Married at First Sight, a show that documents six singles who meet and legally marry complete strangers (yep, you read that right!), returns tonight with a season 3 premiere that’ll follow them from celebrating their wedding to enjoying their honeymoon and then living together throughout the show. Set in Atlanta this time around (the two previous seasons took place in New York), Married at First Sight will take on three couples who’ll first meet when they get to the altar to exchange their vows. Sexologist Dr. Logan Levkoff, psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona, sociologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz and spiritual advisor Greg Epstein will once again return to help create the matches.
The Knot exclusively caught up with two of this season’s participants, David Norton, an account executive, and Vanessa Nelson, a corporate events manager, who shared their experience on the show (but we won’t know if they’re paired together until tonight). Will there be a happy ending for this season’s couples a la Jamie Otis and Doug Hehner and Cortney Hendrix and Jason Carrion, or will their marriages end in divorce following the fate of all couples from season two? Watch the promo below and tune in to Married at First Sight tonight at 9 p.m. EST on FYI for a two-hour season premiere.
What made you want to be on Married at First Sight?
Vanessa Nelson: I followed the show from the first season and saw how the experts were just so involved and they took so much time to really get to know the people who wanted to be a part of this, and I saw the successes. I was in a relationship for about four years in the past, and it was my longest relationship, and I really wanted that relationship to turn into marriage, and unfortunately it didn’t. So I was just ready for that phase in my life and I knew that through this process I would be matched with someone who was ready for that as well.
David Norton: This was going on right around the time I was ending another failed relationship that couldn’t quite get off the ground. It had been two plus years of that kind of dating and I was ready for the next level. At that point, I had tried everything. I’d tried the dating websites, the apps, friends of friends—I even met a girl at church and she said she doesn’t date guys that go to the same church as her—I literally had tried everything. So when this opportunity presented itself, it was why not? It’s totally unorthodox. I never thought that this is something that I would do, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to at least try it and see what would happen when the experts matched me up with someone who’s equally committed and wants the same things.
What were the reactions of your friends and families when you were doing this?
VN: My friends and family were shocked. I mean, anybody would be if you told that you were doing something like this. But after being able to share with them all of the work that the experts put in getting to know us and all the assessments we went through—it was really months of gathering information about each of us—that made them more comfortable. I think they knew that this was definitely a risk—it may work, it may not—but it’s based on logic and it’s based on trying to match people with who’s really best and most compatible with them. So, in the end, they were supportive. But doing something like this, you kind of have to do it on your own. You can’t really look for people to give you the thumbs-up.
DN: I was really worried about telling my family. But they were so supportive! My mom thought grandchildren at first sight! She was really excited and supportive right from the get-go. When I was telling my friends, I thought it was going be this big party. But when I told them, you could hear a pin drop in the room. My friends and I ended up having a long debate about whether this was a good idea or not. At the end of the day, that’s what makes great friends. They will call you out when they think you might be doing something that isn’t smart or isn’t in your best interest. But at the end of the day, my friends did support the marriage one hundred percent. They were all at the wedding.
What was it like working with the experts to figure out your matches?
VN: The experts are there to help us communicate things that we already know we want in a mate, but they definitely help you discover new things that you need and things that might be good for you that you’ve never really thought about. Working with them is an exploration of self and is a really personal and singular experience. And then you’re matched with someone that you don’t know, but you feel a sense of confidence because you’ve invested so much time in helping the experts make that match. They care about us as people and they care about our relationships being successful.
DN: What really blew me away when going through this whole process was how involved the experts actually are. There’s so much that you don’t see on camera. They send you emails making sure you’re okay. Then you ask them for advice and you get this novel email back from them. They then follow up with you asking how it went or send you a text message, or set aside some time to talk. They’re really invested in this, and I was blown away by how supportive and how personally they take their matches and care about our well being.
How did you feel about not having a traditional wedding?
