How Married at First Sight experts pair each couple amid criticism over ‘messy’ matchmaking

Reality show’s executive producer says matchmaking is ‘based on a high degree of research’ despite frequent skepticism from viewers

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Thursday 15 June 2023 19:44 BST

Related: Love Is Blind’s Kwame Appiah spotted in past season of Married at First Sight

The latest season of Married at First Sight has concluded, with fans eager to catch up with the castmates, and to see what went wrong, or right, in each relationship, during the reunion.

Married at First Sight, which is currently in its 16th season, follows a group of singles eager to find their forever partners. Each season, the show pairs these individuals into couples, who then tie the knot before spending the next eight weeks as husband and wife. At the end of each season, the couples must decide whether to remain married or get divorced.

To pair the couples up, the show employs the help of relationship experts, who decide who will marry who during an in-depth “matching” process. However, the show’s matches have been called into question before, with viewers often skeptical of the compatibility of the couples made by the experts.

But, according to the show’s executive producer Chris Coelen, who is also behind popular reality dating shows such as Love Is Blind and The Ultimatum, the matching process is “thorough” and “based on a high degree of research”.

Warning: Spoilers for season 16 below

Season 16 of Married at First Sight saw 10 individuals from Nashville paired up by relationship experts Dr Pepper Schwartz, Pastor Calvin Roberson, Dr Pia Holec, and DeVon Franklin, with the final episode revealing that just one couple, Nicole Lilienthal and Christopher Thielk, are still going strong, while the remaining four couples, Airris Williams and Jasmine Secrest, Gina Micheletti and Clint Webb, Kirsten Grimes and Shaquille Dillon, and Domynique Kloss and Mackinley Gilbert called it quits.

The outcome has not been a surprise for many viewers, who have taken to social media throughout the season to question the show’s pairings.

“Watching Married at First Sight and I still haven’t really understood why the hell they paired these people together?” one person tweeted, while another said: “I’ve seen so many seasons of Married at First Sight and it still completely f***ing obliterates me every time the experts match up people who instantly hate each other and are so proudly like ‘and we DID THIS with SCIENCE.’”

According to someone else, the “experts on Married at First Sight need to be fired and never let back into their field”.

“This latest season of Married at First Sight is so messy!!! All these ‘experts’ need to be fired lmao,” another person claimed.

However, Coelen has previously defended the process of matchmaking that goes into each season of the show, with the executive producer revealing how exactly the men and women are paired while speaking to People in 2015.

According to Coelen, during a six-month period before each season, an “advanced casting team” is sent to a specific area to search for singles in a number of places, such as bars, singles events and churches, and on dating apps such as Hinge.

“The men and the women are treated exactly the same. We go to bars, mixers, singles events and church groups. We also go on every dating site you could possibly think of - OkCupid,, Tinder, Hinge,” Coelen said. “We also go on Facebook, talk to family and friends and try to make the pool as big as possible.”

In addition to the singles sought out by the casting team, the show also considers participants who have “seen the show and applied specifically and want to be considered as a candidate”.

After the pool of potential candidates is decided, the show invites the individuals to “workshops,” where the producers explain how the concept works and introduce the relationship experts.

The candidates who are chosen to continue the process then undergo “significant background checks and psychological evaluations by highly accredited third parties,” according to Coelen, who noted that the show “rules out a lot of people” during this stage.

In addition to the background checks and psychological evaluations, the individuals also undergo “extensive written evaluations,” which Coelen said are only available to licensed therapists or government agencies and which allegedly take “hours and hours to complete”.

The next step of the process sees the individuals meet with the relationship experts, with Coelen revealing that the entire casting process takes about six months, while the final stages take at least four to six weeks.

The show’s experts then present their proposed matches to Married at First Sight’s producers.

According to Coelen, there’s “no debate” at this stage, as “the people they present are the people we move forward with and document”.

And although he admitted that there is “no exact science and no guarantees,” he said the experts’ choices are based on significant research.

“The experts always say there is no exact science and no guarantees, but it is based on a high degree of research,” he said.

As for what the experts look for in potential candidates, Dr Pepper told E! News in 2018 that they look for somebody who is “willing to take advice”.

“I’m looking for heart, for warmth, for the ability to empathise with someone else,” she said, while Coelen told the outlet that the process is also about “trying to pick people who are earnest and kind”.

“You don’t have to be honest and kind and you still might have a terrific match, we really want people who are authentic about their reasons for doing this and are full of heart in terms of the rationale for doing it,” he said.

As for red flags that Dr Pepper looks out for, she said she avoids those who are “looking for some fame of some sort”. “For somebody who really thinks this is a way to some kind of career path, I think there are easier and less risky ways,” she added.

Over the show’s 16 seasons, just 12 couples are still together.

The Married at First Sight season 16 cast reunion will air on Lifetime at 8pm on 21 June.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in