams claimed to have the idea for a similar show back in 2011.
She allegedly submitted her idea to TV Writers Vault, a place where writers can pitch show ideas online. She insisted that an executive at Lifetime even downloaded the idea in 2012. She claimed her concept included the use of experts, details of a reunion special, and even the show’s tagline “Can love happen at first sight?” The case even went before a judge at the end of 2014, but was eventually dismissed by August 2015.
20 The First Season had About 17,000 Auditions
Public interest in reality shows has undoubtedly increased over the last couple of decades. With new series coming out every year, more and more people are taking a chance to apply for them. Despite not revealing the full details of the series, the recruiters for Married at First Site managed to bring in an impressive number of applicants for their first season. In fact, 17,000 applicants replied for the inaugural season.
Even without the full details of the show being released, people still showed up in huge numbers for the first season. This number eventually got reduced to about 100 people, 50 men, and 50 women, for the final rounds, and since then, requests have increased exponentially with over 50,000 applications for the latest seasons.
19 Some Applicants Were Even Scouted
Married at First Sight has one of the most unique concepts for a reality program. The show must actively screen for candidates that are willing to enter into a marriage without having seen their future husband or wife. Although they do have a thorough screening process in place, sometimes the show must go out into the general public and find candidates.
Executive producer Chris Coelen shared with People Magazine how the crew goes about searching for potential applicants. He stated: “The men and the women are treated exactly the same. We go to bars, mixers, singles events, and church groups… We also go on every dating site you could possibly think of – OkCupid, Match.com, Tinder, Hinge. We also go on Facebook, talk to family and friends, and try to make the pool as big as possible.”
18 The Twist of the Show was Withheld from Initial Applicants
Casting for the show proved to be quite challenging for show creators since they had to be deceptive in the process to preserve the core of the show. Coelen shared: “We pretty much told them everything except for the fact that they would meet their husband or wife at the altar and see them for the very first time there… We didn’t want to tell people what the show was about” because “we wanted to find people who were serious about wanting to be in a relationship, were serious about wanting to find love who had enough previous relationship experience that they had been through heartbreak, perhaps several times, but still had enough positivity about relationships and love that they really were ready to find it. We wanted it to work.” Understandably, the applicants were quite surprised, in the end.
17 For Season One, Half of the Applicants Walked Out When They Learned The Truth
The process to cast the first season of Married at First Sight proved to be quite daunting. Although they managed to bring in a large enough group of interested participants, the real test came with the reveal of the twist of the show. At the time, casting had managed to whittle down the number to 100 potential participants, and after dividing the group into small sets of 25, they broke the news of the premise of the show.
Coelen reminisced on how the participants reacted to the news: “People were stunned by that. Some people got angry, some people laughed, some people were just dumbfounded.” Understandably, people backed out of doing the show as “about half said they didn’t want to do it.”
16 Background checks include their debts and criminal records
For anyone interested in participating on Married at First Sight, be prepared to go through a very thorough application process. The producers of the show don’t take the matchups lightly and do all that they can to eliminate anyone that could be potentially harmful to others. After filling out the application, each applicant then goes through a thorough background check and complete details of your criminal records will be scoured.
In addition, credit checks are run to get an estimate of any outstanding debts you might owe as producers do not want to create a pairing that will have to face heavy debts right from the start. However, this is just the first step in the application process before more detailed investigations are completed.
15 It also includes detailed psychological tests and physical exams
Additional steps in the application process move from background checks to a more detailed look at the individual. Producers quickly eliminate anyone looking to seek fame from being on the series and they limit the applications to those genuinely looking for love and a happy marriage. Also, the qualified participants move on to detailed psychological testing and physical exams.
Show counselor Pastor Calvin Roberson explained to ET: “We're looking at things like their psychological testing, their core values… These are legally binding marriages. Annulment is not an option.” In addition, show expert Dr. Pepper Schwartz stated that he also looked to eliminate “people who have a lot of anger” or are “obsessive on some issue.” Anyone not fitting these standards will be turned down immediately.
14 The Application Process Evaluates Personal And Familial Relationships
Interestingly enough, the application vetting process does not stop with the applicant. Considering the show is based on building healthy relationships in a marriage, a thorough review of an applicant’s past relationships is also necessary. Evaluators review an applicant’s relationship with their parents, friends, and former lovers. Application questions have included: “What did your parents teach you about love?”, “What will be your parent's reaction to you being on MAFS?”, and “What would your family say are your best and worst character traits?”
