Spoiler alert: these reality weddings are not real. Not even a little.
There’s a problem, though: the entire promotional strategy of Married at First Sight – and even its name – is based on a lie.
The premise is this: Four heterosexual couples meet for the very first time at the alter as they are pronounced husband and wife. They’ve been expertly matched by psychologists and psychotherapists who dug through more than 1,000 applications to match the couples. They’ll live together for a month before deciding whether to divorce or stay together.
There’s really nothing much different about this show than any other dating show, though. To comply with the Australian Marriage Act (1961), documents stating an intention to marry must be lodged at least one month and one day before the marriage can take place.
So the weddings on the show? Not actual marriages. The contestants aren’t ‘married at first sight’ – they’re not married at all.
For the six-part “documentary”, the wedding ceremonies, complete with floral arrangements, fancy dresses and vows, are staged. They’re no more binding than two dogs getting married.
After the ceremonies, couples live together for 30 days, after which time they can choose to sign the papers and stay married, or go their separate ways.
John Aiken, one of the psychologists who helped select the participants, told SMH the show is “a fascinating social experiment. It’s not The Bachelor or Beauty and the Geek. It’s all about the tone of the show and it’s more like an SBS documentary.”
Um, sure. That’s exactly what it is going to be like…
The show has also copped criticism for an entirely different reason. April Murphy from Adelaide took issue with the show for being “morally unsound” and a petition calling for the show’s cancellation already has more than 16,000 signatories. Murphy’s position: the show makes a mockery of marriage. When same sex couples in Australia can’t get married, why are we tolerating a show like this that lowers the concept of marriage to a tv stunt.
“If two adults of sound mind can do as they like without harming anyone, what difference does it make if they are a male-female couple or a same-sex couple?” she says.
She says it’s “appalling” that such a show can exist in Australia, when marriage equality doesn’t.
“It is nothing short of a slap in the face that same sex couples in Australia can’t marry to ensure the ‘sanctity’ or institution of marriage, yet we are expected to watch two strangers get married as a social experiment,” wrote Steve Eeles who added his signature to the petition.
Will Married at First Sight live happily ever after? It’s not looking good.