VN: I’d always pictured myself meeting someone and a relationship developing and leading to marriage in a traditional way. I never thought of this as an option. I’m definitely glad that I took it as an option because it was well worth it and I really believe that the experts really carefully picked my match.
DN: I never really put much thought into my wedding. But at the end of the day what I always wanted for my wedding was for there to be dancing, people having fun and family and friends celebrating a marriage. I just never knew that the marriage would be to a complete stranger.
What did you feel like right before your saw your matches at the altar?
VN: In that moment, when I was about to leave and walk down the aisle, that’s when I really really started feeling nervous. But the first time I saw my spouse, I had a sense of relief because I could see that he was a kind person and he just had this great smile. It was then that knew that I didn’t regret my decision and that this was something I wanted to try.
DN: I remember distinctly seeing the left corner of my spouse’s dress and just thinking, “There she is.” Everything that happened in my dating life—the good, the bad, the ugly—has led me to this moment right here. And it was an incredible feeling. I blacked out for a little bit, but that’s how I knew that this was it. Every guy who I talked to before I got married said, “Listen, I knew my wife and it’s just an experience that I can’t describe to you. You just have to live it.” And I had that same experience standing up there, even though it was to a complete stranger.
What was it like to plan your wedding without your partner there?
VN: Even though I didn’t know who my husband was going to be, I knew what the wedding was going to look like. I got the wedding planning experience that I always wanted and I was able to pick my own wedding dress and the colors, cake and flowers that I liked. It was strange though. Just because this was an experience that I always thought I would be able to share with my fiancé and get his input and we could plan together and it would really be something that we would share together. But my spouse definitely got to put some input in as well so there were little glimpses of what he was like.
DN: In a way, planning alone was good because it gives you a lot of stuff to talk about when you’re meeting this perfect stranger because you had all these weeks of leading up to the wedding planning, like, “Oh you won’t believe the story of when I picked out my tuxedo!” I mean I never thought I’d be going and picking out my tuxedo without my fiancée’s input, but I still got to share that with my family. I still got my hair done with my little brother the day before the wedding and I still had a great bachelor party with my best guy friends. All that was missing ironically was my wife, but I still felt like I had the whole wedding planning process.
What was the reception like?
VN: The reception was really amazing. All of my friends and family were ready to have a good time, but there was still the big elephant in the room that there’s this person who’s joining their family that they’ve never met before. So you do feel everyone kind of staring at you and wanting to talk to you and ask you things that they would generally know about someone that’s marrying into their family like what they do and where they are from. But it was great.
DN: The reception felt really comfortable. I remember this one moment when I was talking to my groomsmen and we were just kind of breaking down the day and saying how natural it felt to meet her friends and talk with everyone. I remember at one point looking across the hall at my wife and thinking, “Wow that’s my wife. That’s Mrs. Norton.” I remember it being really powerful and something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
What was your favorite part of the whole wedding day?
DN: Getting to see who I’m marrying! Outside of that, seeing the love and support in that room from both sides of the aisle was remarkable. Because there was nothing traditional about this wedding, but you could still feel the love and support. Everyone there said how happy they were for us. I was just so taken aback by the support that I had from my friends and family going on this crazy adventure marrying a stranger.
VN: Besides finally meeting my husband, seeing our family and friends really come together and talk and get along. I think that was really positive sign for me that this is going to be okay, this is going to be good.
Knowing what you know now, would you do this again?
VN: This experience was priceless. If there’s anyone out there having a hard time finding someone, you should do this. It’s not for everyone but having a team of experts really get to know you and match you with someone who they think is great for you is an experience of a lifetime and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I learned so much about myself, I learned so much about marriage and I definitely learned how to be a better partner.
DN: I would do it all over again regardless of the good and bad. I learned so much about myself and about marriage. As crazy as it sounds, I’m so grateful for this opportunity to have married a complete stranger. A year ago there’s no way I would have thought I’d do something like this but sometimes life gives you an opportunity and you either have to take it or walk away from it, and if you walk away from it you’re always going to wonder what happened. I couldn’t be happier that I went for it.