For each of its 22 seasons, the reality romance series The Bachelor has promised a fairytale romance for two people and crushing, public disappointment for two dozen others.
Meanwhile, viewers get to watch a whole lot of drama play out while contestants vie for their common love interest's attention. It's easy to focus on the weekly drama, rivalries, and ridiculous situations. But at its most basic, The Bachelor is a competition-- and competitions have rules.
We know the basics: the premise, the order of events, and why roses are good. But the show has regulations beyond what we see onscreen. Both the initial eligibility requirements and the actual filming contain rules that everyone looking for love on The Bachelor or one of its spinoffs must stick to.
Some serve to protect the producers from legal troubles from their filming and creative editing. Some are just basic behavioral guidelines. And a few even affect what people say and do on camera.
We're sure not everyone sticks to these. But we're equally certain that the producers prefer they do. And we know that some people have lost their spots - and jobs - for violating them.
Here are the 15 Crazy Rules That The Bachelor Contestants Are Forced To Follow.
15 Mandatory psychological testing
This is probably the least surprising requirement for The Bachelor contestants. Producers need to make sure that everyone on their show can handle the stress of living with strangers while having cameras on them 24 hours a day for weeks or months at a time. They also need to know that the people they’re considering for the show aren’t secret psychopaths.
The psych exams aren't the only screening, of course. Anyone who wants to be on The Bachelor also has to submit to extensive background checks. This includes credit, employment history, military records, and criminal and civil litigation. Candidates also have to give producers permission to interview anyone they’ve ever known.
All of this sounds like a lot of work for a show, but the creators are really just making sure they pick people who are just the right amount of crazy for reality TV.
14 They must be single
It should go without saying that people looking to let TV producers set them up on dates and possibly get married shouldn’t have someone back home.
However, we’re including this one because like all legal documents worth reading, the eligibility requirements for The Bachelor include a laughably specific, pedantic, and dry definition of what constitutes singlehood.
They cannot be in a “committed intimate relationship,” which covers a lot of ground. But don’t worry; they break it down. That includes being married (obviously), even if they and their spouse are separated or going through divorce proceedings. They also can’t be in “any co-habitation relationship involving physical intimacy.”
Finally and most ridiculous, The Bachelor forbids “a monogamous dating relationship more than two (2) months in duration.” Why is 2 months the magic number? Only the legal department knows.
13 No unsanctioned entertainment allowed
Once the contestants have made it onto the show, they still have to follow some house rules. And this one sounds more like an agreement for a sequestered jury than a fun, romantic journey.
Nobody on The Bachelor can watch TV. They also can’t access the internet, read magazines or books, or even have their phones. We’re especially horrified about the “no internet” and “no phones” rule. That’s not because we need to keep caught up on our favorite YouTube channels and cat memes.
Well, it’s not just that. However, thinking about the mountains of missed e-mails, calls, and texts that would await us when we got back online after all that time is just upsetting.
Producers make an exception to the “no book” rule to accommodate religious texts, and we wonder if anyone’s ever tried to sneak their phone in inside a hollowed-out bible.
12 No contact with families
If being on The Bachelor doesn’t already sound like jury duty or a cult, this rule should clinch it. The cast can’t talk to their families and loved ones as long as they live in the house.
We aren’t sure how they’d do that without phones or the internet. But we assume it also applies to outings and excursions along the way.
Obviously the producers can’t keep everyone out when they’re filming in a public place, so if your mom just happened to be skiing or parasailing that same day, and you just happened to run into each other, wouldn’t that be a weird coincidence?
ABC probably has the resources to close down a whole mountain for an afternoon to get their shots, however, so any friends or relatives who would want to crash would have to get pretty crafty.
11 No leaving the house
This rule doesn’t extend to those field trips we were just talking about, but unless they’re on one, people on The Bachelor don’t get to go anywhere.
So to recap, we have a bunch of people in direct competition with each other who aren’t allowed to do anything but sit around a glorious mansion and talk for (and to) the cameras. Meanwhile, the producers reportedly provide them with alcohol because stir-craziness alone may not provide the drama the show needs to stay interesting.
The mansion also doesn’t have any exercise equipment, so contestants can get some fresh air and kill some time doing laps around the house. Apparently, they are also allowed to run up and down the hills in the back. The entire show just sounds increasingly horrifying the more we learn about it.
10 No suing for defamation
We already know that “reality TV” is to reality what fast food is to food. However, when the producers go through the literal months’ worth of footage to craft a season’s storylines and put The Bachelor together, they occasionally have to take some artistic license.
It turns out that life doesn’t typically have well defined story arcs with clear heroes and villains, and editors do everything they can to fix that.
The eligibility requirements warn that the final product may show contestants in an unfair or unflattering light. And they get even more specific. They say that the footage that hits TV “may be embarrassing, unfavorable, humiliating, and/or derogatory and/or may portray him or her in a false light.”
Acknowledging this also means that contestants can’t sue the show even if it contains blatant lies or slander. Apparently, just being on TV is worth that risk.
9 No sitting out on field trips
Considering the lack of outside contact and fun things to do in the Bachelor mansion, we figure the contestants get pretty excited when they get to go on dates and day trips. But sometimes, they might wish they’d stayed home.
See, if the producers show up and say, “Today, you’re going to ski in a bikini” the rules imply that the participants have no say in the matter.
Specifically, “Applicants must be willing and able to participate in physical activities such as: skydiving, snow skiing, ice skating, parasailing, water skiing, rollerblading, and the like.”