Also, certain questionnaires also focus on the deeper revelations that a person may hide. Applicants have had to answers questions like, “What is one major thing about yourself that you've never told anyone?”, “What is your greatest regret/biggest mistake in life?”, and even “Are there any skeletons in your closet?”
13 They Can Only Match Traditional Couples Due To The Casting Process
One major aspect of the show has never changed: the marriages have been between men and women only. The lack of any other marriages and unions on the show has had many fans questioning why the series doesn't represent today’s society.
However, the reason behind the lack of diversity centers around issues with the casting process. Coelen said: “We’d love to, but it’s very difficult.” There’s also a risk given the very surprise set-up of the show. Because we have to put all the women and all the men in the same room (by gender) in workshops [during the casting process], there is a chance they could see each other [before meeting at the altar]. If we could figure out logistically how do it, we’d love to do it.”
12 Several networks tried to secure the show
Thanks to the success of the Dutch version of the series, Married at First Sight became a highly desired show for network television. The show even branched off into international versions of the original series throughout the world. For the U.S. version of the series, the reality show became a hot commodity among several channels.
Coelen shared with Reality Blurred that although “far bigger–really, really big networks–which were interested and bid on the show,” those options came with a price. He explained that these other networks wanted the show if they could make certain changes to fit their needs. Unwilling to change the integrity of the show for a big paycheck, he decided to go with FYI Network because they supported the idea and it was “the network that was the most passionate.”
11 Couples are paid a stipend to appear on the show
Participants who are drawn to apply for Married at First Sight mainly hope for the possibility to find true love. Despite the unusual circumstances, they hope that the person waiting for them on their wedding day could become a partner for life. Granted, others look forward to the chance to become popular on a reality show and hope to benefit from their temporary fame.
However, the one thing the show never promised was adequate compensation for their time. According to executive producer Chris Coelen, participants received “a nothing stipend” because they “did not want people who were motivated by the wrong things.” But, later reports seem to contradict this statement with claims of payments up to $15,000 for appearances on the initial season. By season three, payments were up to $25,000.
10 A prenup is built into each marriage
Jumping into a relationship with a perfect stranger seems like a risk not many people would normally take. Not only are you risking being matched with someone you don’t know, but you are legally married to this individual. Marriage itself comes with many complicated issues anyway, so imagine sharing these problems with someone you don’t know? Thankfully, the show took these marital concerns into consideration and created mandatory stipulations for participants on the show.
One such requirement includes the couple agreeing to a prenuptial agreement. Producers shared that they “want to give them some protection walking in… If for some reason it does not work out, at least you are protected with this basic form. You are not going to get yourself into any legal trouble. Once they are in the marriage, everything is completely up to them.”
9 Brides Have To Pick From Pre-Approved Options For The Wedding
For many brides, planning your ideal wedding day can be both fulfilling and a major headache. However, many women go above and beyond to ensure their special day will be memorable. For the brides-to-be on Married at First Sight, they also get the opportunity to plan their wedding day, but the wedding itself may not be exactly what they were expecting.
Cosmopolitan interviewed two former participants on their experience with the UK version of the show as couple Clark and Melissa shared the details of their big day: “You choose the wedding you want from a powerpoint presentation of options. There are six options of lots of different things – type of food, music, style, and theme of wedding… There’s budget for things – her wedding dress, a small budget for the suits… I was only allowed to invite 20 people.”
8 Conversations were manipulated in editing to add drama
Time and time again, reality TV tries to boast about how authentic their programming will be. From home upgrades to finding true love, the truth of these programs can become manipulated. Just like any other program, the motivation for its content still remains the need for great viewership and solid ratings.
Although the situations between two complete strangers marrying should provide adequate storylines, the production team still felt the need to edit footage to produce more drama. Season one participant Vaughn Copeland spoke out about how his portrayal on the show was manipulated to cast him into a negative light. In an interview with Jet Magazine, he revealed, “There’s certain things I can say and I can’t say… but what I can say is that reality TV has its ways.”
