An open-minded bride. Lillian Vilchez says she wanted to find love when she signed on to be a Married at First Sight participant, and that’s why she was thrilled to be chosen to be spotlighted in season 4 of FYI’s wildly popular reality series. In an exclusive new interview with The Knot, Vilchez opens up about marrying a stranger and what she’s learned from the social experiment.
The Miami realtor, 24, who was hand-selected as one of the six lucky participants who would meet her spouse at the altar on their wedding day, says it is difficult to find someone who is ready for a serious relationship in Miami. She was tired of dating the “conventional way” when she realized that many of the men were looking for one night stands and were not ready to settle down.
“I would say my final straw was probably my last Tinder date,” Vilchez recalls. “He gave off a serial killer type vibe! I ran at the first chance, said I had to wake up early in the morning for work, and bolted. I knew that the experts had a way better chance at weeding out prospects (with all the testing questionnaires and background they do) than I had on my own, and I would have an actual chance of meeting someone that was worth it,” she explains.
After the Married at First Sight experts revealed that they had found a match for Vilchez, she admits to having second thoughts. “I asked myself all the time, ‘Lillian what did you do? Why did you do this? Are you insane?’ But I never once regretted my decision, because whether my experience was good or bad, I knew that I would walk out a better person because of it,” she shares with The Knot.
“I think the time I was most worried was the day before the wedding. I was pacing around my apartment and jumping on furniture like a lunatic because I was so nervous about meeting my husband the next day,” Vilchez remembers. “I had so many questions with no answers. It was nerve-wracking.”
On the Married at First Sight premiere, the Florida resident dug into her painful past and shared that her father had left her mother after Vilchez moved out of the house. “My father started separating himself from the family when I decided to transfer to Houston and finish school there,” she tells us. “I was 22 at the time.”
“We later found out many other things after his disappearance that, for me as his child, were very hard to assimilate and for our family as a whole. My parents had been together since they were 14, and seeing how things ended for them taught me the importance of open and honest communication as well as an overall respect in any relationship,” she shares. “I know what I want in a marriage. I want everything my parents had (the great marriage I saw growing up), and I also want the things that they lacked. I want to learn from their mistakes and have a long-lasting, loving marriage.”
Vilchez was matched with Tom Wilson, a 28-year old yacht interior specialist who lives in a tour bus inside of an RV park. Wilson told The Knot in a recent interview that he was pleasantly surprised by his match. His first thought when he saw Vilchez for the first time on their wedding day was, “This could work.”
Vilchez was equally impressed when she saw her match at the altar. “As soon as I saw him, I thought to myself, ‘They matched us up very well,'” she remembers.
Not only did Vilchez and Wilson have Married at First Sight jitters; they also had to contend with rain during their outdoor wedding. “My wedding day was unforgettable and beautiful,” Vilchez tells us. “I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, rain and all. Rain is good luck and I knew that, so I really didn’t mind it. If my marriage does work out, I would love a wedding do-over – a chance for us to choose each other.”
On the morning of their wedding, Vilchez received a pearl necklace from her future husband. She was devastated when she opened the box and saw what was inside – a pearl necklace. “I felt terrible,” she admits, “because I didn’t want my husband to think I didn’t like them. I loved them. I had these beautiful pearls in my hand, and I wasn’t going to wear them because of a superstition. Some people take superstitions seriously, and normally I wouldn’t care, but considering I am marrying a stranger, my wedding day is the one day I get to be superstitious. I needed all the luck I could get.”
“I think the rain good luck offset the pearls,” Vilchez adds. “The pearls only apply to the bride wearing them on her wedding day. After that, I could wear them all I want!”
While there were plenty of surprises on their wedding day, Vilchez and Wilson were in for even more revelations. Perhaps one of the biggest bombshells was when the new bride saw her husband’s living quarters for the first time. “I am going to say I would have never imagined my husband lived on a bus,” Vilchez divulges. “I always assumed he lived in an apartment like myself, and then we go visit each other’s places and we drive into a trailer park and pull up to an RV!”
But her husband’s living situation isn’t getting Vilchez down. She’s optimistic about being matched with Wilson – who had also tired of dating in Miami. “Miami is a very jaded place to date both for men and women,” she explains. “The culture here is just so twisted; it can be hard to find genuine people.”
“It’s even hard to find genuine friends, so when you do find good people you don’t let them go,” Vilchez continues. “Tom and I do have different lifestyles but are still very alike. I have always considered myself to be a simple and humble person. I grew up in Nicaragua and am a country girl at heart. If you want to know if that ever affected our marriage, you will have to tune in to the show to find out!”
On the Married at First Sight premiere, Wilson came across as blunt. Vilchez admits that it took some time to get used to her husband’s communication style. “He has an infamous way with words that you will get to see,” she says of Wilson. “It was difficult to get used to until I learned that he’s that way with everyone, not just me. I needed to learn to try and not take it [personally].”
As Married at First Sight viewers attempt to predict the outcomes of the Miami couples’ marriages, Vilchez – who has lived to tell about her experience – has support from her family regardless of the end result. “I watched the premiere with my mom, who’s here visiting from Nicaragua, and my niece. My niece is so adorable… Every time I was on TV she would get so excited. She doesn’t quite understand why I’m on TV, but she thinks it’s the coolest thing ever. She can’t wait to tell the little girls in her class!”
Along with getting to know her spouse and navigating her way through the first weeks of an arranged marriage, Vilchez reminds us that the behind-the-scenes details have been stressful as well. “I wish I would’ve known how much goes into the documentation process and what happens after the show airs,” she tells The Knot.
Vilchez describes the Married at First Sight experience as “surreal.” She never imagined she would marry a stranger on TV and be so open about the most intimate parts of her life. “I don’t think it’s something you get used to… It’s still weird for me,” she admits.
Married at First Sight fans will have to wait until the season 4 finale to find out if Vilchez and Wilson chose to stay together or divorce, but no matter what, Vilchez has benefited from being a participant. She tells us she has realized the importance of communication and listening, and she’s learned a lot about herself through the experience.
“I am very happy,” she shares openly. “Nothing is perfect in life. I think I have grown as a person, individual, and woman. I learned that you give 100% in marriage and the same goes for you partner. Both parties have to be 100% committed to making it work.”
Don’t miss Married at First Sight, airing Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on FYI.