We get that it would not make good TV to set up a romantic day of oil bowling or turtle massages and nobody wanted to do it. But "the like" at the end of that clause covers a lot.
8 Contestants bring their own clothes
Networks love reality TV partly because it’s relatively cheap to produce, and one of the ways The Bachelor keeps its costs down is by not spending a lot on wardrobe. And by that, we mean that it spends barely anything on wardrobe.
They’ll toss in some extra-fancy clothes for the finale, probably, but other than that, everyone’s on their own.
It’s not the worst idea, really. Making contestants wear their own clothes might help them express their personalities or at least give them a touch of comfort during the most surreal experience of their lives.
Some participants even buy clothes specifically for their appearances, which is some dedication considering they can hardly turn in a receipt to Accounting for reimbursement. One reportedly spent $40,000 on her wardrobe for The Bachelor. We hope it was worth it.
7 They have a two-suitcase maximum
The most optimistic interpretation of the “bring your own wardrobe” rule lets one assume that the Bachelor producers might have the contestants’ comfort in mind a little bit, this one is probably all about saving money.
We don’t know how much it costs to fly dozens of people in from over the country, but those checked-bag fees probably add up pretty quickly. So contestants have to figure out how to fit just about everything they’re going to need into a measly pair of bags.
Remember that they have no idea how long they’re going to be gone. It could be up to a year. Packing for The Bachelor sounds like a logistical nightmare, and we’ll add it to the list of reasons we wouldn’t want to be on it.
Attentive viewers probably spot a neat solution: Contestants maximize clothing options by swapping outfits with their opponents.
6 No sleeping together before the Fantasy Suite
The Bachelor’s Fantasy Suite provides a private place late in a season for the bachelor and a promising candidate to spend some camera-free time to “get to know each other.” For euphemism-deaf readers, that means they sleep together in there. And it’s the only place anyone on the show is allowed.
We guarantee that nobody sticks to this rule. You can’t leave a bunch of love-starved people alone with nothing to do but drink, play checkers, and read a bible and not expect them to find a way to break the routine. They still have the constant cameras and crew to contend with, but maybe that’s part of the fun.
Producers apparently account for this because they have an even more strict rule to go along with it.
5 No hooking up with producers
Season 14 contestant Rozlyn Papa left The Bachelor under questionable and controversial circumstances. Her ousting came thanks to an alleged affair with crew member Ryan Callahan.
We don’t really see why a relationship between two consenting adults was such a scandal for a program that treats marriage as a prize at the end of a game. However, we aren’t ABC, and self-awareness is definitely not at the core of this show. So Callahan lost his job, and Papa lost her spot.
Papa claimed afterward that the accusations were false and the network made it up for publicity. The timing of the news (it broke the day after that season premiered) seems a little suspect, admittedly. As we’ve already said, Papa can’t sue the show even if they did make it up.
4 No running for office
We can’t imagine why anyone who had already for the scrutiny and invasion of privacy that a show like The Bachelor inflicts would want to buy another ticket for that ride. But we’ve learned not to even try to predict what former reality stars will do.
Even if they wanted to, however, the eligibility requirements have some conditions. People who are actively seeking office at the time they apply can’t be on the show. And if they want to run later, they have to wait.
Again, the lawyers provide a firm rule dictating when former contestants can seek office. They can’t run “from the time the application is submitted until one (1) year after first broadcast of the last episode of the program in which they appear.”
However, we’re sure that Dancing with the Stars would take them immediately if The Bachelor didn’t work out.
3 No eating on dinner dates
This is one of those things you can’t unsee once you’ve noticed it, but at no point during any of The Bachelor’s many dinner dates does anyone actually eat anything. And that’s intentional.
Maybe even more than the cameras capturing everything, nothing ruins a romantic mood more than a boom mic picking up every clink of silverware and each chew. It’s gross, and the producers have found a way around it.
Before they go to dinner, contestants grab some food back at the house. That way dinner doesn’t get in the way of the “dinner date,” that mic isn’t picking up their tummy rumbles, and the contestant is free to make with the wooing.
We aren’t sure why they even bother going through the motions, but we assume some network executive gave a note that said, “Normal people eat dinner.”
2 Ring ownership is subject to change
Most seasons of The Bachelor end with a proposal, and the rings come courtesy of designer Neil Lane. But considering only a few couples have stayed together after the cameras switched off, that leaves the question about what happens to the jewelry when that happens.
Surprise: The lawyers have a say in that. And it turns out that if the couple can stay together long enough, they get to keep the ring even if they do split.
Like in those ground rules for being single, two is the magic number. Specifically, they don’t have to send it back if they make it work for two years.
We don’t know how ABC enforces this policy or the process, but we also don’t want to know. It sounds really sad.
1 They have one word they can't ever say
We can think of a bunch of words that ABC might not want contestants on The Bachelor saying on camera, but they can just bleep out most of them with no harm done. However, one word is so forbidden that if anyone utters it, they have to stop and re-record what they were saying to remove it. What is the offending term? “Process.”
Some uses are acceptable, obviously, but producers never want anyone using it to describe the show itself, as in, “I’m really excited to be part of this process.”
Why is that bad? Because processes sound like science, and science has no place in a magical, manufactured fairy tale. Instead, contestants have to use words like “journey” instead. Journeys don’t make anyone think of math.
Can you think of any other crazy rules that The Bachelor contestants need to follow that we missed? Sound off in the comment section!