Are you single? Looking for love? Fed up with Tinder, Grindr and Rinder? (Not sure if all those are real. I was married before they were invented.) Do you trust in science and believe in romance? Ready to expose your awkward self on Channel 4? Then have we got a reality show for you…
Married at First Sight has a devilishly simple premise – couples, selected on scientific principles, get hitched in a real-life proper legal ceremony at their very first meeting. Your body measurements and ratios, facial symmetry and genetics picked over by scientists may not sound very romantic, but these brave young people are ready and willing to give it a shot.
Clark and Melissa are the first couple we meet in Series 2, both charming beautiful and sweet. But as we know from Series 1, they could both easily turn out to be dicks (Jason was on Tinder almost as soon as he and Kate were back from honeymoon. He disputes the timings). And, tellingly perhaps, none of the couples from Series 1 are still together.
The participants worry they will be seen as desperate. Hardly. Finding your one true love amongst drunk people in bars is pretty desperate too. Dating has moved on a pace in such a short time. Why not set science to work on the problem?
MAFS offers the scientific method plus a new support network of experts – a Professor of Psychology, an Evolutionary Anthropologist, a charming vicar, and a sex and relationship therapist. I wonder, if this fails, how does that make the participants feel? What if they can’t find a successful relationship normally, nor with all the powers of science. That must keep them awake at night.
Clark’s biological Dad is not impressed with the idea of his son marrying a stranger within minutes of meeting. Whereas his Mum and step-Dad are fine with it. Maybe divorced people shouldn’t be so quick to judge…
People do find it especially hard to break the news to their families, but surely this is a speeded up process of arranged marriages that can’t be all that outlandish in some cultures. As with any marriage, family support is essential and the experts stress that everyone has to take the experiment seriously. No one can mess up your wedding day quite like bickering or manipulative family. It’s not about you family. Be supportive, but butt out!
The participants are all extremely cute and project such delightful infectious enthusiasm. They all have high ideals and aspirations, and a proper belief in romance. It’s just adorable, nicely counterbalancing the underlying awkwardness and anxieties. Pre-wedding jitters are frightening, but even more so on reality tv.
Conversations about physical intimacy are especially awkward. Poor Clark seems horrified to have to discuss it with vicar Rev Nick Devenish. It’s nice to see the usefulness of vicars in a very modern context. A bit strange to think of them as relationship counsellors but I guess that’s a large part of what they do.
As the wedding arrangements are made, the outfits bought (with much confusion at dress shops and tailors “What colour will your fiance be wearing?” “I don’t know!”), and the hen and stag dos happen, the tension slowly ramps up. There’s a lovely sparkily version of the wedding march used as incidental music throughout. The staccato opening bars of Mendelssohn’s tune is used to great effect, slowly building towards the inevitable conclusion… a bit like Jaws
So tense! The camera focuses on all the nerves, the judging eyes of the assembled families and friends, gathered in their nicest most uncomfortable formal wear. Never mind the big smiles of relief as the brides and grooms realise each other is a real person, it’s the vows and speeches guaranteed to make me blub. “May your marriage be modern enough to withstand the times but old-fashioned enough to last forever” says one of the Dads. Awwww! Sniff!
I wonder, really though, is it fair to see people for the first time at their most gorgeous? How can you work out if you like them if them if they’re dressed up to the nines and don’t really look like themselves? How do you know if you will get along? I puked on my husband’s favorite shoes shortly after meeting him. Not my finest moment, but when he realised he cared more about me than the shoes he started to plan a (puke-free) future for us. If he can cope with me at my worst then he deserves me at my best. Maybe the couples ought to meet at 4am after the stag do…
So far this series we’ve seen Sara and Adam, Caroline and Adam, Steve and Lucie, Melissa and Clark prepare for their weddings and get hitched. Now begins the 5 week experiment. They must live together as man and wife for that time and make a decision at the end of that period whether they want to stay together or get divorced. It’s not a swift process. They have plenty of time to think as Sara is at pains to point out to her skeptical Mum. The wedding day is six months after the initial application to be on the show.
So what happens now, when the adrenalin flags and real life sets in? When do you find out who the real person is? On honeymoon, afterwards, never?! Do the scientists and experts take a step back after the wedding? You’d hope not – surely that’s when the participants need the most support. Can the couples stick it out, and put in the effort, or do you end up back on Tinder during the experiment (oh Jason).
Married at First Sight (both Series 1 and 2) are now available for catch-up at Channel4.com