7 Filming affected the way couples acted toward each other
The crew at Married at First Sight did their best to work with each pair and film when they had availability. However, since they were given limited timeframes, the cameras were always in their face during these times. Many couples found that the added pressure made it hard for them to really feel comfortable with one another.
Season five couple Ashley Petta and Anthony D'Amico found that they had a better relationship when filming did not take place. D’Amico commented: “Having cameras in front of you everyday for eight weeks can be a little crazy at times… Ashley told me after filming one day that I was way more affectionate after the cameras were turned off. I never realized that, but looking back I can see what she was saying.”
6 The specialists keep in contact with participants even after the show
Despite being a reality show focused on being popular and profitable, Married at First Sight still hoped to bring real people together in love. Producers made sure there were experts in place to assist the couples in their transition and these same experts followed the applicants from the initial interview process through selection for the series.
However, even after couples have left the show, some still maintain constant contact with the specialists. Married at First Sight: The First Year stars Jamie Otis and Doug Hehner spoke about their relationship with the experts beyond the show. Hehner said: “Even after the show, they've all reached out to us and let us know that they hope to always stay in touch. We have every intention on having them in our lives.”
5 The show covers some of the costs for any divorces
Although the creators of Married at First Sight work to keep the couples married by the end of the show, sometimes things just don’t work out. Just as there are rules in place for the initial marriage, creators also have game plans in place for those couples that decide to divorce. However, they have a specified timeframe in which they must agree to the divorce if they want any financial help from the show.
Coelen further detailed: “We will contribute within a certain period of time if they get divorced. We will help them cover the costs of an attorney if they choose to do that. I don’t know what the amount is. It’s nominal.” Also, some international versions of the series have additional rules. For instance, couples in the UK series have to remain married for one year before they could divorce.
4 There are no plans to have group therapy sessions
Many other reality shows thrive on the drama created by a group dynamic. Having a large set of cast members together in certain situations (usually with beverages involved) tends to lead to onscreen arguments and sometimes, physical altercations. However, this series would not be successful if the drama was the number one purpose.
Granted, the premise itself sets these couples up for tension and awkwardness, but the show strives to help them throughout the show. Although the seasons focus on three couples, they each receive individual sessions and focus. Coelen does not believe in a large group dynamic since he thinks it “would be fake… It’s not that we don’t want them to [meet the other couples in the show]. If they did, they do. We just want it to be real.”
3 Stunt doubles have been used for the show before
The basic premise of the show focuses on the development of the relationships between three couples selected per season. Although most of the action of the show remains pretty tame (i.e., dates, honeymoons, sessions with the experts, etc…), one occurrence on the show actually required the use of a stunt double.
For the UK version, participant Alycia Galbraith needed a look-a-like to step in to help her with a commercial filming, so a stunt double took over for the “leap of faith” jump. Galbraith said: “I questioned this and was told it was a duplicate of my dress and Naomi would be performing my stunts. Ummm, stunts? I had no idea what was planned for me that day and so this clearly came as a big surprise.”
2 MAFS has produced more successful couples than The Bachelor and The Bachelorette
Networks soon discovered that audiences love reality dating shows. Despite the unrealistic setup, the overabundance of “potential mates,” and over-dramatized situations, fans still wait with bated breath for the possibility of true love. Even if the couple manages to stay together at the show’s finale, many former dating show contestants separate soon after.
Interestingly enough, the couplings on Married at First Sight have done relatively well compared to the most popular dating series: The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise. According to Reality Blurred, the first three seasons of Married at First Sight has a 22% success rate vs 21.8% for The Bachelor and The Bachelorette couples. Not bad, considering the marriage in MAFS is guaranteed while The Bachelor franchise ends at engagements.
1 The Show Continues On Despite A Low Couple Success Rate
In a perfect scenario, the couples of Married at First Sight would fall in love and work successfully at their marriage. However, things do not always turn out well for them. In fact, the show carries a low success rate.
As of July 2018, only four of the eighteen couples who had been married on the show were still together. Despite the small number, the series continues on with new seasons and new international versions. Show expert Dr. Pepper Schwartz explained that their process works for the couples by “matching them through science, and maybe... it could work even beyond helping these people grow and get more information about themselves.” The series is set for a season eight and nine in the future.
Do you know any other details behind MAFS? What do you think about the shows premise? Sound off in the comments!